The Franz Josef is the hippest of Prague’s new hip hotels. British-based architect Eva Jiricná brings a new study on the interior use of glass to her native land with its own long history of the glazier’s craft. Every piece of space breathes with life and light, breaking the stuffy mold of most high-end hotels. Room 801, a penthouse suite with a magnificent vista of the Prague skyline, is highly sought-after for those who want to absorb the golden city in its full glory.
The Riverside Hotel is an intimate escape into a private world of luxury in the centre of Prague, and elegantly stands out with its unique Art Nouveau façade. Located in pole position on the left back of the Vltava River, it is conveniently adjacent to the business heart of the city. It’s stunning Belle Epoque interiors, cozy rooms, attention to details, custom-made lavish furnishings and all modern cons make it a classic with the more traditional crowd. The majority of rooms offer fairytale views of the city’s towers and turrets. The hotel is within walking distance of the National Theatre, Charles Bridge and many architectural and historical treasures of Prague.
Residence Thunovska 19 is a beautifully restored old residence dating back to 1527 located at the foot of the Hradcany in the heart of the historical centre or Prague: Lesser Town (Malá Strana). After the great fire of Prague, which engulfed and destroyed almost all of the Lesser Town, the building was reconstructed by the Mayor family. The Dutch painter Bartolomej Sprangler, who belonged to the Rudolfine school of painting and who married into the Mayor family in 1570, decorated the facade of the house with beautiful frescos, which can still be seen today. If you want to feel like a local resident, then this is the place to hang your hat. We recommend the Alexandra, Ludmila and Ferdinand Suites.
The Mandarin Oriental is a carefully restored monastery with roots dating back to the 14th Century. Surrounded by the quiet cobbled streets of Malá Strana, just beneath Prague Castle, guests can immerse themselves in the historic ambience for which the city is renowned. Many of the hotel rooms offer magical views across Prague’s ancient spires and red rooftops, not to mention the best spa in town housed in a former Renaissance chapel. The Essensia restaurant serves contemporary fine cuisine beneath a stunning vaulted ceiling, while the intimate Barego bar makes for a sophisticated rendezvous point. The Monastery Lounge is an elegant backdrop for afternoon tea after a hard days sight-seeing. We recommend the Presidential Suite, the Lazar Suite and room 509 for those on a budget.
Aria Hotel is a musically inspired hotel set in the heart of the Malá Strana, which overlooks Vrtbovska, a beautiful Baroque garden. Be sure to book a room with a view! Rooms 411, the Mozart Suite, Beethoven Suite, rooms 313, 309 and 412 are all different and fabulous in their own way. Each room celebrates a musical genre and is decorated accordingly with a contemporary look.
Chateau Mcely is located 55 km northeast of Prague and set in the midst of a state forest adjacent to the Jabkenice Game Park with magnificent walking and hiking trails through the St George Forest – they even provide complimentary mackintoshes and wellies at the reception for guests. This former rural manor of the Thurn-Taxis aristocracy has now been completely renovated by local Czech artisans and craftsmen. A great weekend retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city! Step back in time and live like royalty in the Africa Suite (room 120), Mark Twain Suite (room 116) or feel right at home in America (room 118).
See & Do
Walk! – Around the Old Town (Stare Mesto), stroll through Prague Castle (on Hradcany), visit the Secret Vrtbovska Garden, cross the Charles Bridge to the New Town (Nove Mesto) where the Jewish Ghetto (Josesfov) is located and is the art noveau heart of the city. Below Prague Castle is the charming Little Quarter (Malá Strana) – a mass of gardens with fantastic views across the banks of the River Vltava and beyond the Old Town. From here, take the funicular railway to the Observation Tower on Petrin Hill or admire the stunning Dome Fresco of the baroque Church of St. Nicholas.
The Strahov Philosophy Library (Strahovsky kláster) dates to the 12th Century and is the second oldest Monastery in Prague. It is well known for its two Baroque libraries. The Philosophical Library (Filosoficky sál), which contains some extraordinary furnishings from Louka Monastery in Moravia. Upon acquiring the furnishings the Strahov Monastery altered the library structure to adapt to the new acquisitions. The ceiling was painted by Franz Anton Maulbertsch and depicts “enlightenment”.
