You've probably heard of Grand Central Terminal, also known as Grand Central Station or simply Grand Central. It is located in midtown Manhattan, in New York City. If you haven't, you'll recognise its lobby for sure! This venue has been used in many Hollywood movies, must-see TV shows and even as a stage for some artists.
If you're planning a trip to New York City, you should visit Grand Central Terminal – even if you don't have a train to catch! And if you still want to get on a train, get a map and book a ticket to one of the 50 American states 😉
More than just a station, Grand Central Terminal is actually the largest train station in the world, as well as a museum and shopping mall in the heart of Manhattan. What's more, visiting this must-see place is completely free! I explain it all in this article 😊
The largest railway station in the world
Grand Central Terminal is the station with the most platforms in the world. In total, it has 44 platforms which provide access to trains running on 67 different tracks, spread over 2 levels. In addition to these platforms, the station has a very large shopping mall with around 60 shops and restaurants.
The station is divided into 5 main parts:
- The main concourse is the centre of the station, where the ticket offices are located. It is also there that you can see the famous 4-faced clock, which is the emblem of Grand Central Terminal.
- The dining concourse is located on the lower level, and can be reached by stairs or lifts.
- The Vanderbilt Hall is a private hall that can be reserved for prestigious events.
- The underground station is much more modest in architecture than the rest of Grand Central Terminal and is directly adjacent to the main concourse.
- Grand Central North is a more recent extension that gives entrance to the station from 47th and 48th Streets. From there, you can reach the central concourse by walking along the tracks.
Every day, more than 750,000 people pass through this terminal by train, underground or New York City bus. As with any train station, there are also a number of hotels in the area. The huge building covers more than three hectares, seven levels, and handles about 800 trains a day 🚆
As soon as you enter the premises, you can head to the main hall, which is really the heart of this station, to admire the absolutely stunning architecture of the place. You need only step into this huge hall (over 110 m long and 36 m high) to understand why this station is considered a historic place.
Guided tour of Grand Central Terminal 🚂
If you're looking to visit Grand Central Station in all its glory, know that you can discover the place with a local guide who will reveal all the history and secrets of this mythical and magnificent station – forbidden footbridges, tennis courts, voices in the walls of the building… After that visit, you can take a break in one of the unusual restaurants in the basement of the station. In short, you'll be amazed during a 1.5 hour guided tour for approximately £26 per person. Book your tickets as soon as possible! 😉
What to see in Grand Central Station's main concourse?
If you go to Grand Central Terminal by foot and not by train, you will arrive directly in the main hall called the Main Concourse. You will definitely be impressed by the size of this hall and especially by its green ceiling. In my opinion, this is the ideal place to start your visit. To make sure you don't miss anything, keep reading this article and you will know exactly what to see in the Main Concourse of the world's largest train station. Get ready to take your best pictures in this beautiful place! 😄
The ceiling of the main hall
The vaulted ceiling of the main hall is decorated with a huge painting covered in gold leaf. It depicts the 12 constellations of the zodiac, with more than 2,500 stars – 59 of which are illuminated by LEDs. The sky is depicted as it can be seen from the Mediterranean region during the winter ⭐
The painting is actually completely inverted, and the constellations have been painted upside down. Some say that this is due to a mistake by the painter, but the founder of the station, Cornelius Vanderbilt, claimed that this was actually because the painting was meant to be viewed from a divine perspective – and therefore seen from above.
Near the constellation Cancer, a darker brick can be seen. This is proof of what the ceiling used to look like before the major renovation that took place in the 1990s. In addition to the soot left by the steam train fumes, this work of art had been completely obscured by nicotine and tar residues 😕
The clock of Grand Central Station
In the centre of the concourse is the information kiosk. Directly above it you can see the real jewel of the terminal: the four-sided clock. The value of this Tiffany opal clock is estimated to be between 10 and 20 million dollars. The clock is a true icon of the city, and serves as a meeting place for many New Yorkers every day!
Go down to the station's basement: the Dining Concourse
Below the main concourse is the Dining Concourse, where you will find many restaurants. As travellers who pass through Grand Central Station are often in a hurry, this area offers a lot of fast food, and all the best-known fast food brands are there: Shake Shack, Starbucks Coffee, etc... 😋
I recommend trying the fast-food brands you don't know yet – especially the Lobster Roll, if you have a craving for lobster; or the Oyster Bar. Finally, for dessert, try the Magnolia Bakery’s famous cupcake, before heading back to your hotel to rest a bit before resuming your visits.
The Whispering Gallery
In the Dining Concourse, you will also find the Whispering Gallery. Under the archway directly opposite the Oyster Bar & Restaurant, you can try your hand at the most original and romantic form of communication. If you face one of the pillars of the arch and whisper a few words, the person on the other side of the corridor in the diagonal will hear your message perfectly 😉
Grand Central Market and its shopping arcade
Located in the Grand Central Station’s basement, Grand Central Market is over 120 metres long. It has many stalls selling fresh delicatessen products, vegetables, meat and fish.
In this market, which is very reminiscent of European markets, vendors offer seasonal ingredients and products, as well as ready-made meals. Grand Central Market is open weekdays from 8 am to 7 pm, and weekends from 11 am to 5 pm.
In addition to the market, restaurants and bars, you can find a variety of shops in Grand Central Terminal, such as luxury stores selling designer bags, clothes and accessories. The station is also home to many souvenir shops, as well as banks and insurance companies.
At the top of the east staircase, you will reach the East Balcony, where you will find, among other things, an Apple Store that is particularly well integrated into the historic structure of the building. From here, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire main concourse of Grand Central: the perfect place for your photos! 📸
Have you booked your activities in New York City? 🗽
You are leaving soon and are still wondering what to do in New York? Don't worry! In the City that Never Sleeps, you will always find an activity that suits the whole family. You could visit some of the best museums of New York City, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH); explore the must-see buildings in Manhattan; take a stroll in Central Park or enjoy a helicopter ride over the city. To be honest, it's hard to get bored in New York City, and you should not have too many problems finding activities without a reservation. However, it is recommended that you book all your activities in advance to benefit from better prices. 😉
Grand Central Terminal, a very unique place
Did you know that it is possible to play tennis at Grand Central Terminal? There are 2 tennis courts available, where travellers can play a little tennis while waiting for their train! They are located on the 4th floor, in the Vanderbildt Tennis Club. The price per hour is estimated to be between $90 and $260 depending on the time of day. Therefore, it's not for everyone but it's a really unusual activity to do around Grand Central 😋
Also, go check out the glass footbridges – on which you will not be allowed to walk. You will get to look at them from the entrance and take some amazing pictures though!
Grand Central Station is open every day of the year, from 5:30 am to 2 am. It is located halfway between the Top of The Rock building and the Empire State Building in New York City. Its address is 89 East 42nd Street, between Vanderbilt Avenue and Park Avenue.
Just above the main lobby, towards the Apple Store I previously mentioned, there are balconies. You'll be able to take some great photos from there! 📸
Today, the terminal is home to trains from several lines that serve counties in New York State and Connecticut. It also has a very important underground station, where connections between lines 4, 5, 6 and 7 are made. You can easily get there during your stay by using a New York MetroCard – which I explain all about in a separate article. For more information about Grand Central Terminal, don't hesitate to visit its official website!
That's it for this article on Grand Central Terminal, a train station that is like no other and which is, in my opinion, one of the must-see places in the Big Apple! I highly recommend going there during the day to settle in one of the fast-food restaurants of the dining concourse. The atmosphere there is great ! 😁