Lonely Planet Writer

Europe’s most opulent abandoned railway station is being resurrected

One of Europe’s most unique and opulent stations, Canfranc International Railway in the Spanish municipality of Canfranc near the French border may soon be resurrected after years of decay and deterioration following proposed planning from the local government.

Canfranc station
The enormous and beautiful station was built to showcase Spain to international visitors. Image by Flastaf / CC BY 2.0

Dubbed, “the Titanic of the Mountains”, the gigantic building stands at the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees, in a village with a population of only 500 people. The unlikely leviathan was conceived as a way to showcase Spain to all foreign visitors, as well as acting as a valuable connection to France in an effort to encourage trade and tourism. Opened for service by King Alfonso XIII in 1928, the station was designed with a number of architectural influences, featuring large windows, intricate plaster detail and art deco flourishes, while glass, cement and iron were used in its creation. The enormous station has a main building that is over 240 metres-long and contains over 300 windows.

An abandoned train at Canfranc Station.
An abandoned train at Canfranc Station. Image by Juanedc.om / CC BY 2.0

The station was eventually abandoned in the 1970s, following a long history that saw it closing between 1945 and 1949 due to political disagreement, and again during the Spanish Civil War when Franco ordered the tunnels be closed. The station remained open during World War II however, and was used by allied soldiers and Jewish people to escape into Spain. Now in disrepair, recent years has seen a series of guided tours of the station taking place, with visitors being led on 45-minute journeys through its underground passages and lobbies. The past four years has seen over 100,000 people visiting the site, and it has proven extremely popular.

The Inauguration of the Canfranc International Railway Station by Alfonso XIII of Spain and Gaston Doumergue on July 28, 1928.
The Inauguration of the Canfranc International Railway Station by Alfonso XIII of Spain and Gaston Doumergue on July 28, 1928. Image by adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images

Plans are now being discussed to refurbish the historic station, after the local government in Aragon decided to purchase it. Two trains now run each day between Saragossa and Canfranc, and the Aragon government has expressed interest in relaunching rail travel through the Pyrenees. Ideas for refurbishing the station as a hotel have also been discussed, as well as building another right beside it.

More information on scheduling guided tours of Canfranc Station is available from the official Canfranc website.