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Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal (75)

Welcome to the Grand Central Terminal in New York. A stunning, magical and majestic place, where feeling small is really humbling.

Located in the heart of a neighbourhood that has three of the most beautiful buildings in New York (the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and the New York Public Library), there are many reasons for visiting this magnificent work of art.

It is the station for the world's largest railway, one of the largest public spaces in the world and one of the most beautiful buildings in the United States.

Its size is really impressive: it occupies over 35 hectares, has two underground levels with a total of 67 tracks and 44 platforms, and about 125,000 passengers and more than 500,000 visitors pass through it every day. 

Known as Grand Central Station or simply Grand Central, this great New York architectural gem was first built in 1871. The terminal was expanded in 1898 and in 1913 the newly reconstructed station was inaugurated. Today, thanks to a huge reform that began in 1994 and ended in 1998, the building an be admired in its original splendour.

A splendour that manifests from the outset, on the Beaux-Arts style facade The best place to admire it is from 42nd Street and the best time is at night, when it is bathed by a golden light. In front of you there are three arches of 23 metres, separated by pairs of fluted columns. And on top, a beautiful clock and a sculpture crowning the facade, which is called Transportation and is the work of Jules Coutan. The work depicts Mercury (the symbol of speed), flanked by Hercules (the archetype of strength) and Minerva (goddess of wisdom).

Upon entering, the majestic main hall will take your breath away: 60 metres long, 36 wide and 36 high. If you lift your gaze you can admire the fabulous vaulted ceiling where the French Paul Helleu painted a representation of the night sky, with 2,500 stars and the zodiac constellations that shine through the optical fibre.

Curiously you will notice that the sky is reversed, as if the viewer were in heaven, not on earth. There are many theories about it, even that it was an error in interpreting the drawing, although Helleu was commissioned to clarify that it was inspired by a Medieval manuscript that represented the sky that way (through the eyes of God, perhaps?) .

You will notice that a small section of the sky is deteriorated. This is because during the last restoration it was decided to leave evidence of the hard work done. Notice its dark colour; for years it was thought that the grey colour was caused by the smoke from the railroads, but eventually discovered that the main cause was cigarette smoke. In the Main Concourse there is a small hole; it is there to remember the presence of a Redstone missile.

One of the icons of the station is the four-faced clock is above the information centre, each side is made of opal and Sotheby's and Cristie's have valued the clock at about 20 million.

And by the way, do not miss the Hall of Whispers, located near the restaurants in the Grand Central Terminal, near the famous Oyster Bar, where the acoustics of the blackened ceramic turns whispers into screams, if made from its opposite corners. It is a very popular spot for marriage proposals.

Much has been written about Track 61, the secret platform under the Waldorf Astoria Hotel used by Franklin Roosevelt to hide his paralysis from the world. It is inaccessible to the public but ask at the station and they will tell you which one is the secret door.

Walk among the crowd, roam its corridors, climb its ramps... Do not miss the marble staircase inspired by the Paris Garnier Opera, and the four-faced clock above information kiosk.

One final curiosity: can you guess what the most-frequently-lost object in the station is? Umbrellas; each year more than 2,000 umbrella are stored in the lost and found.

But the Grand Central Terminal is much more than a train station. It is also a leisure area where you can take a break, go shopping or enjoy something to eat. The Dining Concourse is on the ground floor, with more than 100 shops and restaurants. A large shopping serves about 10,000 meals a day and houses the huge Oyster Bar; famous for its décor and its seafood.

And before you go, stand in the centre of the Main Concourse and imagine starring in one of the many scenes of farewell or persecution that have been shot in this hall. For example, it was the scene for several sequences in Alfred Hitchcock's film "North by Northwest", Superman, Cotton Club, Men in Black, Armageddon, and many others, but above all there is one you are sure to remember when you visit the station; the spectacular steps scene of Elliot Ness's The Untouchables.

The largest train station in the world has a rich history and is full of secrets. Explore the dark past, the hidden sites and many unique corners of this famous New York building.

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