Jewel of Art Nouveau in Prague, the Fanta building opens to the public

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It is one of the most remarkable buildings in the Czech Republic in the Art Nouveau style: located within the Central Station, the impressive Fanta building reopened this weekend after several years of renovation work.

The history of Prague’s most important railway station, located near Wenceslas Square, dates back to the 19th century: it was put into service on December 14, 1871, fifty years after the inauguration of the very first station in Prague , that of the Dejvice district. To respond to the extension of the railway network, the Austrian authorities decided to enlarge the premises of the new Prague station: this is how the Fanta building saw the light of day, at the very beginning of the 20th century.

This impressive building built in the Art Nouveau style today bears the name of its architect Josef Fanta, but it was long called Gare Wilson, in homage to the American president who played a major role in the history of the founding of Czechoslovakia.

A true architectural gem, the building ranks, according to specialists, among the most beautiful Art Nouveau stations in the world and was even admired by Le Corbusier. To decorate it, the architect Josef Fanta, who was friends with Alfons Mucha, called on renowned artists such as Stanislav Sucharda, Ladislav Šaloun and Viktor Stretti, authors of the statues, reliefs, paintings, stained glass windows and mosaics that were there. preserved. We listen to guide Alena Krčalová:

“Josef Fanta is an eminent personality. Died in 1954, at the age of 98, he ranks among the most famous architects of the first half of the 20th century. Apart from the central station building, in Prague he created the Hlahol House – home of one of the best Prague choirs, the Hlávka University College and the building of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Josef Fanta is also the author of the remodeling projects for many churches in the country, furniture projects and boxes in which the crown jewels are placed. »

Millions of people pass through Prague’s Main Train Station every year. The vast majority are of course only interested in getting onto their train or bus. However, those who actually take the time to explore the building will discover that its northern wing is made up of a beautiful Art Nuveau style entrance hall which was designed by Czech architect Josef Fanta and is commonly known as the “Fanta Building”.

The premises of the Fanta building have hosted several Czech and foreign personalities, as Alena Krčalová recalls: “In 1918, the President of the Republic Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was given a standing ovation on the platform of Wilson Station by crowds welcoming his return from the United States. The station welcomed the famous architect Le Corbusier, the American inventor and scientist Thomas Alva Edison, as well as Charlie Chaplin, one of the most popular Hollywood actors who presented the representatives of the city of Prague with his bowler hat and famous shoes. »

Inaugurated in the presence of the Minister of Transport Martin Kupka, after a renovation started in 2021, the premises of the Fanta building are now accessible to tourists by reservation, for guided tours. The building contains several rooms which can host cultural events, as well as a restaurant and a café: not to be confused with the magnificent Café Fanta (Fantova kavárna), installed under the dome of the Central Station and accessible for several years already to travelers and tourists.

According to recent news from the beginning of december 2023, Prague’s Main Train Station is in for a quite stunning transformation. A Danish studio has just won the competition to overhaul it, with a design that includes a huge wooden, canopy-like structure at the front of the check-in building.