Inside the thrilling new sleeper service that whizzes from Brussels to Prague – one of


Sitting on the other side of our compartment, our three-year-old daughter cocks her head and twists her face into a Picasso of scepticism as Dutch countryside rattles past our window. 

I’ve told her that I’m about to flip our seats down into a bed, and that we’re going to sleep here on the train we just caught from Brussels following a Eurostar journey from St Pancras International in London.

‘No we’re not,’ she says incredulously. ‘There are no beds in here.’ Unperturbed, I lower our three beds with a Debbie McGee flourish and watch her eyes widen. 

Within moments she’s laying out an argument for her being allowed to take the top bunk.

We’re on the train to Prague, a journey made far easier by the Bohemian extension of European Sleeper‘s successful overnight service to Berlin via Amsterdam, and it’s shaping up to be a lot of fun.

Jules Cooper and family board the European Sleeper in Brussels for an overnight trip to Prague

Jules Cooper and family board the European Sleeper in Brussels for an overnight trip to Prague 

Our daughter wants to explore the train, so we go for a walk along the carriages. As we pass down the row of open compartments, I catch a glimpse of a child’s legs wheeling around as they scale their bunk. In another, two families are chatting over a bottle of wine, squeezed around the table like sardines.

We have a five-person ‘couchette’ compartment to ourselves, the middle tier of three room options, which also include a ‘seating’ and ‘sleeper class’.

The fold-out beds are comfortable enough, though slightly short for my 5ft 11in frame, and we share a communal sink. More expensive rooms in sleeper carriages have private sinks and extra bed inches.

The adventurer takes me to the very back of the train, where she stares out of the rear door window as the track near Antwerp snakes endlessly away. As she traverses the corridor handrails on the way back, a chorus of ‘Bravo!’ is cheered from one of the rooms.

As children in pyjamas start to emerge in the corridors with toothbrushes, our daughter reaches peak excitement. ‘Mummy and Daddy… this is getting funner and funner for me,’ she says deliriously as she clambers up to the top bunk. 

It’s as though she’s at her first rave.

As we wait for her to fall asleep, we sit in the dark under her bunk, drinking wine and even relaxed enough to share a kiss – interrupted when an upside down head appears and demands that we go to bed.

Jules and his family occupy a five-person 'couchette' compartment (as shown above)

Jules and his family occupy a five-person ‘couchette’ compartment (as shown above)

The next morning we spend the last few hours eating the train-supplied breakfast and playing games as the black Elbe Valley sandstone mountains pass us by south of Dresden.

Arriving in the heart of Prague dead on time at 10.56am feels incredibly civilised. No need to wait at a luggage carousel or catch a bus. We breeze through passport control and wander across the square to our hotel. 

The grand NH Collection Prague Carlo IV hotel, a 19th-century former bank with a neo-Renaissance facade and a nice chap to open the front door, has a spa with a sauna and swimming pool – for unwinding after carrying a child around all day. It’s a snip with rooms starting at £180 ($224) a night, including spa access and a fancy breakfast.

The train arrives in the heart of Prague (above) dead on time, with no waiting at a luggage carousel

The train arrives in the heart of Prague (above) dead on time, with no waiting at a luggage carousel 

The lobby, top, and a bedroom at one of the hotels Jules stays in - the NH Collection Prague Carlo IV, which was previously a 19th-century bank

The lobby, top, and a bedroom at one of the hotels Jules stays in – the NH Collection Prague Carlo IV, which was previously a 19th-century bank

An alternative near the station is the Falkensteiner, a boutique hotel that attracts a younger crowd with DJ sets in its velvet-chaired cocktail bar (doubles £138/$171). 

After a quick shower, we catch a nippy 1960s tram into town and are blown away by all the Baroque architecture – the city was not significantly bombed during the Second World War – but keeping our daughter entertained is exhausting. 

A guided city tour with VR headsets is a neat solution. While you take in five sites such as the Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square and Dancing House, your child is distracted by animated panoramas of the locations at historic crossroads. 

The Falkensteiner boutique hotel - 'where a DJ attracts a younger crowd to its cocktail bar'

The Falkensteiner boutique hotel – ‘where a DJ attracts a younger crowd to its cocktail bar’ 

At Prague Castle, Jules' daughter 'loved the tiny houses in Golden lane' (above)

At Prague Castle, Jules’ daughter ‘loved the tiny houses in Golden lane’ (above) 

A guided city tour with VR headsets offers a tour of the city's most historic locations, Jules discovers

A guided city tour with VR headsets offers a tour of the city’s most historic locations, Jules discovers

Fast-track your exploring: Prague's 'nippy' trams, which date back to the 1960's

Fast-track your exploring: Prague’s ‘nippy’ trams, which date back to the 1960’s

These include Soviet tanks rolling into St Wenceslas Square to crush the Prague Spring in 1968 and people falling from windows of the New Town Hall during the 1419 defenestration.

The tour ends well south of the Old Town’s heaving streets, close to the spacious Alma restaurant, located in a former cinema. The ubiquitously tattooed staff serve us oysters followed by a signature Czech dish of sturgeon with trout caviar in dill sauce.

Prague Castle, awash with Holy Roman grandeur, is the city’s cultural big hitter. My advice: don’t go with a young child. Our daughter loved the suits of armour and tiny houses in Golden lane, but it was so big and busy that her parents couldn’t wait to leave. 

Far more manageable are smaller attractions such as the Mucha Museum, devoted to the illustrator, Alphonse Mucha, famed for his art nouveau absinthe posters, and the Kafka Museum, set up as a confusing bureaucratic maze akin to one of the author’s novels.

A short walk away we finally find a great spot to please everyone: Kampa Park Restaurant has a fine fish menu, a commanding view of Charles Bridge… and a playground.   

When it’s time to take the train home, our daughter trots confidently into the carriage and plants her soft toy firmly onto the top bunk. 

I expect she can scarcely remember our last flight, but I suspect this journey will linger long in her memory.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Jules was hosted by Eurostar, European Sleeper and Carlo IV hotel, Prague. 

Eurostar offers standard fares from St Pancras London to Brussels from £39 ($48), standard premier from £70 ($87) and business premier from £275 (£342) one way. Visit eurostar.com. 

European Sleeper offers fares from Brussels to Prague with seat fares from £50 ($62/59 euros), couchette fares from £76 ($94/89 euros) and sleeper fares from £144 ($179/169 euros) one way. Visit europeansleeper.eu.

Rooms at the Carlo IV hotel start from £180 ($224/210 euros) per night, B&B, based on two people sharing. Visit nh-collection.com.

Prices at the Falkensteiner hotel start from £138 ($171/161 euros) per night, B&B, based on two people sharing. Visit falkensteiner.com.

Walking Tour with virtual reality from £132 ($164/3900 CZK). 

Prague Tourism: prague.eu/en and www.praguecitytourism.cz/en.



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