- 1 / 17Westfriedhof StationMunich, Germany
Westfriendhof Station’s cavelike enclosure would be brutal if not for its stylish lighting. Ten sizeable “light domes”—illuminated in yellow, blue, and red—add a retro vibe to the otherwise monotone cavern. Architect Auer Weber purposefully left its concrete walls exposed, paying homage to the station’s somber translation of “West Cemetery.” Thank goodness for the cheery lighting above!
- 2 / 17Gyeongbokgung StationSeoul, South Korea
Seoul may just be home to the world’s best subway system (sorry, NYC). More than 2.6 billion riders annually enjoy the techiest of features, including heated seats, Wi-Fi connectivity, cell phone charging stations, and even driverless trains (apparently a safer and more cost-efficient approach than employing human drivers). Gyeongbokgung Station, pictured here, is the nearest stop to Gyeongbokgung Palace: an iconic Korean attraction that translates to “palace greatly blessed by heaven.”
- 3 / 17Cardeal Arcoverde StationRio de Janeiro, Brazil
You’ll need to descend three escalators below the Copacabana neighborhood to reach Rio’s deepest subway station. Cardeal Arcoverde—better known as the “Bat Cave”—was dynamited out of São João Mountain, leaving several sections of earth still supporting the station’s roof. In some tunnels, the cave sensation is enhanced by illuminated crevices and “cave art” paintings, while others are covered in rainbow paneling, as shown here.
- 4 / 17Baikonur Metro StationAlmaty, Kazakhstan
If you think Baikonur Station resembles a spaceship more than a Kazakh metro stop, you’re not far off. It was built in honor of the Baikonur Cosmodrome: the world’s first and largest operational rocket-launch facility. Kazakhstan began hosting the Soviet Space Program in 1955 and has since led humankind’s charge into the galaxy. It launched the first man into orbit, as well as the first woman into space. Another fun fact? In an attempt to hide the facility’s location, the Cosmodrome is not actually located in the town of Baikonur, but rather 200 miles away near a mining town called Tyuratam.
- 5 / 17Arts et MétiersParis, France
This Parisian station gets its name from the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, a nearby university and museum celebrating the arts and sciences. The institution rang in its 200th birthday in 1994, which included a facelift for its nearest métro station, Arts et Métiers. Belgian comic book artist François Schuiten transformed the station into a real-life Jules Verne science-fiction novel. Its copper-clad interior features gigantic gears on the ceiling as well as faux “portholes” on the walls, turning the entire platform into a futuristic submarine.
- 6 / 17Toledo StationNaples, Italy
Toledo Station in Naples is objectively gorgeous. Upon opening in September of 2012 during the European Week of Sustainable Mobility, it earned CNN’s title of Most Impressive Metro Station on the continent. The sparkling masterpiece constitutes one of the city’s “Art Stations”: a smattering of stops along lines 1 and 6 that have been glamorized with 180+ works of art, thanks to a collaboration of artists, designers, and architects. Toledo’s design specifically is famous for “water and light”—a fitting theme, considering the station is so deep that it penetrates below ground water level.
- 7 / 17Solna CentrumStockholm, Sweden
Stockholm’s subway system, or the “World’s Longest Art Exhibit,” lies deep beneath the 14 islands making up this Nordic city. Some 150 artists contributed all sorts of creative works—including mosaics, paintings, sculptures, and more—across 90+ of the city’s 110 stations. Artistic styles span varying eras from the 1950s through the 2000s, resulting in a one-of-a-kind combination of creative eye-candy. Solna Centrum stands out specifically for its shocking red cavern, seen here. While its first impression is arguably demonic, a stroll through the station reveals the ceiling as a sunset, illuminating a childlike landscape of forests, lakes, small houses, and more. The scene is a social statement; painted by Anders Åberg and Karl-Olov Björk in 1975, it was meant to comment on the country’s rural depopulation and environmental destruction.
- 8 / 17BurJuman StationDubai, UAE
Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority joined forces with its Culture and Arts counterpart to transform six of the city’s metro stations into creative masterpieces in 2014. BurJuman Station (formerly Khalid Bin Waleed, renamed for the shopping mall it sits below) effectively evolved into an underwater wonderland. Glass jellyfish chandeliers dangle from the ceiling while the entire space gleams in shades of blue and gold. The theme pays homage to Dubai’s rich pearl diving and fishing history, delivered with a level of glam confined to this city alone.
