Railway Hotels: St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London

A stay at the iconic St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London is a must for any train buff.

Railway Hotels: St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London

Photo courtesy of St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel

I watch as yellow-and-white Eurostar trains snake in and out of London’s St. Pancras train shed, a vaulted Victorian masterpiece of glass panels and iron arches. My room at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel has this floor-to-ceiling view: Passengers board the high-speed carriers headed for France or Belgium. Then, in an instant, they’re whisked out of sight. Are they off to work? Leaving a loved one? I wonder as I listen to the hum of the tracks.

After a six-year, $240 million renovation, the Renaissance hotel opened in 2011, occupying sections of the former Midland Grand Hotel, which was built adjacent to the station 138 years ago. The building is a Gothic fantasy of red brick arches and turrets, crowned with a clock tower that rivals Big Ben. The main staircase, its crimson walls handpainted with 2,300 gold fleurs-de-lis, adheres to designer Gilbert Scott’s original vision. It spills out under a gilded ceiling, and the sinuous banisters evoke the curves of the tracks. I imagine Commodore Vanderbilt roaming the lobby; it was the St. Pancras that inspired him to commission New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.

At the Booking Office—a bar fashioned from the station’s former ticket office—guests nibble on charcuterie and anchovy salad with quail eggs as they gaze out over the tracks. Although electric trains have replaced the old locomotives, the bar takes visitors back to the Age of Steam with punch concocted from Victorian recipes and served from a handmade copper bowl. When I retreat to my room in the Chambers wing, where 38 rooms branch off majestic arched hallways, I forgo the blackout curtains. I want to check on my Eurostars as they rumble quietly through the evening.

London 44/(0) 20-7841-3540. stpancrasrenaissance.com

More railway hotels:

La Posada Hotel, Winslow, Arizona

Book now: laposada.org, (928) 289- 4366

Developed by Fred Harvey—whose railway eatery company inspired Judy Garland’s The Harvey Girls—La Posada houses the famed Turquoise Room restaurant. Sleeping quarters furnished with Zapotec rugs and handcrafted beds offer views of vineyards and gardens. Guests can reach La Posada by Amtrak; get off at the Winslow stop.

Riffelalp Resort, Zermatt, Switzerland

Book now: riffelalp.com. 41/(0) 27-966-0555

A 20-minute cogwheel-rail journey followed by a ride on Europe’s highest tram (or, in winter, a snowy hike) brings you to a lodge at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Most of the alpine-style rooms have terraces that face the Matterhorn.

Château Laurier, Ottawa, Canada

Book now: fairmont.com/laurier. (866) 540- 4410

Most of Canada’s 19th-century hotels, such as this one, were built by rail companies to house passengers. The limestone landmark, furnished with Louis XV–style decor, overlooks the parliament buildings. Expect exhibits this year to celebrate the hotel’s 100th anniversary.

The Balmoral, Edinburgh, Scotland

Book now: roccofortehotels.com 44/(0) 131-556-2414

Adjacent to Waverley Station in the heart of Edinburgh, Rocco Forte’s Victorian hotel was Michael Palin’s stop during his Confessions of a Trainspotter television series. The tower clock is set three minutes fast to give passengers “extra time” to reach their trains (except on New Year’s Eve), and a newly hired Tartan butler can help you trace your Scottish heritage.

Mount Lavinia Hotel, Sri Lanka

Book now: mountlaviniahotel.lk 94/(0) 11-271-1711

This colonial artifact overlooks the turquoise Indian Ocean and the Coast Line train that runs along it. Sights from the ocean-view rooms stretch to the city of Colombo, 20 minutes away. Trainspotters should request a room at the hotel’s north end to score a balcony with views of the ocean and the tracks.

>> Next: Luxury Train Travel: 6 Trips to Book for 2022

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