September 21, 2023
Canfranc Estacion: Deserted practice station remodeled into luxurious resort

Editor’s Word: Join Unlocking the World, CNN Journey’s weekly e-newsletter. Get information about locations opening, inspiration for future adventures, plus the most recent in aviation, food and drinks, the place to remain and different journey developments.


In opposition to the backdrop of the snow-capped Pyrenees mountains, deep within the Aragon valley, lies an imposing, stunning constructing. Welcome to Canfranc Station, as soon as an deserted railway station, now an expensive resort.

Canfranc Station opened as an opulent rail hub in 1928, with an inauguration ceremony attended by each the King of Spain and the President of the French Republic; the resort’s located in Spain, however not removed from the French border.

Throughout World Battle II, Canfranc witnessed arrests, espionage and gold trafficking. By 1970, the station had closed its doorways.

The station lay dormant for many years till work started to rework the nonetheless stunning, however lengthy uncared for, constructing right into a resort operated by the Barcelo Resort Group. After years of regeneration, Canfranc Station welcomed its first visitors in January 2023.

Railway and historical past buffs formally have a brand new vacation spot on their bucket record, whereas Mayor of Canfranc Fernando Sánchez Morales says locals have greeted the opening “with enthusiasm.”

“We’re very glad to have the station alive and vivid once more,” Sánchez Morales tells CNN Journey.

Canfranc Estacion: Deserted practice station remodeled into luxurious resort

At the same time as a wreck, Canfranc attracted guests: Photographers flocked to the station, designed by Spanish architect Fernando Ramirez de Dampierre, eager to seize a forgotten slice of European rail historical past.

Those that discover magnificence in deserted buildings may counsel the resort was extra interesting on this eerie, dilapidated state.

However Canfranc Station additionally appears fairly spectacular post-revitalization, and is already attracting resort visitors.

Architect Thomas O’Hare first stumbled throughout Canfranc Station accidentally a few years in the past. When he found the deserted rail hub was set to turn out to be a resort, O’Hare vowed to return upon completion.

A recent photograph of the now transformed ticket hall, which acts as the hotel lobby.

As we speak, O’Hare, who lives in Belfast in Northern Eire, is on trip on the resort along with his household.

“The outside could be very grand and definitely gives the look of journey from a distinct time,” O’Hare tells CNN Journey.

The O’Hares are spending their days snowboarding in Candanchu, one of many oldest ski resorts in Spain, which neighbors the resort.

This picture depicts the original opening of Canfranc Station in July 1928.

On account of its border place, possession of Canfranc Station was initially shared between France and Spain. It’s now owned by the native Aragon authorities in Spain, who labored on the resort regeneration course of with the Barcelo Resort Group.

Canfranc Station performed an lively function throughout World Battle II, bearing witness to moments of each hope and despair.

Previous to the Nazi takeover of the Canfranc municipality, the station acted because the gateway to liberty for some European Jews who have been persecuted by the German regime.

Ramón Javier Campo Fraile, author behind the venture, which gained the Premio Nacional de Periodismo Digital journalism award in 2003, spoke to CNN Journey in 2017 about Canfranc’s historical past.

“Within the first years of the world struggle, from 1940 to 1942, 1000’s of Jews fled by practice from Canfranc to Lisbon and the US,” he mentioned.

Amongst those that fled by practice out of Canfranc, in keeping with Campo Fraile, have been the painters Max Ernst, who was not Jewish, and Marc Chagall. American entertainer Josephine Baker additionally transited by the station.

Spies traveled by practice from Canfranc en route to affix the anti-Nazi French Resistance and to go messages to Allied nations.

“It was additionally utilized by the Allies, who handed data to France and Spain by a spy community,” mentioned Mayor Sánchez Morales in 2017.

Nonetheless, the Nazis took the municipality of Canfranc in November 1942 and maintained management till June 1944.

Escape by Canfranc turned tougher and the station turned the positioning of many arrests.

Canfranc was the one Spanish municipality occupied by the Nazis – and the regime made its presence felt. Campo Fraile mentioned greater than 300 folks have been arrested fleeing in direction of Lisbon in Portugal and despatched to prisons throughout Spain.

“The Germans managed the visitors of gold [and tungsten] and so they additionally lowered the French flag.”

Rumors of Nazi gold trafficking by Canfranc station have proliferated for years, however they have been solely confirmed in 2000.

Campo Fraile informed CNN Journey {that a} native bus driver discovered proof revealing that “86 tons of Nazi gold handed by the station between 1942 and 1943.”

“We’ve got discovered extra paperwork in European and American archives that show that greater than 100 tons of gold handed by the realm,” he mentioned.

The renovated interior aims to evoke the 1920s, while also referencing the natural landscape surrounding the hotel.

The brand new iteration of Canfranc Station goals to acknowledge and protect the station’s historical past, whereas additionally commencing a brand new chapter for the station and the area.

María Bellosta, resort supervisor at Canfranc, tells CNN Journey that “particular consideration has been paid to each element” of the regeneration venture.

It was vital, Bellosta added, to keep away from “dropping an iota of its character and massive legacy.”

With this “monumental legacy” comes “an infinite problem,” as Bellosta places it.

The 1928 constructing needed to be tailored to suit the requirements and luxuries of a contemporary resort, with out dropping its historic character.

“We wished to keep up its DNA, its worldwide railway spirit,” says Bellosta.

The resort inside design, the product of Madrid-based design studio ILMIODESIGN, goals to evoke the Twenties by its cloth, decor and workers uniforms. The design additionally contains particular nods to what Bellosta calls “the historic, cultural and social heritage of Canfranc, and the function it developed through the twentieth century.”

Colours and tones evoke the pure, mountainous panorama surrounding the resort.

There are 104 rooms within the resort, together with 4 suites. There’s a wellness space, together with a pool and three eating places. What was as soon as the station concourse is now the resort reception.

Resort visitor Thomas O’Hare praises the “tasteful” transformation of the station concourse into the resort reception.

“The rooms and bar and restaurant comply with this good really feel of contemporary inside with a heavy gesture in direction of its historical past of rail journey,” he says.

O’Hare’s foremost quibble is the additional €15 value per visitor for utilizing the resort pool. Plus, Canfranc’s gorgeous mountainside location means it doesn’t have a lot in the best way of grounds.

He additionally suggests the resort may gain advantage from a show detailing the historical past of Canfranc Station, however provides that the workers are very educated on this topic.

When Canfranc was a wreck, it was a magnet for photographers each skilled and newbie who wished to seize the ambiance of the haunting wreck.

Bellosta means that post-regeneration these photographers “won’t solely have the privilege of immortalizing it with their cameras after the spectacular restoration, but in addition of staying, having fun with a very good meal.”

For his half, mayor Sánchez Morales says he’s “very completely satisfied” with how “the historical past of the station and the railway atmosphere” spring to mind all through the resort.

“We hope will probably be the consolidation of Canfranc as a vacationer vacation spot,” he says.

CNN’s Rochelle Beighton contributed to this report