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    Grand Central Terminal: how to visit the most beautiful station in New York

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    Martí Micolau

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    We are in the eclectic New York City, more precisely at 89 East & 42nd Street in the midwest of Manhattan. This is the official address of the station Large Central Terminal (also called Grand Central, The Terminal and GCT) not to be confused with Grand Central Station, a post office located at 450 Lexington Ave. We don't have any tickets and we don't even have to buy any; we are here as visitors to discover a bit of history, the faces and peculiarities of this huge crossroads.


    • History and architectural style
    • What to see at Grand Central Terminal
    • Events and shopping
    • Where to eat
    • Accomodation

    History and architectural style

    Grand Central Terminal opened on February 2, 1913 and has been one of the ever since New York symbols, one of the main points of interest in the Big Apple. This complex did not arise by chance. It all goes back to January 8, 1902 when a commuter train traveling from suburban Westchester County collided with another train waiting at the station entrance; the driver's vision was clouded by "black smoke" and the disaster killed 15 people.

    This tragic event led to an investigation during which alarming data emerged on the danger of fumes deriving from coal-fired steam engines. Consequently, plans were put in place to ban the use of steam engines in the city. The Vanderbilt family announced they wanted to build a new station that would use electricity. The project was carried out in the beaux-arts style which refers to the period 1880-1920, characterized by sculptures and the coexistence of past styles.

    The building is also notable on the outside for its grandeur and in its corner of 42nd Street and Park Avenue a clock Tiffany he is "in the company" of Greek statues representing Mercury, a symbol of speed, Hercules, a symbol of strength and Minerva, a symbol of intellect. This clock is 15 meters high and 4 in diameter. Then, at the intersection of Vanderbilt Avenue and East 42nd Street, a soon eagle in cast iron, the bald-headed eagle symbol of the United States. The materials used inside are granite, stone and limestone while the floors are in marble. Note i details architectural of the Terminal with oak leaves and acorns, symbols of the Vanderbilt family.

    Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis made this statement: Grand Central Terminal stands as an universal symbol between New York's past and present (Grand Central Terminal stands as a universal symbol between New York's past and present). But basically that what is GCT? It is not just a point where departures and arrivals converge, it is much more and that is why it is a city attraction. It is a place for shopping, dining, culture and events. The building is open from 5 in the morning until 2 in the morning the following day. The hours of shops and restaurants vary.

    As regards its function related to transport, we find a subway station, buses and the Metro North Railroad with lines that from New York reach districts to the north (Hudson + Harlem) and New Haven in Connecticut where Yale University is located. . For practical and safety reasons, each train leaves one minute after the time indicated on the board. The extra minute should allow passengers in a hurry not to miss the train or to take a breather and not have to run. This thing, however, is a bit 'smile because now everyone knows, or almost.

    There are many ramps rather than stairs to allow commuters and travelers to move faster to the tracks located below street level. As at King's Cross station in London, here too there is a particular platform; it is not the number 9 and ¾ which leads to the Hogwarts school of magic but it is nonetheless a binary which has its own history. And the number 61, once President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's private line, which connected the Waldorf Astoria hotel to the station.

    What to see at Grand Central Terminal

    At the Grand Central Terminal you can also take self-guided tours thanks to the technology of Orpheo USA, a device that tells the history and characteristics of the station. Cost is $ 9, $ 7 (for seniors, military, students, and children) with a building map included in the price. Tours are available in various languages, including Spanish and last from 30 minutes to over an hour.

    Tour with audio guide of the station

    The GCT tour desk, open from 9am to 18pm, is located in Main Concourse, the main hall and it is from here that we begin to explore the Grand Central Terminal immediately noticing the large American flag placed a few days after the attack of 11 September 2001. It is really large (84 meters long and 37 wide) ; in a news report from the New York Times it was reiterated how much, in a land where spaces are usually large, this atrium is enormous even for the 750.000 New Yorkers who frequent it every day.

    Here you will find the ticket office, the automatic machine that dispenses tickets, the timetables and a large opalescent 4-sided clock, worth about 10 million dollars, a real symbol called Booth Clock which is located above the information point, clearly visible in the central position. This clock is so famous that it says "Meet me at the clock".