- 9 / 17Tineretului Metro StationBucharest, Romania
“Tineretului” translates to “youth” in Romanian, which may seem strange for the name of a subway station. However, it stems from a popular children’s park nearby and one of the greatest attractions in this area of Bucharest. Visitors to Tineretului Park can wile away their time with any number of activities: riding bikes, playing sports, racing go-karts, hosting barbecues, or rowing boats on the man-made lake if the weather is particularly nice. There’s even a kids’ amusement park and large indoor arena (called Sala Polivalentă) that’s used for concerts, sporting events, and more. The only question is: What will you do first?
- 10 / 17York Street StationNew York City, USA
The word “subway” is synonymous with New York City in the United States. Manhattan’s system, which serves nearly 1.8 billion riders each year, has more stations than any other in the world. Laid end-to-end, its 660 miles of track would stretch from the Big Apple to Indiana. York Street Station in particular, however, is not a fan favorite. Residents of Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood complain of York’s sole entrance into the underground, which causes some serious traffic jams and ensuing anxieties during rush hour. Thankfully, local architectural firm Delson or Sherman Architects PC has proposed a pro-bono transformation of the station, set to include a second entrance as well as other aesthetic updates. Fingers crossed!
- 11 / 17LaSalle StationMontreal, Quebec
Montreal’s LaSalle Station is an ode to historic Quebec. Its namesake pays tribute to French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, who traveled south from Montreal down the Mississippi River to establish Louisiana, named for King Louis XIV. In regard to LaSalle Station itself, its slanted ceilings are reminiscent of the area’s former factories, and the enormous stainless steel mural in its mezzanine reflects light and the movement of crowds (a creation by Peter Gnass). The result is so visually stunning, it earned Canadian Architect magazine’s Award of Excellence.
- 12 / 17Alonso Cano StationMadrid, Spain
Madrid’s Alonso Cano Station gets its namesake from “the Spanish Michelangelo.” The artist dabbled with painting, sculpture, and architecture alike, largely producing works with a religious bent. While famous for his talent, the man was infamous for his temperament—best exemplified by his tendency toward explosive anger, as well as the accusation of murdering of his wife. Let’s remember him for his creative prowess, shall we?
- 13 / 17The CarmelitHaifa, Israel
And the world’s smallest subway system is . . . the Carmelit. It takes no more than eight minutes to traverse all six stations along this 1.1-mile track in Haifa, Israel. Four cars run up and down through the inside of Mount Carmel, climbing 900 feet from Paris Square to Gan Ha’Em at the top. While some local residents debate its necessity, Carmelit fans find it a handy and endearing way to explore the best of downtown Haifa. Plus, the cheery tiles decorating each stop are bound to brighten your day.
- 14 / 17ÜberseequartierHamburg, Germany
Public transportation in Hamburg evolved from horse-drawn trams to a sprawling modern subway system, eventually instigating the world’s first public transportation group, called Hamburger Verkehrsverbund. It’s no wonder, then, that its stations are top notch—especially Überseequartier, pictured here. The glossy blue walls of this “underwater world” gradually transition from aquamarine to bare metal, matched by irregular stainless steel paneling overhead. Architectural firm Netzwerkarchitekten worked to recreate “the water’s surface from a diver’s perspective” when looking up. Dive in to see for yourself.
- 15 / 17Metro AuditorioMexico City, Mexico
This station serves as one of the main gateways to Mexico’s upscale Polanco neighborhood, known for both its cultural diversity and thriving business scene. Numerous international embassies call this neighborhood home, in addition to one of Mexico’s snazziest streets, Avenida Presidente Masaryk (comparable to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills). Auditorio is also convenient for reaching Bosque de Chapultepec—one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere (nearly double that of Central Park) housing amusement parks, lakes, a zoo, and 10 museums. Wondering if you came to the right subway station when searching for Auditorio? Just look for an orange logo with the silhouette of its namesake: Auditorio Nacional, a performing arts center across the street.
- 16 / 17Richard-Wagner-PlatzBerlin, Germany
Your location is unmistakable when you step off the train at Richard-Wagner-Platz: The name of this famed German opera composer is scripted in elegant tilework across one wall. The station, which first opened in 1978, is covered in resurrected decor. The most interesting of these include Byzantine-style mosaics that were saved from a grand hotel demolished three years before the station’s opening.
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