Virtual Road Trip: Experience Old World European Charm at Starbucks by Rail
Our journey begins at Geneva Airport, in French-speaking Switzerland at the westernmost corner of the country. From here, board the sleek Swiss SBB train to St. Gallen, and head toward one of the two trains equipped with a Starbucks car. Inside, the car is split between two levels, with seating for a total of 50 people.
Switzerland SSB Train
Starbucks opened its first store in continental Europe in Switzerland in March 2001 and now has 59 stores in the country. It’s the perfect jumping off point for a trip by rail to experience the Old World charm of Central and Eastern Europe.
The materials used to create the travelling experience include distinctive beige-colored leather, moveable club chairs and wooden community tables. The design combines functionality and beautiful design, while taking into account a variety of factors such as constant movement of the train, space limitation and stringent safety regulations.
The design features a warm and welcoming color palette inspired by the shades and tints associated with coffee, from dark roasted brown beans to snowy white steamed milk. The train offers customers stunning views from the shores of Lake Geneva and towering mountains then heads east along the Aare River on to Zurich and St. Gallen in the northeastern corner of the country near the Austrian border.
From St. Gallen, it’s a pleasant three-hour journey north to Munich in the heart of Bavarian Germany, then a five-hour ride northeast will take you to the Praha Hlavni Nadrazi train station in Prague’s city center.
A 10-minute cab ride across the Vltava River will bring you to the steps of the majestic Prague Castle, one of the largest ancient castles in the world. From the 10th century, it has been the seat of the head of state – by princes, kings, rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, and now the president of the Czech Republic. The castle complex is like a small town – with shops, a towering Gothic cathedral, formal gardens, historical treasures, royal stables and a monastery.
Near the entrance to the historic castle is a Starbucks® store with a beautiful panorama of the city. Here on the stone terrace you can enjoy a cup of coffee with sweeping views of the red-tiled roofs and green domes of the city below.
“For this unique location we did our utmost to respect the historic nature of the site and minimize its impact,” said Rogier van Est, senior design manager for Starbucks store design and concepts in Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Signage is kept small and it is directly painted on the walls of the old building. The bar is located in a minimal glass greenhouse-like pavilion, trying to be as transparent as possible to reveal the old surrounding architecture.”
The interior seating area of the store is built within the old walls of one of the many buildings of the castle. The space is dominated by several vault-like structures that offer cozy seating pockets, a perfect escape from the bustle of the busy city. The palette is kept light and fresh to contrast with the historic nature of the building.
The graphics, the typeface on the artwork, and the patterned tiles are all inspired by Czech (Cubo) Cubism. The movement included painters and architects in the early 20th century, and was characterized by sharp points, slicing planes, and crystalline shapes in their artwork.
From Prague, it’s a 6-8 hour train ride through the scenic countryside southeast to Budapest, Hungary.
The capital city on the Danube River has a rich café culture, with more than 400 coffeehouses at the turn of the 20th century, and a thriving café society more than a century later. Starbucks joined the vibrant coffeehouse scene with its first store in the country at Budapest’s West End in June 2010. The store integrates the tradition of local Budapest coffeehouses with the visual language of Starbucks coffee history.
The design focused on creating a salon atmosphere, as most customers in this market prefer to spend time relaxing and meeting in the store. The site is adjacent to West Nyugati Train Station, making it an ideal stop over for guests to relax. The lounge vibe is further enhanced through the use of natural materials, warm lighting and lounge furniture.
Starbucks opened its first store in Poland in Warsaw in April 2009 and now has 38 stores in the country.
The Galeria Wilenska shopping mall is located in the heart of Warsaw North near the Warszawa Wilenska train station. The Starbucks store here is on the outside of the mall, its curved transparent façade makes the store visible and inviting for customers.
“The design has an industrial feel, reminiscent of the train station nearby,” said van Est. “The space features a concrete floor and iron metal detailing – which is balanced by a light oak wood and soft seating along the window façade.”
“We find inspiration from the art, culture and history of each store’s surroundings, and bring it into our designs to add another layer of storytelling,” said van Est.
Did You Know?
- Look closely aboard the Swiss SBB Starbucks train car, and you’ll notice a tribute to Swiss watchmaking with special dials resembling watch faces built into the upstairs tables.
- There are more than 2,000 castles, keeps, and castle ruins in the Czech Republic, among the highest density in the world.
- Budapest’s soaring iron and glass West Nyugati Train Station was built in 1877 by the Paris-based Eiffel Company (of Eiffel Tower fame).
For Your Travels
Customers at Starbucks Hungary stores can enjoy local favorites including Reform Triangle Sandwiches, Sausage Sandwiches and Pick Salami Sandwiches. For a treat, try Almond Nougat Cake or Hungarian cheese biscuits, Cheese Pogácsa.
Our Next Stop
We’ll hop a plane to tour Asia to experience some of this subcontinent’s most vibrant cities.