Tropical Train Station
The impression I get with Madrid, on my first proper visit to the city, is that there aren't enough trees. Especially in the old city. Then I visit Atocha train station (Estación de Madrid Atocha), the largest in the city, and find an entire botanical garden.
A marriage of hard and soft, concrete and nature. A splendid structure built over a 100 years ago, it houses a huge tropical garden, in what originally was one of its terminals. It's surrounded by cafes, and a sophisticated sprinkler system sprays a fine mist over the towering palms.
This was a first for me. I’d been to many botanical gardens, usually with their glass houses, but never one that you could enjoy before boarding a train.
Atocha train station is Madrid’s largest, and can be found in the southeast of the centre, not too far from the official botanical gardens, which in turn are next to the large Parque del Retiro, a showcase of elegance from a bygone era.
Like the minds behind the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, where industrial space marries art, those behind Atocha’s redevelopment produced a welcome distraction from the stress of catching a train, and a pleasant surprise for visitors. The station works in a stunning way, passifying the urgent energy of passengers rushing to catch their trains, whilst complimenting the restful experience of taking a café con leche.
– Alan McArthur