Prague’s main train station (Hlavní nádraží) is one of the final architectural glories of the dying Habsburg Empire, designed by Josef Fanta and officially opened in 1909 as the Franz-Josefs Bahnhof. It was later renamed to Wilson Station, and today is generally referred to as the Main Station (Praha hlavní nádraží). Between 1972 and 1979 the station was extended by a new terminal building, including an underground station and a main road on the roof of the terminal.
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If you are just quickly passing or arriving by metro it’s easy to miss the station’s surviving Art Nouveau parts; mainly the lofty dome, stained glass windows and carved faces of women representing Prague as the ‘Mother of Cities’. Upstairs, the original entrance next to Fantova Kavárna (Café) still exudes imperial confidence, with its wrought-iron canopy and naked figurines clinging to the sides of the towers.
The station is conveniently located just five minutes’ walk from Wenceslas Square, and is connected by metro line C with other parts of the city. Main Station is also connected with Prague Airport by an express bus departing every 30 minutes during daytime hours (travel time 30 to 40 minutes). Outside the terminal you will find taxi stands. Unfortunately it is not recommended to take any of those taxi cabs hanging around the train station, as you will very likely be charged an inflated fare. Instead, call one of the reputable companies, or pre-book a taxi with Prague Airport Transfers.
Prague’s Main Station was fully renovated and modernised in 2010-2011 by the Italian company Grandi Stazioni to western standards from its former ‘dirty’ image of a shadowy part of Prague’. The station itself is split over several levels. There are all the facilities you would expect at a train station, including a left luggage counter which is open 24 hours, and automatic large luggage lockers. There are also exchange offices, ATMs, tourist and train information desks, fast food stalls, and restaurants (such as Burger King), café shops and retail shops.
TIP: Try not to arrive in the middle of the night – the station closes from 12.40am to 3.40am, and the surrounding area is a magnet for pickpockets and drunks and there were reports on the assault of tourists.
Reservation and Ticketing
It is possible to purchase tickets online at the Czech railway website 60 days prior to travel for destinations in Czech Republic and for selected destinations in the EU. You can also buy them from any train station in Prague or elsewhere in the Czech Republic. At Prague’s main train station, the ticket counters are on the basement level. Most locals do not make advance reservations, and tickets are generally available to all destinations right up until the day of travel. If you are in a hurry it is also possible to buy a ticket from the conductor, but be prepared for an extra charge.
Ordinary Czech trains aren’t the most comfortable ones, and especially if you travel on certain slow ones you might find the experience quite annoying. However, Eurocity and Intercity trains connecting Prague with other major European cities like Vienna, Budapest or Berlin are nice. Announcements on those EC and IC train are also in English, and service includes a restaurant, and a choice of first- and second-class compartments. If you catch an Italian-made express train Pendolino (operated by Czech Railways) or RegioJet (run by StudentAgency) you can certainly count on luxury, including free refreshments, electric sockets and wi-fi. Unfortunately those services are very limited.