Abandoned, it becomes a luxury hotel: the extraordinary metamorphosis of Canfranc station in Spain
The Canfranc station, located in Aragon in Spain, has become a 5-star luxury hotel this winter. How this building that has been abandoned for years has invented a new future.
From ghost station to luxury hotel. This is the magnificent story of the station of Canfranc, located in Aragon in the Spanish Pyrenees, not far from the Franco-Spanish border and a hundred kilometers south of Pau. Or how a building left abandoned for decades has come back to life thanks to tourism since January 2023.
We are in 1928. In the middle of the mountains, at an altitude of 1200 meters, a monumental station is born. Spanish architect Fernando Ramirez de Dampierre thinks big. Originally 18 runways, 240 meters long, 365 windows like the number of days in the year. The Art Deco building is meant to be a great gateway to Spain. It is as big as the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris. The ambition is to develop rail traffic between France and Spain by land and no longer just along the coast, on the side of the Basque Country and Roussillon.
A serious fire put a stop to the development of the station in 1931. In 1936 the Spanish Civil War broke out, then the Second World War. The station becomes a crossing point for Jews fleeing France or stolen works of art. In the second half of the 20th century, the car has become more democratic. In 1970, a freight train loaded with corn derailed on the French side. No other trains will connect France to Canfranc station. It becomes a mere terminus on the Spanish side.
Big works in the 2010s
The rebirth of the Pau-Canfranc railway line is regularly mentioned like an old sea snake in the middle of the mountains. In the mid-2000s, major renovation work began on the roof of the passenger station and on the consolidation of the building. But that all came to a halt in 2008 due to the global banking and financial crisis.
In 2013, the government of Aragon and the Aquitaine region signed a memorandum of understanding as part of their cross-border cooperation. The government of Aragon buys the station. A new station is built next to the original building. Three lanes are in use.
On April 15, 2021, a first Renfe (Spanish SNCF) train from Zaragoza entered Canfranc station.
Luxury hotel, swimming pool, spa
But what about the elegant station? The Barceló group, the second largest hotel group in Spain, which has been awarded a 69-year lease, imagines transforming the “Titanic of the Pyrenees” into a luxurious palace. Without disowning the past, he has created a 5-star luxury hotel with 104 carefully furnished and decorated rooms.
The Art Deco style is maintained for the furniture, the choice of materials such as wood and brass or velvet for the upholstery, explains the hotel’s website. The former station hall has become the reception of the hotel “Canfranc estación, Royal hideaway hotel”. It includes several restaurants including two gourmet tables and two bars, a wellness area with spa and a 200m² indoor pool. The night is billed from 168 €.
Canfranc hopes to become a new tourist destination. “A new Canfranc is emerging,” says Mayor Fernando Sánchez in Southwest. The former train station, now a luxury hotel, is located near the ski resorts of Astun and Candanchu. The region has many hiking trails and the Caminos de Santiago de Compostela. The city is a candidate for the organization of the Trail and Mountain World Championships in 2025.
Will the Pau-Canfranc line reopen one day?
The Pau-Oloron-Bedous line was relaunched in 2016 by the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region after forty years of inactivity. The TER journey takes just over an hour between Pau and the village in the Aspe valley. Bedous is only 33 km from Canfranc. Will we see passenger and freight trains between the two municipalities one day? Common wishes exist in Aragon but also in Aquitaine and the Spaniards hope so for 2025. Europe has financed the studies. Rebound to February 2023: an unfavorable opinion on the reopening of the line was issued by the Infrastructure Orientation Council (COI), which advises the state on investments. An opinion criticized by the president of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region Alain Rousset and by the association for the defense of the Creloc line.