Profiles of stations
Read more about the stations that we've selected for this page.
Dresden Main Station
Historical splendour meets modern high-tech
If you want to visit Dresden for its cultural treasures, arriving by train is definitely the right choice. As soon as you leave the train, you will find yourself inside one of the city's most impressive sights: the main station.
How does a single building combine the splendour of yesteryear with today's functional requirements? Every day, the station proves that it is possible to find the perfect balance. Following extensive renovation and modifications (and a serious flood), the weight of the years has been lifted from the building, endowing it with a light-filled, airy elegance.
Today, Dresden Main Station greets visitors to the city with a breathtaking combination of beautifully restored historicist architecture and daring futurism.
Constructed in 1898, the building was exceptional right from the start: it functioned as both a terminal and a through station. Today, we know that this design was ground-breaking, as it gave long-distance trains from Vienna and Prague quick passage through Dresden en route to Berlin at the turn of the 20th century.
The station was seriously damaged during WWII and, for decades, the East German state could only undertake basic maintenance work. In 2000, it was time to mount a comprehensive renovation campaign. UK architect Norman Foster covered the meticulously restored ensemble from the late 19th century with a gigantic membranous roof. Just 0.8 millimetres thick, this glass-fibre skin is Teflon-coated and lets filtered daylight provide even illumination in all of the halls. In a demonstration of Saxony's taste for splendour, the majestic statue symbolising the region was reinstalled at the main entrance in 2006. It now sits enthroned above the roof just like it did in 1898 - only the current roof is a high-tech tent. Another highlight was the neo-Baroque royal pavilion, where Saxony's kings received their guests. Today, the main hall welcomes people with the light colours of its neo-Renaissance palette, creating an Italianate entry point to the city that people call the "Florence on the Elbe".
In 2014, Dresden won the category for major cities' stations in the competition run by the Pro-Rail Alliance.
An idyllic small-town station
Built in a neoclassical style in 1865/66, the architecture of the passenger building at Hünfeld Station has remained unchanged right down to the present day. The meadows and fields of the Rhön biosphere reserve begin just on the other side of the tracks.
Featuring a travel agent and discreet noticeboards with information about the town centre and local hiking trails, the station is laid out according to a carefully considered plan. This measured balance is an excellent way for Hünfeld to honour the inventor of the computer, Konrad Zuse, who made the town his home.
Renovated in line with a harmonious overall concept, the neoclassical passenger building and well-kept forecourt come into view as you walk to the end of the pedestrian underpass. The town started modifying the station in 2012, creating barrier-free access, renovating the building and converting the locomotive shed into an event space. Even the signal tower has been decorated with words about the subject of freedom. Art plays an important role at the station, and a gallery has leased space in the passenger building.
In 2014, Hünfeld won the category for small towns in the Pro-Rail Alliance's station of the year competition.
Germany's first railway station for cyclists
The famous university town in Lower Saxony has developed pioneering schemes for cyclists, pedestrians and flaneurs while at the same time setting new standards with its traffic and environmental policies.
It's not for nothing that Göttingen's station won the category for major towns in 2013: a large number of rail users nominated it as the most passenger-friendly and forward-thinking station in Germany. Why? The answer is easy: Göttingen is one of the first "cycling stations" in Germany, with a bike garage, a "bike wash" and a repair shop. Together, these not only make changing between modes of transport easier for commuters and other travellers, but they also promote the changeover to eco-friendly transport.
A station that grows to meet its challenges
Between the late 1990s and 2006, Göttingen Station was in a state of constant change, as the historic station building from 1854 was modified to make it fit for today's needs. Göttingen is strongly influenced by its large student population, so a considerable percentage of its residents use bikes for getting around. This fact was particularly noticeable at public transport hubs. Renovation work on the square in front of the station entailed liberating it from the many bikes (some no longer usable) abandoned there, transforming it into a pleasant place to park. Now, the station's lovely sandstone facade opens onto a harmoniously designed space with palm trees that add an almost Mediterranean air.
