The subway is usually regarded as the fastest, easiest and cheapest means of transport when visiting big cities. Very few tourists know that, for one reason or another, significant amounts of money have been invested in certain stations’ decorations. Indeed, there are cities around the world famous for their transportation system’s efficiency and there are others that boast impressive landmarks in the form of underground stations.
However, its fame comes from its Baroque style decorations illustrating different aspects of the Russian history. Designed by a very creative Soviet architect of Moldavian origin, Alexey Viktorovich Shchusev, Komsomolskaya metro station is said to be an artistic illustration of one of Stalin’s speeches.
The emblematic leaders mentioned by the famous communist dictator appear on the mosaics that adorn the yellow underground walls. Giant chandeliers are hanging from the bolted heavily decorated ceilings and Corinthian marble columns serve as sustaining pillars – typical elements for the architectural style that featured the Russian capital’s underground throughout its first decades.
A charming city equipped with a cutting-edge and easy-to-use transport infrastructure, the Swedish capital also hosts a truly artistic landmark – the T-Centralen metro station, the heart of Stockholm’s underground network.
The original name this transportation hub had when it was opened in 1957 was Centralen. The T from “tunnelbana” (metro in Swedish) was added one year later in order to avoid confusion with the city’s central railways station, located nearby.
Three lines bearing distinct color symbols (Blue, Red and Green) operate on the three platforms of T-Centralen. The upper platforms situated at 8.5 and 14 meters below ground level are used by the Red and Green Lines. The lower platform (26-32 meters underground) was opened in 1975, when the Blue Line was added. It is connected to the other platforms by escalators and by an over 100 meters long pedestrian tunnel with moving walkways.
But the unique atmosphere of the T-Central does not lie neither in the number of passengers using it on a daily basis, nor in its technical features. It is the result of the Finnish painter, graphic artist and sculptor Per Olof Ultvedt’s genius that provided this transportation hub with an exquisite natural cave appearance.
Narvskaya, Saint Petersburg
The deepest underground network in the whole world (an average of 60 meters depth), Saint Petersburg’s subways system also boasts some artistic gems.
Indeed, when stepping in the Russian city’s metro stations, tourists might feel like having mistaken the entrance to the subway with the one of a church or royal palace.
The most beautiful stations are lined up along the Red Line, but Narvskaya is certainly worth to be a stop during your metro sightseeing tour.
An irregularly shaped pavilion built in a Neoclassical architectural style stands on the ground serving as entrance.
Sculptures and pictures inspired from the country’s socialist history adorn the walls, together with panels bearing inscriptions from Stalin’s discourses.
Another underground exhibition, but with real artifacts that were unearthed during the digging process, Syntagma Metro Station Archeological Collection is really worth getting off the train for.
The subway makes transportation much easier in the Greek capital, but its construction was a long term and difficult project precisely because of the rich archaeology discovered in the underground layers of the city.
A feature that might strike tourists is the lack of advertising panels.
Instead, they can admire here all sorts of exhibits like ancient adornments, pots, cisterns and even a grave and a road.
The artifacts are displayed along the long corridors, on the escalators’ sides as well as in the large lobbies.
Louvre Rivoli, Paris
Although the subways system of the most popular romantic destination is famous for its Art Nouveau entrances, Louvre Rivoli is certainly the most interesting Parisian metro station.
Opened to the public on 13 August 1900, it is one of the oldest underground point of the French capital’s transportation network.
In 1968, André Malraux (novelist and one of the most active promoters of the French culture throughout the world) decided to transform this station into a showcase of the famous museum in whose proximity it is located.
The Burgundy stone wall has carved niches hosting reproductions of reputed works of art (exhibits of the Louver Museum), while photographs and plans of the Louvre decorate the station’s corridors.
Until 1989 (when the Louvre Pyramid was erected), this metro station was used daily by all the tourists willing to visit the famous museum. Since then the traffic has decreased as the access to the museum is done through the Palais-Royal station.
City Hall, New York
The American metropolis boasts an impressive number of landmarks. Few travel guides remember to mention the hidden gem lying in the city’s underground layers.
Part of New York’s first subway system, City Hall metro station was opened to the public in 1904, but it was soon abandoned for various reasons: its curved shape and the insufficient length of the platform became impractical for the modern types of trains; its position and architecture forbid the station’s expansion and the addition of new lines.
New York residents as well as visitors can nowadays see the station and admire its elegant architectural style by an easy trick: take the train no.6 at IRT East Side Line and remain in the train while it makes the turnabout after BrooklynBridge station.
Although not accessible to passengers, trains continue to pass through the City Hall station and you will be able to admire its Renaissance style arches, the colored glass tiles and the commemorative plaques spread about the station. Unfortunately, the iron skylights were closed for security reasons after September 11, 2001.
Khalid Bin Walid, Dubai
Used by almost 20.000 commuters on a daily basis, Khalid Bin Walid metro station is not only one of Dubai’s busiest transportation hubs, but also an interesting landmark.
Ramadan Abdullah (managing director at Dubai Metro) explained the high affluence of passengers by a combination of factors.
It is situated in the close proximity of many embassies, business areas, banks, hotels, restaurants and commercial centers such as the BurJuman shopping mall.
Actually, this interchange station, where the Green and the Red Line intercross is known among the locals as the Burjuman Metro Station.
Using an under aquatic decorative theme, the Khalid Bin Al Waleed metro station impresses all visitors by the elegance of its chandeliers as well as the flashy ambience provided by the bluish light.
Located in the heart of the Bavarian capital, the Westfriedhof metro station welcomes all commuters with a warm and strange atmosphere.
The German architects Fritz Auer and Carlo Weber have imagined a modern, but extremely simplistic transportation hub.
While the walls retain their rocky texture, the focus lies on the illumination system, especially after the latest renovations.
Eleven huge bell-like objects called “light domes” were added in 2003, five years after the station was opened to the public.
They hang from the ceiling irradiating gradient bluish, yellowish and reddish rays that provide the whole station with a science fiction movie atmosphere.
Baker Street, London
Located in the close proximity of popular tourist attractions such as the Royal Academy of Music, Regents Park, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Figures Museum, Lord Cricket’s Ground or Sherlock Holmes Museum, Baker Street underground station is one of the busiest transportation hubs of the British capital.
However, its fame is not due neither to the high affluence of travelers (both tourists and locals) that use it every day, nor to the fact that it is the oldest still operating metro station in London.
Opened on 10th January 1863, Baker Street underground station is a must-see landmark by itself, through which you can discover the specificity of the traditionally English industrial art.
An homage to the most famous detective of the world, whose permanent address was 221B Baker Street, the station is decorated with tiles depicting Sherlock Holmes and a statue embodying the same fictional character stands besides the Marylebone Road exit.
Although one of the symbolic images when it comes to Portugal’s capital is the yellow tram, there are lots of things to see when traveling by metro.
Each station has different mural decorations that emphasize the typically Portuguese craft of tile painting.
450.000 of entirely handmade azulejos ornate the Parque subway station.
The two artists (Françoise Schein and Federica Matta) that were in charge of the renovation works held in 1994 chose as main themes for the station’s decorations the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the country’s colonial past.
Thus, the walls display symbols from the Age of Great Discoveries, when the famous Portuguese sailors were crisscrossing oceans and discovering new territories. 50 huge maps tell the story of these glorious centuries, while the ceiling’s vault bears inscriptions from the Human Rights’ Declaration.