Gare du Nord, also known as Paris-Nord, is one of 6 main railway stations in Paris. It serves about 180 million passengers a year, which makes it the largest station of the French rail company, SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français), and one of the largest in the world, considering the number of passengers using it.
The first station was built for the Chemin de fer du Nord railway company, following the design by Léonce Reynaud. It was opened on 14 June 1846, but soon it appeared too small to satisfy the needs, therefore in 1860 it was partially demolished. Baron Jakob Mayer Rothschild, a banker and one of the main investors in the development of French railway, chose a design of a new, larger station by architect Jacques Hittorff. The works started in May 1861 and were completed in December 1865, but the building was opened for service in 1864 while still under construction.
The façade in the form of a triumphal arch was made from large slabs of stone. It is decorated with 23 statues which symbolise cities reached by trains from Gare du Nord. The most important ones, crowning the building, refer to international destinations (London, Berlin, Warsaw, Vienna, Amsterdam, and Brussels). Smaller statues, placed on the façade, symbolise French cities. The building has a U-shape, typical for a terminus. The concourse is made of iron and cast iron. It is interesting that pillars supporting the roof were made in Scotland, since it was the only place with ironworks capable of producing such large structures.
Similarly to other stations in Paris, Gare du Nord soon became too small to deal with the increasing passenger traffic. In 1884, five new tracks were added. In 1889 the interior of the station was comple-tely remodelled, and an extension was built for suburban trains. From 1906, the station was linked to the Paris metro. Between 1930 and 1960 the station was rebuilt a few times, and the last major change, related to introducing Eurostar trains, was introduced in 1994.
Recently, in connection with the launching of the first section of a high-speed rail network LGV Est européenne, a new hallway has been put into service between Gare du Nord railway station and the nearby Gare de l'Est.