Town in the Taunus hills near Frankfurt
The ideal link between long-distance and local transport in a commuter paradise.
Oberursel is a small town in the Taunus hills near Frankfurt. Its station proves that being a cute old half-timbered structure is no impediment to being user-friendly and functional as well.
It is perfectly designed to meet the needs of the many commuters who use it day in, day out. Changing trains is easy thanks to the excellent signage, and at the same time, passengers can take in the building's appealing appearance, with its gables and the old columns supporting the roof of the S-Bahn platform.
Opened in 1860, the station building has undergone many changes. The most recent modernisation turned it into the commuter's dream that it is now. Today, Oberursel Station stands out from the majority of suburban rail hubs that are used every day by thousands of people going to and from work.
Superlative in every way
The new heart of Berlin: facing the Federal Chancellery, close to the Reichstag building and Brandenburg Gate, Berlin's new main station opened on 26 May 2006. This very special building was constructed over an 11-year period. With funding from EU, the German government, the state of Berlin and Deutsche Bahn AG, billions of euros were invested in the main station and the new north-south rail route through the city, making it possible for Berlin to once more take its place among Europe's rail hubs - as it had been before the division of Germany - just in time for the opening of the World Cup.
On the site of what was Lehrter Bahnhof station, decommissioned and demolished in the 1950s, Hamburg-based architect firm von Gerkan, Marg & Partner created a new transport hub with an impressive appearance: five storeys in total but nevertheless a delicate composition of metal and glass, spacious and flooded with light. A sophisticated system of large openings in each level's roof lets daylight reach all the way down to the bottom floor.
East and west, north and south - the reintegration of Europe is the key influence on the station's structure, located so close to where the Berlin Wall once stood. 180 metres long and 42 metres wide, the concourse intersects with the glass roof, 321 metres in length, of the main east-west platform. Here, the architecture emphasises the pre-existing position of the tracks. The north-south rail line is located 15 metres underground, while the east-west route is 10 metres above the level of the surrounding streets. Together, they form Europe's largest rail intersection. The two "bridge" buildings are another standout feature: 46 metres high, these office complexes straddle the tracks.
Today, Berlin Central is one of Germany's largest stations, used by some 300,000 travellers and visitors every day. The Pro-Rail Alliance named it as station of the year in 2007.
Modern marvel with old-fashioned charm
If travelling in third-class carriages through the hills of the Thuringian Forest takes people back to the past, they can take part in an ultra-modern smartphone tour when they arrive at the Obstfelderschmiede and Lichtenhain funicular railway. Free wifi provides access to the full range of information about the two stops (separated by a steep mountainside), including a fascinating look around the machine rooms, which are normally hidden from view.
Lichtenhain is on the plateau above the Oberweissbach valley, and visitors have several options to choose from. Families with children like to take the clearly signposted route for a walk through the nearby Fröbelwald wood, named after the creator of the kindergarten and the town's most famous son, Friedrich Fröbel.
Hungry travellers can head for the valley station at Obstfelderschmiede: open seven days a week, it offers a range of excellent local specialities. Served in rustic tin dishes, the solyanka "à la DDR" (East Germany) is a real hit thanks to its appealing, unpretentious simplicity. Up the mountainside at Lichtenhain, a converted Mitropa dining car is used as a restaurant during the summer months.
The stations at Obstfelderschmiede and Lichtenhain have everything that a daytripper from Erfurt or Weimar could ask for. The two stops are not just points of access to local sights, they are also sights in themselves. It's a real stroke of luck that the funicular railway has staff who protected this marvel during the upheavals associated with German unification and who oversaw the adoption of modern technology without the loss of any historical charm. Time has really stood still at Obstfelderschmiede and Lichtenhain – in the best possible way.
