Berlin to Prague
“Poor but sexy” is how Berlin’s mayor famously once described his hometown, and the German capital remains incredibly cool and — yes — quite sexy today, despite being one of the most affordable large cities in the Old World. Less than five hours to the south, the Czech Republic’s capital of Prague (or Praha, in Czech) is a labyrinth of Gothic spires and cobblestone lanes that gave birth to such great writers as Franz Kafka and Rainer Maria Rilke. Where Berlin feels spread out, over-sized and under constant construction, beer-loving Prague feels slightly smaller and substantially more romantic. Both cities, however, offer plenty of opportunities to stay up past bedtime.
With your Eurail pass, you can easily make stops along the route for as long or as short as you like, taking in highlights of priceless Old World culture in Dresden, or visiting the rough-hewn nature in Saxon Switzerland.
How to get from Berlin to Prague by train
Direct EuroCity trains to Prague leave Berlin roughly every two hours, usually eight times a day, starting before 5 a.m. and with a final departure around 6 p.m. Reservations are not required. The journey takes about four hours and 45 minutes. There are no direct overnight trains, which is great, since the scenery along the Elbe River valley is definitely worth seeing. Most trains have dining cars with surprisingly good food. One secret: the dining cars usually have “happy hours” when prices are lowered by about 50% on all food and drink. Bizarrely, the happy hours take place at different times on each train that — coincidentally? — correspond to exactly when the train is on Czech territory.
Getting to the right Berlin train station
Bustling Berlin has several important train stations, but most lines start at the main station, Hauptbahnhof (Berlin Hbf. in timetables), right in the center of the city, easily reached by numerous connections on public transportation. Since your Eurail pass is also valid for travel on all S-Bahn commuter trains in Berlin, that might be the easiest way to get there. Some trains to Prague also stop at Berlin Gesundbrunnen, to the city’s north, or Berlin Südkreuz, to the city’s south; occasional departures also leave from Berlin Ostbahnhof, way out in the former East Berlin. If you have any doubts, head for the Hauptbahnhof.
Arriving at Praha Holešovice train station
In Prague, most trains make their first stop at Praha Holešovice station, located in the residential district of the same name on the city’s north side. If you’re staying in this part of Prague, you can get off here, though most travelers will want to disembark at Prague’s main station, Praha hlavní nádraží. Holešovice is connected to the C line (red line) of the Metro, and several tram and bus lines stop just outside the station’s doors.
Arriving at Praha hlavní nádraží train station
Prague’s main station, Praha hlavní nádraží (often abbreviated as “hl. n.”) is located in the heart of the city, and about five minutes from Wenceslas Square, the historic business strip covered with grand Art Nouveau buildings, and about 10 minutes by foot from Old Town. The formerly run-down station has been given a facelift in recent years, though a bit of honest grit remains. That said, Praha hlavní nádraží has new luggage lockers, bathrooms (even public showers), and plenty of shops, including a bookstore, clothing stores and a full-size grocery store. The station is connected to the C line (red line) of the Metro, the main north-south connection for public transportation, and several trams stop at the north side of the park in front of the station. The city has recently cracked down on crooked cab drivers, installing official taxi stands for regulated and approved cabs that are labelled “Fair Place.” There’s a Fair Place taxi stand at Praha hlavní nádraží, but you’re probably better off sticking to the city’s excellent public transportation or simply walking, especially given the central location.
Two great stop offs on the way to Prague
Infamous for the horrific bombing that inspired Kurt Vonnegut’s great novel Slaughterhouse Five, Dresden has restored much of what it lost during World War II, including the gorgeous Marienkirche, a Baroque gem of a church located in the city’s scenic Altstadt, or Old Town. Today, Dresden is once again home to Culture with a capital C: the Zwinger art galleries house some of the greatest collections of Renaissance paintings in Germany, including the iconic Sistine Madonna by Raphael, and the local opera, the Semperoper, is world-famous for its high-end productions of Wagner and Strauss. All direct trains to Prague stop at Dresden Hauptbahnhof, the city’s main station, located just south of Dresden’s Altstadt, and the Eurail pass is also valid for S-Bahn lines in Dresden.
Saxon Switzerland National Park
Not Switzerland itself, but a hilly landscape so craggy and romantic that early travelers considered it to be a small-scale version of the Alps in Saxony, the old German kingdom just to the north of the modern Czech Republic. Along the scenic Elbe River, a series of sandstone peaks offer wide panoramas over the river valley, as well as excellent hiking trails and rock climbing. Reach the park by taking an S-Bahn train from Dresden to the town of Rathen, covered by your Eurail pass. An alternate route: almost all Berlin-to-Prague direct trains also stop in the town of Bad Schandau, the last station on German territory, where you’ll find the Saxon Switzerland National Park Center.
Find out what the Eurail pass is and how you can travel between top German cities and other European destinations in comfort.