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How Europe’s most luxurious train station dubbed ‘Titanic of the Mountains’ was ABANDONED before hotel transformation

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EUROPE’S most luxurious train station left abandoned for decades has been transformed into an amazing hotel.

The Canfranc International railway station was once dubbed the “Titanic of the Mountains” when it first opened in July 1928 but it quickly endured a dramatic decline.

Canfranc International railway station was abandoned for decades

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Canfranc International railway station was abandoned for decadesCredit: Alamy
After closing in 1970, the station experienced a major decline and neglect

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After closing in 1970, the station experienced a major decline and neglectCredit: Alamy
It has since been transformed into a five-star luxurious hotel, which opened in 2023

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It has since been transformed into a five-star luxurious hotel, which opened in 2023Credit: Barceló Hotels & Resorts

Nestled high in the mountains against the stunning backdrop of the Spanish Pyrenees, the station’s story hasn’t shared quite the same beauty.

Located on the remote border of Spain and France, Canfranc International was once Europe’s second biggest train station.

Yet it has been inoperative since 1970, when a freight train derailed from its tracks and damaged a key bridge in France.

Following its abandonment, historic guided tours of the site provided the only way to still gain access.

However, the station was eventually sold in 2013 and finally rebuilt in 2021 as a new hotel, which welcomed its first guests in February 2023.

But before then, it had become a rotting wasteland and a vintage train graveyard.

Built in 1928, the station was constructed on a grand scale to serve as a major hub for cross-border railway traffic.

With 365 windows and 200m-long platforms, it became quite the spectacle.

The station had played a key role during the Second World War and witnessed arrests, espionage and gold trafficking.

It became known as the “Titanic of the Mountains”, although experts are yet to agree exactly why that was.

Inside world’s most luxurious TRAIN dubbed ‘luxury hotel on wheels’ complete with hot tubs & onboard restaurant

Some historians, like Alfonso Marco, hypothesise that the station’s “monumental and enormous” structure was easily comparable to that of the ill-fated ship.

Regardless, that “relatively minor accident” less than 50 years after opening saw Canfranc International experience a major decline and neglect, resulting in much of the site becoming derelict.

Marco said: “The bridge could have been replaced without problems, but the temporary suspension of the service gave the opportunity to close a line that France was no longer interested in.”

But after decades of neglect, a new project involving the Government of Aragon, France and the European Commission was launched in the hope of bringing the station back to its former glory.

Hoping to reach completion by 2026, the project is also looking to refurbish Canfranc and reactivate the rail line between Spain and France.

A smaller and more accessible rail station is also being built nearby. 

As for the station itself, its wide spaces have already been converted into a five-star hotel with 104 rooms, including four suites.

A wellness area, including a pool and three restaurants, also make up the luxurious area, while the old station concourse is now the hotel reception.

Hotel guest Thomas O’Hare told CNN: “The rooms and bar and restaurant follow this nice feel of modern interior with a heavy gesture towards its history of rail travel.”

However, one quibble he has is the extra €15 (£12) cost per guest for using the hotel pool.

Nonetheless, its remarkable revamp and incredible mountainside setting has put Canfranc back on the map as one of the world’s most picturesque locations.

Much of the site became derelict following its closure in 1970

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Much of the site became derelict following its closure in 1970Credit: Alamy
The station was sold in 2013 and renovation began in 2021

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The station was sold in 2013 and renovation began in 2021Credit: Alamy
The station revamp is part of a wider project hoping to be completed by 2026

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The station revamp is part of a wider project hoping to be completed by 2026Credit: Alamy
Inside the new lavish accommodation

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Inside the new lavish accommodationCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk
The old station concourse is now the hotel reception

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The old station concourse is now the hotel receptionCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk
Part of the interior of the main building had been transformed into a museum of the old Pau-Zaragoza railway line

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Part of the interior of the main building had been transformed into a museum of the old Pau-Zaragoza railway lineCredit: Alamy
The facilities had been ruined prior to its refurbishment

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The facilities had been ruined prior to its refurbishmentCredit: Alamy
Nature had taken over and the site had begun to rot and crumble

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Nature had taken over and the site had begun to rot and crumbleCredit: Alamy
Canfranc International Railway Station after opening in 1928

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Canfranc International Railway Station after opening in 1928Credit: Getty
The station played a major role in the Second World War

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The station played a major role in the Second World WarCredit: Alamy

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