William Barlow, the Victorian architect commissioned to design the original station, was tasked with creating a regal entrance to London, and he certainly delivered. When it was opened in 1868, St Pancras station proudly laid claim to the title of the world’s largest enclosed space. Even in this age of towering skyscrapers, the renovated station (which, although it has been surpassed by even larger buildings, remains the biggest enclosed station in the world) is impressive – some would even say awe-inspiring. The scale of it, coupled with the sight of swarms of passengers alighting from a Eurostar train, certainly rekindles the excitement of travel.
The huge steel frame is the original, and has been painted sky-blue as it was when the station first opened. It arches high above the platforms, allowing light to flood in through the thousands of glass panels. The ornate clock is a replica of the original. Below this, your eye can’t help but be drawn to the nine-metre-high statue of a couple embracing entitled The Meeting Place, but commonly known as The Lovers. Another iconic statue is that of Sir John Betjeman, who – thankfully – saved the station from demolition in the 1960s.
A showcase of Victorian architecture, adapted for the modern traveller
As sympathetic as the renovations were, they also resulted in a station fit for the 21st century. Escalators replace stairs, while the original brick-built, Gothic-style station building is now a 5-star boutique hotel.
So much better than the average airport
Like an airport, St Pancras boasts a wide range of shops and eateries, from high-street coffee chains and sandwich bars to fine-dining restaurants, not to mention Europe’s longest champagne bar, separated from the Eurostar platform by nothing more than a glass partition.
Unlike an airport, it offers quick, stress-free boarding. ‘Check-in’, which opens about 75 minutes before departure and closes 30 minutes before departure, consists of scanning your e-ticket bar code at an automatic barrier. Once through, walk on a few metres to passport control and, a few metres beyond this, to the airport-style security scanners and you’re ready to board.
Quick connections from other stations
If you are travelling from further afield, connections are easy. Even allowing for the fact that you will have your luggage with you, the walk from Kings Cross mainline station takes under five minutes, while Euston is a 15-minute walk away.