Canfranc Station Spain
Welcome to our travel diaries series at Canfranc Station in Spain. It’s August 2022 and we’re meandering through the North Eastern parts of the country in our Sprinter campervan.
Heading Northwards from the interesting town of Jaca, lies the absolutely incredible Canfranc Station or Estacion Canfranc.
It’s somewhere we’ve heard of plenty of times before but have never really known exactly where it is or what the story is behind it.
Little do we realise, that since first seeing Canfranc Station in a book of Abandoned Places, that we’re now several years too late.
Abandoned no more
First, we approach the village of Canfranc, on a long stretch of road with little in the way of parking. Initially, we park on the street, before walking about 10 minutes further along, to find out where the station is. It’s here that we find a tourist office, as well as the sealed off station complex.
Then we realise the abandoned Canfranc station is now undergoing a major renovation project. Not only is it being thoroughly transformed, but it’s not far off being finished.
We ask in the tourist office if there’s any motorhome parking and if you can venture into the station area at all. Unfortunately, the reply to both is “no”, although in a nice manner of course!
Apparently, there is daytime parking at a car park at the end of the town. But when we check it out later, we find it’s just a normal car park with no spaces available.
Interestingly, you can book a tour of the station complex but there’s nothing free for us today.
History of Canfranc Station
Canfranc was built in 1928, but by 1970 it was deserted, following the collapse of a bridge. Its position so close to the French border made it an escape route from the Nazis during World War 2. However, Canfranc became the only municipality to become occupied by the Nazis, bringing many arrests to those attempting to flee.
It also saw the escape of thousands of Jews in the early War years, as this was a route to Lisbon in Portugal. From here many then fled overseas, usually to the United States.
Unbelievably, about 80 tons of gold was smuggled through Canfranc during the occupation, a fact only recently discovered.
After moving the campervan to a grassy lay by on the outskirts of town, we walk back towards the station. Here we find where there was once motorhome parking, this is now the builders compound.
Beyond we can see the vast complex with construction fencing still surrounding the buildings, with machinery, skips and building supplies laying around.
The building is wide, stretching out in a long, prominent fashion. Its centrepiece being the dome-type entrance which breaks up the lengthy expanse of the entire building. Not only is the architecture pristine, with such detail in the windows spanning the entire length, but it’s absolutely incredible and stunningly beautiful.
Canfranc Station is Alive and well
We walk the entire length, with the builders metal fence separating us from entering. Peering through the wire brings amazement at the detail, by the looks of things, this is one renovation project worthy of a grand prize.
First and foremost, the original beauty of the Canfranc Station is truly intact, it’s just as if we’re stepping back to 1928 and the grand opening.
We pass a couple of old railway carriages, as well as some untouched, un-restored buildings. All bring a hint of just how the station did look before the renovation began.
Ultimately, Canfranc station is alive and well and soon this fascinating complex will be thriving again.
It takes a while for us to walk along its boundary, then we take a detour back into the town, to see the station from the front. All the while, we have been along its back elevation, and the front is equally as sensational.
Canfranc is now a Hotel
We find out it’s the Barcelo group of hotels who have been transforming the once abandoned Canfranc Station. Soon this phenomenal restoration will be complete, with the new Canfranc Hotel opening its doors to guests.
For us, we’re sad not to have seen the old abandoned Canfranc Estacion. After all, it was there long enough, but seeing it before re-opening as the hotel is also somehow special.
As the finishing touches are made, we can only look on in awe at the superb building and its transformation. Not only does this place hold so much history and memories, but it’s a piece of nostalgia that will be here for an eternity.
It’s hard to imagine all those people passing through this once bustling station, along with the drama of the war years. Canfranc holds many memories and now it’s the start of a new beginning.
At last, within the walls of Canfranc new memories, will once again be made. The renovation of this station, in the shadow of the Pyrenees, is well and truly captivating and probably one of the best in all of Spain, if not the World.