Operator: CD (Czech Railways)
Class: 2nd Class Sleeper
Seat: Coach 364, Berth 31
Date: Tuesday 4th January 2022
Having arrived into Prague on a Lufthansa Cityline flight from Munich (read about that here), I had intended to make my way into the city using the AE100 bus direct to Hlavní station, however somehow ended up getting on one of the local buses and heading into the city via Veleslavín and a local train to Masarykovo station.
With a short walk up to Hlavní station, I dropped my bag at left luggage for a few hours and headed off to get some dinner at a nearby restaurant. Supposedly there used to be some luggage lockers at the station but it appears these have been removed; however, the attended left luggage still remains at the south end of the platforms. Its open 0600-2300 and costs CZK60 (£2ish) to store a bag per day.
I’d suggest not arriving at Hlavní too early before your train as there is not much seating available and that that there is isn’t particularly comfortable. With no lounge available to sleeper passengers (there is a Czech Railways lounge, but this is closed by early evening), I’d recommend finding a local restaurant and staying there until shortly before departure.
With the locomotive and coaches arriving from the depot less than 10 minutes before departure, there wasn’t long to settle in before we were on the way. Between Prague and Břeclav the service runs as IC575, a Czech domestic service with five second-class car, a dining car and a first-class car in addition to the sole sleeper car that can be found behind the locomotive. At Břeclav the sleeper car is shunter and joined by three others from Berlin & Warsaw along with different first and second-class carriages to form a ‘day train’ to Budapest.
In terms of accommodation, each compartments in the sleeping car can accommodate up to three people, with the bunks folding up dependent on how many people have booked. As a solo traveller, you can choose to share with one or two strangers or pay extra and book a compartment to yourself. Given Covid, and that this was my first time on a European sleeper, I decided to pay the premium and have the compartment to myself.
Included in the compartment is a menu for the small range of drinks and snacks that the sleeper attendant is able to provide, along with a bag containing some slippers, soap and a couple of bottles of water for the journey. Shortly after departure the sleeper attendant came through the carriage checking we were in the right compartment and taking our tickets and drink orders for breakfast. Following a short stop at Libeň station five minutes after leaving Hlavní, I must have fell asleep pretty quickly as I certainly don’t remember Kolín station half an hour later.
Although stirring a couple of times in the night (surprisingly not during the shunts at Břeclav), I had a reasonable night’s sleep and woke up just after 0600 to find we had departed Bratislava and were working our way to southern Slovakia. Unfortunately, the compartments were on the wrong side of the carriage to provide views of the River Danube as we followed it for most of the remainder of the journey, however we were provided with views of multiple Slovakian towns and villages along with some of the scenery of this part of the world.
Although a large portion of the Slovakia-Hungary border runs along the middle of the Danube, it takes a turn north just to the west of Szob, where the railway crosses the River Ipoly. Shortly after crossing the border, the sleeper attendant came round delivering breakfast which along with the pre-ordered coffee and juice, came with a snack box consisting of a couple of bread rolls, some butter and cream cheese. Whilst not loads it did set me up for the morning and didn’t cost anything in addition to the standard fare.
Having completed our final stop at Vac, we had a short 25 minute run south into the Hungarian capital, arriving at the stunning Budapest Nyugati station. Built by the Eiffel Company in 1870s, Nyugati is one of three main stations in Budapest and has been expanded over the years with only four of its 17 platforms located within the original train shed. Nyugati is also home to what is described as the “most elegant” McDonalds in the world, with the fast-food chain located in the station’s original dining room.
I was pleasantly surprised by my experience of the Metropol sleeper and how comfortable I found it. The experience of waiting for it at Prague’s Hlavní station isn’t great but didn’t really detract from the experience and waking up to the stunning scenery of Slovakia certainly made up for the long wait the night before. Given day trains take at least 6+ hours between Prague and Budapest, the sleeper is a great way to travel between the cities giving you full days to spend in the cities at either end.
Overall Rating 16/25 (read about my rating system here!)