The Gare du Nord railway station in France is considered to be the busiest station in Europe and the third largest and busiest in the world.

The railway station handles around 180 million passengers per year and is regarded as the second biggest station in terms of passenger capacity. Located in the heart of Paris, the station provides easy access to many of the city’s tourist attractions.

Gare du Nord railway station history

The original Gare du Nord railway station was opened in 1846. In 1857, however, due to lack of space, a decision was made to replace the old railway station with one that was three times bigger.

The old railway station was demolished in 1860 and the construction of the new station was carried out until 1865. It opened in 1864, however, while construction work was still taking place.

Gare du Nord design and construction

The original railway station inaugurated in 1846 was constructed by Bridge and Roadway Engineers and designed by Léonce Reynaud, a professor of architecture at the École Polytechnique, France.

“The Gare du Nord railway station handles 180 million passengers per year.”

The new railway station was designed by Jacques Ignace Hittorff, a German-born French architect. Jacques adopted a Beaux-Arts (neoclassical) style of architecture in the design of the railway station, which has a U-shaped terminus.

Construction of the new railway station started in 1860 and was completed in December 1865. The façade of the original station was removed and transferred to Lille.

In 1884, five additional tracks were added to cope with the increase in railway traffic. Another extension was built in 1889 on the eastern side for suburban rail lines. Further expansion works were carried out in the 1930s and 1960s.

One of the unique features of the railway station is the 23 female statues that adorn the 540ft façade. Each statue represents a particular destination served by the Chemin de Fer du Nord rail company (now part of Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français). The destinations sculpted on the façade include Paris, London, Berlin, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Vienna, Brussels and Frankfurt.

Nine of the statues are situated along the cornice line of the façade with the remaining sculpted lower on the façade. The statues are the work of several sculptors, including François Jouffroy, Charles Gumery, Pierre-Jules Cavelier and Eugene-Louis Lequesne.

Several slabs of stone were used to build the façade, which is supported by a cast iron beam. The interior of the station is 216ft wide and 600ft long, and contains a large central hall and a glass train shed. It is supported by iron pillars manufactured by Alston & Gourley’s ironworks based in Glasgow, Scotland.

Gare du Nord railway services

The Gare du Nord railway is served by the Paris Metro transit system, the Réseau Express Régional (RER) railway system and several bus routes. The metro system has two lines operating at the station, which include line 4 and line 5. Line 4 runs from the north to south of Paris, and line 5 has extensions to the Gare de Lyon (a rail terminal in Paris), and Pantin and Bobigny.

“The Gare du Nord station provides easy access to many of the city’s tourist attractions.”

In addition, there are three RER lines operating at the station, lines B, D and E. Line B provides connections to the Charles de Gaulle Airport; line D is connected to the Gare de Lyon and Line E is connected to the St Lazare (a rail terminal in Paris).

SNCF, Eurostar and Thalys are the three companies that provide services at the railway station. Eurostar runs trains from Paris to London; Thalys provides services to Belgium, Germany and Holland; and SNCF operates services between Paris and Amiens.

Gare du Nord railway station facilities

The Gare du Nord railway station provides many facilities such as wireless internet access, gift shops, ATM machines, cafés, a registered baggage service and a currency exchange. The departure lounge facilities at the railway station are available to all travellers, and a dedicated departure lounge is also present for Eurostar passengers.

“A hallway between Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est is likely to be implemented.”

Eurostar passengers can benefit from e-ticket collection facilities at the Gare du Nord railway station. The easy-to-use system, which enables passengers to collect their tickets from the e-ticketing machines, features touch-screen technology to guide travellers through the process.

Four e-ticket machines are located at the railway station on the mezzanine level. Passengers can also collect tickets from SNCF ticket machines.

Future railway station developments

A new construction plan to build a hallway between Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est is likely to be implemented in the near future. The project is expected to be completed after the new LGV Est (an extension to the TGV network) starts serving the station.