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, it 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
Sympathetic as the renovations were, they also resulted in a station fitting of the 21st century. Escalators replace stairs, the original brick-built, Gothic-style station building is now a 5-star boutique hotel, and there is free WiFi throughout the station.
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 inserting your ticket into an automatic barrier. Once through, walk on a few metres to passport control and, a few metres beyond this, to the airport-style scanners (a quick and stress-free process compared to that of airports, with only short queues, if any) and you’re ready to board.