The oldest, the most important, the most crowded and the greenest: let's talk about Atocha, the railway station which has become an important one Madrid tourist attraction.
A stone's throw from the Prado Museum, the building that houses the Atocha station is an architectural masterpiece that effectively combines modern solutions with the romantic charm of the first railways.
It will not be difficult for you to recognize the unmistakable touch of Gustave Eiffel, author of the famous tower that bears his name in Paris, but other important engineers and architects have contributed over the decades to make this station special.
The huge station, which has about 15 million passengers a year, is now divided into two distinct areas: the new station, from which trains depart and arrive, and the old station, home to offices, shops and a bizarre tropical garden.
Come here to get some fresh air, go shopping, have a coffee or - why not? - get on a train to reach your next destination. After all, in each station the real stars are the trains.
Trains departing from Atocha
Atocha is one of the most important railway hubs of Spain: all the long-distance, high-speed trains, regional trains (Cercanías network) and the ligero metro (ML1) depart from here, with which you can reach Madrid-Barajas airport. From the train station you can access the inside Atocha-Renfe metro station (L1).
Two very special trains also depart from Atocha, of particular interest to tourists:
- Cervantes train: recommended for lovers of literature, its destination is Alcalá de Henares, birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, the famous author of Don Quixote.
- Strawberry Train: a romantic train with a nostalgic charm: it is made up of an original steam locomotive from the mid-1960th century, two carriages from 1914 and four carriages built between 1930 and XNUMX. It has as its destination Aranjuez, just like the first train left from Atocha .
It is quite unusual for people to choose to spend some time inside a station, which is generally considered to be just a transit point, but Atocha is a special case.
What is the reason why so many people from Madrid come here even if they don't have to take any train? A Botanical Garden permanent, obtained from the space of the old tracks.
Thousands of plants, including palm trees, aquatic plants and exotic plants, grow inside the glass and steel structure of the station. Some animal species also live here: the turtles of Atocha station.
With its constant temperature around 24 degrees the Atocha garden it is an ideal refuge against the scorching heat of the city in the summer months or an unusual snowfall in the winter.
Attractions around Atocha
Outside the Atocha station stands at the center of a roundabout the Monument to the victims of 11 March 2004, inaugurated exactly three years after the terrorist attack.
The monument is a cylindrical glass dome 11 meters high covered inside with a layer of etfe, a light and transparent material that allows engraving. Messages of solidarity from the population have been engraved on the efte layer in memory of the victims of the tragic event.
After paying homage to this touching monument, you can move on foot to the main tourist attractions of the city.
The three great city museums, namely the Meadow, Reina Sofía National Museum and Thyssen-Bornesmiza Museum, can be easily reached by going up what is called the Art Walk. Not far away is also the Retiro Park, the green lung of the city, and the district of Lavapies, lively and multi-ethnic.
Curiosity: a bit of station history
Atocha station was inaugurated on February 9, 1851: at the time it was a simple wooden platform, built to facilitate the boarding and alighting of passengers on the second railway line in Spain, which joined Madrid and Aranjuez, a municipality of the Comunidad Autonoma de Madrid known for its royal palaces and gardens.
The first expansion works took place between 1865 and 1892, directed by Albert of the Elissagne Palace with the collaboration of Gustave Eiffel: one of the peculiar characteristics of the station dates back to this period, namely the roof of the main nave. 158 meters wide, 48 m long and 27 m high, it is one of the symbolic images of Madrid.
New changes were made between 1984 and 1992 under the direction of Rafael Moneo, one of the most important contemporary Spanish architects.
Other major renovations were carried out following the attack that severely damaged the station in 2004, killing 191 people and injuring 1800.