Terminal Retreats: Railway station lounges
Eurostar may be utterly modern but in its lounge for premium clients at Brussels Midi station, Eurostar strikes a nicely retro note. This is a marvelous stylish space, the perfect spot to relax prior to boarding the train to London.
Yes, railway stations have departure lounges too. The chance to relax in seclusion is not merely the prerogative of the air traveler.
Retro style at St. Pancras
Eurostar uses a chandelier motif for its limited-access departure lounges — a reminder that rail travel has a historical depth with which airline companies simply cannot compete. The chandelier is a symbol of antique style, but the tone of these lounges is anything but stuffy. These are utterly contemporary spaces.
The entire St Pancras lounge picks up similar design elements to those in Brussels, but is altogether a bolder concept. If you get the chance to try the restricted-access premium lounge, head for the upper level where in one direction you get an excellent view out to the Eurostar trains waiting at the departure platforms. In the other direction, gaze out to the refurbished German Gymnasium and the dramatic new King’s Cross departure concourse.
New lounge at King’s Cross
Airport lounges receive relentless coverage in the business media, but far less attention is devoted to premium lounges at railway stations. Indeed, these lounges are often tucked away: out of sight, out of mind.
To even find the First Class Lounge at King’s Cross takes a measure of determination, but it’s worth the hunt as the lounge — with it distinctive lime-green and aubergine décor — is a fine spot to relax while waiting for the East Coast train to Leeds or Edinburgh. This new facility at King’s Cross opened just last year, and gives East Coast the chance to give its customers a taste of East Coast service and style even before boarding one of the company’s 70 daily departures from the London terminus.
The German network
Deutsche Bahn (DB) has a comprehensive network of station lounges across its station network. The rear section of the lounge at Berlin (reserved for first-class travelers) is a good spot to enjoy a complimentary light breakfast prior to hopping on an ICE. But the Munich lounge has the edge in affording superb views over the departure concourse.
In theory, DB restricts lounge access to holders of tickets issued by Deutsche Bahn, but we have noted that this restriction is not always enforced in practice. So if you have a first-class rail pass issued by Rail Europe or a premium-fare ticket issued by a foreign railway administration, it is worth walking boldly into the lounge — the chances are that your ticket will be honored for entrance.
Night train warm-up
Station lounges are good for night train customers, too. We have sampled the Swiss Railways lounge at Zürich Hauptbahnhof prior to joining a City Night Line service. It’s an odd sort of space, one that style-wise somehow fails to hit any particular mark.
And last year, we passed a pleasant hour in the smart Club Lounge at Madrid Chamartin, before joining the Elipsos night train to Paris. With its retro colors and comfortable sofas, it was an easy place to doze on a hot afternoon. It leaves us wondering how many rail travelers are so seduced by the comfort of departure lounges that they fall asleep and miss their intended train.