    While we are here we observe it Zodiac Ceiling, the sky-blue ceiling with twelve painted constellations, gold leaves and more than 2.500 stars, 59 of which are illuminated with LED lights. Did you know that this picture was painted upside down? What is considered a mistake was discovered by an astronomy enthusiast commuter. And when you see "upturned noses" it is because this particularity makes the skilfully restored work in the 90s even more interesting.

    Another peculiarity: a dark tobacco stain was left in remembrance of the conditions in which the ceiling was after decades of smoke inside the building. Then, in 1957 an even more curious fact happened; following the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik, the Americans promptly placed a missile in the large hall of the terminal to demonstrate that they could keep up with "rivals", but the funny thing is that it had not been calculated whether the ceiling was high enough to house it and in fact it was not. That is why, as evidence of this sensational gaffe, the hole created at the tip of the rocket was left.

    Leaving the main hall, next to the Oyster Bar & Restaurant you will find one of the most particular points: the Whispering Gallery, an arched gallery that creates an acoustic phenomenon that allows you to whisper and be heard by anyone on the opposite side of the arch; doing this experiment with friends has become common practice.

    Photos at Shinya Suzuki

    Through our Vanderbilt Passage, located inside the Main Concourse Level of the station, you enter theOne vanderbilt, the adjacent futuristic skyscraper which, at the end of 2021, opened a brand new observation platform to the public: the SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. If you want to take a stroll in the clouds of Manhattan, well, don't think twice!

    Events and shopping

    In the Grand Central Terminal they also take place special events like the Christmas market (Holiday Fair) in Vanderbilt Hall. It is not difficult to imagine the atmosphere that is created! The room can also be hired for private occasions. To find out about all the events taking place at the GCT, you can consult the official website. Here almost nothing is missing; There is the New Y Transit Museum which exhibits objects relating to the history of the subway, buses, trains, bridges and tunnels of the city. It is a "satellite" museum because the headquarters are located in downtown Brooklyn at Court Street.

    The fourth floor houses the Vanderbilt Tennis Club where you play tennis but also go to the gym. The facility is open every day from 6 in the morning until 2 at night.

    Another booster area is the Grand central market open Monday to Friday from 7am to 21pm, Saturdays from 10am to 19pm and Sunday from 11am to 18pm. 'Occitane, Banana Republic clothing and Kidding Around Toys toys, but there is also an optician, a watchmaker and a shoemaker. A bit of an alternative place to shop in New York.

    Where to eat

    There are several options for a meal, from snacks to fast food through high-level restaurants; the Dining Concourse it is located east and west of the Main Concourse stairway. The choice is varied and ranges from the Indian cuisine of Cafè Spice to the Japanese foods of Shiro of Japan, from the Mexican dishes of La Chula to the ice creams of Jacques Torres and the now ubiquitous Starbucks. A tip: try Magnolia Bakery's cupcakes, cheesecakes and banana puddings, a “great” pastry.

    For a refined meal there is a choice of 5 restaurants: Northern Italian cuisine by Cipriani Dolci, fish specialties ofOyster Bar & Restaurant, Nordic cuisine of Agern, American dishes and refined cocktails The Campbell Bar and finally the Michael Jordan’s The Stake House with meat, fish, desserts, classic dishes and also a spectacular view of the hall, the large windows, the clock and the constellations. The name of the venue is a tribute to the former NBA player of the Chicago Bulls.


    The area near the station is one of the most central points of New York, we are a 10-minute walk from Times Square and the theater district, where I recommend you not to miss a Broadway musical, and a few steps from the New York Public Library and from Bryant Park; finding accommodation in the area is certainly not difficult, there are many hotels and services will not be lacking. I recommend you to read our tips on where to sleep in the Times Square and Theater District areas.

    The Grand Central Terminal was the protagonist of some scenes of film. Dreamworks Animation's Madagascar cartoon, Spiderman, Superman, Man in Black with actor Will Smith and Around the World in 80 Days with Jackie Chan.

    The comings and goings of thousands of people are just one aspect of what this building represents and has to offer. It is a place that deserves to be visited and where he spends some time to grasp its innate class, take advantage of the many services and learn about its stories, even that of the demolition avoided in 1970. It is an experience to try. and to remember.

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