A spiritual experience, Venice
Venice is a brilliant place to arrive in – the moment you walk down the steps and out of Santa Lucia station you’ll see bobbing gondolas on the city’s famous canals. Last year, I stayed at the Hotel Abbazia, a lovely traditional building in a restored ancient monastery. It’s two minutes from the station and has comfortable rooms for two or three from €125. You can have breakfast in the shady courtyard garden, almost imagining the monks strolling around as they said their prayers. In fact, the whole place was so relaxing, I almost missed my train as the friendly hosts served me more croissants and cappuccinos.
Rooms of charm, Glasgow
The Grand Central Hotel is the perfect place to stay when passing through Glasgow Central as the hotel adjoins the station. The building itself is beautiful and the rooms match that charm. Some of the suites come with a decadent roll-top bath. Be sure to visit the champagne lounge for a real treat.
A slice of history repeating, Ghent
Meandering through Europe on a rail pass, we stopped at the delightful 1898 The Post in Ghent. It’s in the old city, 25 minutes’ walk from Ghent’s Dampoort station and 30 from St Pieters station, and filled with old-world charm. It used to be the main post office and only opened as a hotel in 2017. Breakfast was a magnificent buffet, which set us up for a day exploring the historic city centre.
Cool and central, Copenhagen
Copenhagen Plaza, next to the Central station and opposite the Tivoli Gardens, has my vote. It’s cool, calm, relaxed and in a central location. It’s wonderful, but not cheap.
An elegant choice, Hamburg
The Hotel Europäischer Hof in Hamburg is opposite the Hauptbahnhof (main train station). The four-star hotel is a combination of old and modern that is nonetheless elegant – which is a difficult balance to achieve. The bar was also fun, and Miniatur Wonderland is a short metro ride from the hotel.
First-class views, Antwerp
The Radisson Blu Astrid Hotel may not be the classiest or most historic or iconic of hotels, but when you step out of the doors and your eyes fill with the architectural glory of Antwerp’s Central station, you know you’ve made a good choice. It’s a short walk from the old town but closer still are the trains and buses traversing Europe, and the underground station next door opens up a world of possibilities.
Winning tip: Jungle vibes, Lille
On my way to the south of France a couple of years ago, I discovered that instead of hauling my suitcases through crammed RER trains between Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon in Paris and facing queues of up to two hours at the Eurostar terminal on the way back, I could instead swap trains in Lille. Its 17th-century old town is well worth a stay, as is L’Arbre Voyageur, a cosy hotel with jungle vibes in the former Polish consulate and a 10-minute stroll from the main station. The patisserie next door is also perfect for grabbing a sandwich before hitting the rails again the next day.