Former Canfranc train station and luxury hotel in northern Spain is praised by foreign press

by Lorraine Williamson
Canfranc hotel

Opened in 1928 by the then Spanish King Alfonso XIII, the Canfranc train station has a fascinating history, especially during World War II. Today, it is a spectacular hotel nestled among the rugged mountains of the Aragonese Pyrenees. The foreign press is full of praise for the hotel and the building.

Soon after its opening, the station became the main rail link between France and Spain. It was also a refuge for Jews fleeing the Holocaust during World War II. However, after years of pomp and circumstance, it fell into disrepair in 1970. In 2002 it was listed as a World Heritage Site and at the end of that year it became a luxury hotel, Hotel Canfranc Estación. Now it is an oasis of luxury and elegance that brings back the essence and splendour of this historic building. Nice detail, the Canfranc Express restaurant is located in a carriage of the old Canfranc station.

Best hotel in a natural setting in Spain in 2024

Hotel Canfranc Estación, was named the best hotel in a natural environment in Spain at the National Geographic Travel Awards 2024. The UK’s Financial Times is also full of praise, “Canfranc Estación, the ‘Titanic of the mountains’, has been reborn as a beautifully designed (and reasonably priced) retreat”

The French newspaper Le Figaro has published several articles about this luxury hotel. One of them states that the station “located in Canfranc, on the border, on the line that used to connect Pau (Atlantic Pyrenees) to Zaragoza, 311 kilometres further south, is the second largest station in Europe. Its size is the same as that of the Saint-Lazare station. After forty years of neglect, it has regained its former glory.”

The British newspaper The Times is also full of praise. “The Canfranc International Train Station almost immediately evokes comparisons with The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson’s 2014 film. A beautiful beaux-arts building surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees. And ten times the size of St Pancras in London.”

Leading role in film and literature

Canfranc Estación is also an iconic setting that has captured the imagination of filmmakers and writers over the years. Since its opening in 1928, the station has been the setting for several film shoots. It also inspired writers to capture its greatness in novels and documentaries.

In the film world, “Lo saben los bosques” (2011) stands out. A film that captures the beauty and mystery of the landscapes surrounding the station. With the plot of the theft of a cargo of Nazi gold from the station. Canfranc has also been featured in documentaries. For example, in “Canfranc, Última Estación” (2016), in which one examines the history and legacy of this architectural jewel.

There are also several novels with a role for the station. For example, “Volver a Canfranc” by Rosario Raro (2015), a novel set in 1943. And a second novel by the same writer: “El cielo sobre Canfranc” (2022). Also noteworthy is “La frontera salvaje” (2015), which transports the reader to a world full of adventure and excitement around the station in World War II Europe.

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Luxury, gastronomy and nature

The charm of this hotel goes beyond its luxurious facilities. Its privileged location allows guests to enjoy the natural beauty of the Pyrenees. With access to a wide range of outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and rafting. In addition, the train station, which has been converted into a hotel, is very close to the ski resorts of Candanchú and Astún.

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The gastronomic offer combines Aragonese tradition with avant-garde techniques, offering a unique culinary experience that delights the senses. For this, the Canfranc Express has been awarded a Michelin star.

Also read: Five Spanish hotels among the best in the world

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