New York’s Grand Central Terminal is without a doubt the most famous railway terminal in the world. Perhaps that is because in true New York style, it is far more than its name suggests. Just like the Empire State Building is more than a mere building, Grand Central Terminal is more than a railway station. It is a destination in its own right – full of history and surprises: 

History of Grand Central Terminal

Like most of New York’s iconic buildings, Grand Central Terminal is most certainly grand. The first station was built here way back in 1871, but when the city banned steam locomotives at the turn of the twentieth century following a fatal crash, Grand Central Station, as it was then known, was pulled down. A new building, suitable for electric trains, took its place. The new Grand Central Terminal opened its doors in February 1913. 

The grand façade of Grand Central Terminal hints at the beauty of what lies inside (Image source: Brandon Nickerson on Unsplash)

The Famous Facade 

Located on 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown, the new Beaux Arts Grand Central Terminal building was designed to fit in with the tone of this desirable and popular area. Although the structure was allowed to deteriorate again by the 1960s, it’s once again been restored to its former glory. 

When I pass by the façade on 42nd Street and Park Avenue – I always note that the outside does hint at the grand nature of what’s within. My own tradition is to give a little nod to Mercury, Minerva and Hercules – the gods of speed, wisdom and strength, who feature on the ‘Transportation’ sculpture, before I check the time on the beautiful clock below – the largest work of Tiffany glass in the world. These are just some of the reasons it’s the most famous railway station in the world. 

The largest work of Tiffany glass in the world (Image attribution: Oliver Dumoulin on Unsplash)

The Incredible Ceiling

More of the other reasons behind its celebrity status lie on the inside. There’s Vanderbilt Hall, named after the shipping and railroad magnate that built the Terminal’s predecessor – Grand Central Station. The hall was once the main waiting room, and it now hosts the many special events that take place in Grand Central Terminal throughout the year. From there you’ll move through to the Main Concourse – a vast open space that is home to arguably the most famous clock in NYC, sat above the information booth.  A famous meeting point for the 250,000 people who pass through the building every day. 

When you visit Grand Central Terminal, remember to look up at the incredible ceiling – it’s not your average railroad station roof. It shows all the constellations of the zodiac. However, the mural is painted backwards – a mistake caused by the painters putting the plans on the floor as they worked. 

That famous clock and that beautiful ceiling (Image attribution: Heidi Stock on Unsplash)

Grand Central is also a treasure trove of NYC’s best restaurants and retailers. There are 60 shops and more than 30 bars and restaurants – including Michelin star fine dining and cocktail bars that would take you back to the jazz age. Curiously – you can also have a game of tennis in Grand Central Terminal since there’s a public tennis club on the fourth floor, too. So – Grand Central Terminal is certainly full of history and surprises. 

Grand Central Terminal is just a short walk from the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Center – which you can reach via our Gray Line New York Hop on, Hop Off bus tours. Get the best views of some of the most famous sights in New York, before hopping off to explore the most famous railway station in the world. It is one of the most iconic buildings in our city, and we’d be delighted to help you get there. Contact us today for more information!

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