Prague by train
Update: Not going :(
In April the City of Birmingham Choir are going to Prague to sing Messiah at the Church of St Simon and St Jude, and the Sunday morning Mass at St Vitus Cathedral. Four nights in Prague, and you could either take the flight organised as part of the package (£250, two flights each way) or make your own travel arrangements. As I don’t want to fly, I and some friends have organised getting there and back by train, and I thought it might be of interest to show my thinking.
We did a lot of deliberation, consulting Seat 61, looking at journey durations, and avoiding Zurich (we went to Vienna via there, and whilst lovely it had nowhere open to eat dinner when we arrived...). While it is possible to do Prague to Birmingham in a day, which was tempting (I had done Vienna to Birmingham in a day in 2017), it would be incredibly compressed – if I was on my own, then maybe, but probably not for when travelling with others.
Outwards, we settled on stopping over in Hanover, and then going via Dresden (Seat61 suggested via Berlin, but via Dresden was cheaper and should still have the scenic bit of the railway to Prague). Coming back, we split into two groups – some will be going all the way from Prague to Brussels in a day, staying overnight then continuing the rest of the way home; the rest will stay a few extra nights in Prague after the end of the choir tour, travel to Nuremberg, stay a few nights there and then home.
Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn tickets for April went on sale in October, but CD (Czech Railways) and the UK did not until January. This was awkward for those parts sold by both DB and CD (e.g. Prague–Brussels); it would probably have been cheaper to wait and purchase those from CD, but we decided to play safe and purchase the DB ones back in October. And the cheapest DB tickets had already gone, probably as it’s the Easter holidays. So please note you could almost certainly do it cheaper than we did if you booked less in advance :)
In October we therefore had London–Brussels, Brussels–Prague, Prague/Nuremberg–Brussels and Brussels–London booked (the return to Brussels was also first class, as it was only a few Euros more). And then earlier this week I finally bought the remaining tickets, covering Birmingham–London and the leg of the journey from Prague to Nuremberg (also first class as a treat). Advance tickets to London on the day we needed went on sale weeks after the days after it, which was a bit annoying but presumably down to awaiting engineering work confirmation for around the Easter weekend.
In total, the trains all come to almost exactly the same as the flights:
- Birmingham–London: £22 Advance ticket
- London–Brussels: £39 Eurostar
- Brussels–Prague, via Colgone, Hanover, Dresden, staying overnight in Hanover: £41
- Prague–Nuremberg, via Cheb: £28 first class
- Nuremberg–Brussels, via Frankfurt: £60, first class
- Brussels–London: £36 Eurostar
- London–Birmingham: £29 Off-peak saver half
Of course it takes longer and we need a stopover hotel in Hanover (£35) and Nuremberg, but will hopefully be a much more enjoyable and environmentally friendly journey than flying.