Uelzen is a small town on the edge of northern Germany's Lüneburg Heath. In 2000, it became home to a unique tourist attraction, its "environment and culture station", designed by a modern master.
To mark EXPO 2000, taking place in nearby Hanover, Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser was commissioned to transform the lumbering, 19th century brick-built station, which was in need of a thorough renovation, into a colourful work of art. Round shapes, playful mosaics, plant-covered roofs, whimsical columns and golden spheres create that unmistakable, lighthearted Hundertwasser-esque atmosphere that lies halfway between a child's fantasy and Arabian Nights. The transformation has made Uelzen Station into a place with an airy harmony, somewhere that you'd love to linger in.
Over 3.6 million visitors have come to take a tour of the station, which is available several times a week. There's so much to marvel at: even the toilets are a small-scale display of the artist's delight in colours and shapes. It comes as no surprise to learn that the judges at the Pro-Rail Alliance awarded the station first prize in the small towns' category in 2009.
One thing in particular makes Hundertwasser's embellishments to the old brick building so special: everything he added can be removed again without damaging the original structure. The town of Uelzen has been thrilled with its unique station, a real jewel of railway architecture, so it is extremely unlikely that alterations are going to happen. Nevertheless, Hundertwasser believed that making it possible to remove his additions was simply a mark of respect for both the past and the future. The Viennese artist died shortly before his creation opened in 2000.
Has everything that hikers need
Next stop: rural idyll. How a station meets the needs of tourists and locals alike.
For many tourists, the station building in Murnau is the first port of call as they set off on a relaxing trekking holiday at Staffelsee, a lake in Bavaria. It's a postcard-perfect image from the countryside, thanks to flowerboxes along the salmon-coloured facade and the welcoming interior.
The station's refurbishment started in 2008. The renovation work not only encompassed the tracks, but a Park&Ride car park was also opened for residents and commuters. In 2011, the station was modernised and extended for the Alpine World Ski Championship, held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The freight shed was demolished and the area around the station was repurposed.
The passenger building was completely modernised, and the renovation work created a real "citizen's station". The final results are certainly impressive: Murnau's facilities now include a system that lets visitors contact hotels free of charge, and there is also a cosy station café.
Marburg (Lahn) Station
Quiet, everyday beauty
Marburg is always worth a visit, and if you take the train, you get to see the town's station as well – a building of quiet, everyday beauty with a generous forecourt.
The modernised station is like an island of innovative design amid the urban planning mistakes of the 1970s, when Marburg was viewed as a car-friendly town first and foremost. The new forecourt gives everyone the same easy access to trains, be they pedestrians, cyclists, bus users or car owners who are dropping someone off at the station.
The architects have completely avoided the trappings of luxury as their client did not intend for the listed building to compete with Dresden, Leipzig or Bremen. Marburg is friendly, very clean and wonderfully bright. But above all, the station is perfectly suited to its users' day-to-day needs. This applies as much to the colourful mosaics decorating the pedestrian underpass as it does to the impressive staircases leading to the platforms, which are almost like something you would expect to find in a big city. The tastefully modernised entrance hall is as practical as the modified bus platforms in the centre of the forecourt.
Marburg has also found impressive solutions for enhancing accessibility: people with visual impairments can easily make their way from the platforms and through the building thanks to tactile paving and Braille on signs and banisters. Traffic-calming measures have been implemented in the forecourt. Its trees will be larger in a few years, making the space reminiscent of an Italian piazza. A disability-friendly pedestrian crossing provides access to the bus stops located in the middle of the square. Further assistance is available from the station's attentive staff, who have had extensive accessibility-related training.
In keeping with its role as a university town, Marburg also offers accommodation at the station. There is an inexpensive but friendly hotel, student flats in the station's upper floor, rental bikes provided by the students' union – all of these features create a link to the university and strengthen the feeling that the issue of sensible mobility is one that the town takes seriously.
The Pro-Rail Alliance's station of the year award went to Marburg in 2015.