Klárov: Prague’s “secret metro station”

Prague Metro in 1974

Thursday marks exactly 50 years since the opening of the first section of the Prague metro, running between Kačerov and Florenc on the C line. Today there are 61 stations and three lines. But did you know that there is also a secret metro station, known as Klárov? Classified as confidential, it was one of the best-kept secrets of the Communist era.

Are you a frequent subway rider and yet you have never heard of Klárov? That’s because the station never opened to the public, and is in fact not even part of the metro network. The idea for its construction originated in the early 1950s, during the peak of the Cold War, explains Prague tour guide Martin Karlík:

Construction of the Klárov station  | Photo: Archive of DPP

“In the 1950s, the communist authorities got the idea to build metro stations that could serve as air-raid shelters in case of war. Once the necessary funds were available, they would dig out the tunnels to connect the shelters and the network could serve as an underground transport system. The authorities therefore began by building a first shelter, just opposite the Straka Academy, which is the seat of the government.”

If everything had gone according to plan, Prague metro could have started running as early as 1961. But, following a recommendation from the Kremlin, the project was shelved due to the unstable economic situation. By that time, however, the Klárov station, or air-raid shelter, had already been built.

The construction of the Prague metro as we know it today started in January 1966, but Klárov never became part of the underground railway network. At 52 metres below the ground, it was too deep to be part of the newly constructed A line and was replaced by the nearby Malostranská station.

The original plans for the construction of the Prague underground railway system in fact predated the Cold War by several decades. The first proposal to build a sub-surface railway was made already in 1898, by the entrepreneur Ladislav Rott. Another proposal came in 1926 from the electrical engineer Vladimír List, who was the first to use the term ‘Metro’.

Plan for the development of the Prague Metro in 1978 | Photo: Archive of Boris Kogut

When construction works started on January 7, 1966, the workers had no idea that they were laying foundations for the city’s future Metro system.

The original plan envisaged regular trams running on ordinary tram lines. It was only during the construction process that the government decided to build an underground rail network instead.

As for the Klárov station, it has never been used as an air-raid shelter and no metro train has ever been there. Today, it belongs to Prague’s public transport company DPP and is still not accessible to the public. The entrance to the secret underground space, a heavy metal door, is located in a wall below the Kramář Villa.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Paul-Henri Perrain
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