Guillemins railway station
Guillemins railway station is closely related to the history of Belgian railways. In fact the young state of Belgium was the first to introduce a continental railway in 1835, linking Brussels with Malines. With the help of the UK, Belgium quickly expanded it's railway services. However, while a line linking Brussels with nearby Ans was quickly inaugurated, to extend the railway to Liège proved a far greater challenge because of the difference in altitude between Ans and the valley of the Meuse, which locates Liège.
The solution came with a rail inclined plane that would serve the new Liège-Guillemins station which was inaugurated in May 1842, and a year later the first international railway connection was born, linking Liège to Aachen and Cologne. The wooden building was quickly replaced with an art nouveau style building which was expanded and modernized 2 times before it had to make way for a completely new Modern art building In 1958 due to the electrification of the railway line.
However, constructed in an area where trains were steam powered only, the railway station proves to be ridiculously outdated to receive the new high speed TGV (Trains à Grand Vitesse) trains that Belgium is rolling out at the end of the 20th century and after a lot of political quarrel (well this is Belgium after all) it is decided to hold a contest for architects around the world to design a new, modern railway station.
The new Guillemins railway station was designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava and officially opened on 18 September 2009. Placed some 100 meters more East to the original building, It has 9 tracks and 5 platforms all of which have been modernised to allow high speed arrival and departure. The new station is made of concrete, steel, glass and bluestone. It includes a monumental arch, 160 metres long and 32 metres high. Only the underground central part is original from the building that stood before it.
Personally? I think it is one of the most beautiful railway stations in Belgium. It is spacious and with a lot of light. It is one of the most photographed buildings in Liège, and rightly so.