Renovation work begins at Prague’s main station

Фото: Кристина Макова

Prague’s main station, Hlavní nádraží, is getting a facelift. In the first stage of a complete reconstruction, two glittering new shops have opened in the station’s entrance hall. The developers are calling the stores a first step in the hub’s transformation from a grotty and dangerous interchange into a ‘shopping mecca’. But there’s still a way to go:

Prague’s Hlavní nádraží is the first impression that many travelers get of the Czech Republic. For tens of thousands of Czechs, it is an unavoidable interchange which they have to use every day. The station was splendid when it was first opened in 1871, offering direct trains to Vienna under the title Franz Josef Station. More than a century later, the same thing cannot be said.

Hlavní nádraží has built up a reputation for dirt, prostitution, drugs and petty theft. Rats run about in the park in front of the station – nicknamed ‘Sherwood Forest’ by locals for the high chance you have there of being robbed.

All this sounds a far cry from the ‘trade and services mecca’ that the station’s new developers want to create. But work is underway to transform the station into an inviting place to shop, eat and travel from.

In the first stage of the station’s reconstruction, two new shops have been opened, selling books and clothes. But have they been pulling in the crowds? I went to ask the shop attendants at the newly-opened Neo Palladium bookshop:

“The shop has been open since Tuesday, at some times of day we have quite a lot of customers, but there are quiet times too.”

But what about those perusing books in-store? Are they impressed by the station’s new shops?

“Well, I am interested in Star-Trek books, so I am here looking for sci-fi.”

And are you going to buy something here today, do you think, or are you just waiting for a train?

“Well, I was looking to see whether there were any new books in the collection, but there aren’t. I have all of the star-trek books in Czech, so I don’t need any more. We are waiting for a train which leaves in half an hour, so we are killing some time here.”

“We’re here to look at the books about dinosaurs, because my grandson is six years old and he likes them. We already have about ten of these books at home, and he is trying to persuade me to buy him another one, but I’m not giving in. I don’t think we will be buying anything here today, because we’re off on an excursion, and we don’t want to lug it around with us.”

So, it seems that people are not making a bee-line for Prague’s main station as a shopping-venue just yet. But the new shops which have appeared are offering travelers a pleasant place to wait for their train, and stock up on some holiday reading in the process. More shops are set to join them at the beginning of next year.

Photos: Kristýna Maková