The second library is the Theological Library and is the highlight of the monastery. This splendid Baroque room with a beautiful ornate painted ceiling, done by Siard Nosecky, a Strahov Monk, is the finest Baroque room in Prague. The ceiling frescoes are framed by detailed stucco work. This room is truly a Baroque masterpiece. The libraries collections contain many rare, old volumes and manuscripts, including the 9th Century Strahov Gospel.
The Franz Kafka Museum has a new long-term exhibition that presents first editions of Kafka’s work, his letters, diaries, and manuscripts. This unique project, which was originally introduced in Barcelona in 1999, has been brought to the writer’s birthplace and the city where he had such strong ties. The exhibit is divided into two sections: the first, Existential Space, explains the huge influence of the city on Kafka’s life and therefore his writing. The second uses 3-D installations as well as good audiovisual technology to depict the author’s “Imaginary Topography of Prague.”
Favorite Kafka reads: The Trial, The Metamorphosis
Best Tip: Don’t miss the pee-ing statues in the front courtyard!
Old Jewish Museum – When Josefov was redeveloped early in the 1900’s, several buildings were preserved as the venues for a museum to commemorate the Jewish heritage of Prague and Czechoslovakia, including four synagogues. The enterprise was threatened by the Nazi invasion during the Second World War, when the area was ghettoized but, ironically, the museum was saved by Nazi intervention, albeit in its most sinister form. The area was intended as the Museum of an Extinct Race; thereby ensuring the collection was in fact increased. With the Nazi defeat, the museum returned to Czech hands and today it is run in collaboration with the remaining Jewish community in Prague. The Jewish population of Prague is estimated to have dropped from 50,000 in 1939 to 1500 today. The museum provides an essential service in cataloging history and culture as well as unifying remaining Jews. Since the fall of Communism, several synagogues in Josefov have reopened as places of worship, signaling a revival of sorts.
Best Tip: For an unusual birds eye view, duck into the bathroom at the Decorative Arts Museum around the corner, which borders the cemetery.
The Lucerna Palace is the oldest operated movie theatre in Europe. It opened in 1909 and the first “talkie” was premiered there. For those who love the golden age of cinema, it is a must!
Best Tip: Be sure to check out the upside-down horse statue by the sculptor David Černý on the way out.
What better way to see the beautiful landscape of southern Bohemia than from a hot air balloon. Ballooning CZ offers hour-long trips, which take off from Konopiste, very close to the castle in both summer and winter. Unfortunately, they are not allowed to fly over the city.
The National Technical Museum is a great favorite, popular with all the boys. The Czechs have a long tradition of industry and technology on full display at this brilliant museum. It is a cornucopia filled to the rafters with old planes, trains and automobiles. Lose yourself here in some real heavy metal. It has been under renovation, but is due to re-open this summer.
Eat & Drink
Café Savoy (Czech/International) serves good local fare with a nice atmosphere: Vitezna 5, Malá Strana.
Hergetova Cihelna (International) is for fine dining by the banks of the River and a view of the Charles Bridge: Cihelna 2b, Malá Strana.
Kampa Park (International/Mediterranean) is the most romantic and picturesque restaurant in town with excellent food overlooking the river and Charles Bridge: Na Kampe 8b, Malá Strana.
King Solomon is the oldest kosher restaurant in Prague: Siroka 8.
Veronsky Dum is a great local wine bar with a small boutique hotel above: Misenska 8.
The Blind Eye is a grungy former speakeasy that finally went legit in September 2006, though customers still have to ring a buzzer to get in. The name of its best drink is unprintable but fitting, containing 20 ounces of vodka, gin, tequila and white rum.
Czech Cubist, Art Deco and Functionalist design is quickly catching on with antiques collectors. For the cream of the crop, check out Modernista (Celetna 12; 420-224-241-300) where a walnut display case from 1936 might set you back 3,500 euros. To score a bargain, try Prague’s main blesi trh, or flea market, which runs every Saturday and Sunday from 6AM until 1PM.
The Moser family began selling Bohemia’s finest crystal in central Prague in 1857, drawing customers from around the world. Even the king of Siam made a special trip to the Karlovy Vary factory in the 1930s to pick his place settings. Soon after the Nazis took over and the Jewish Mosers fled. Following the war, the Communists seized the company but kept the Moser name. Surprisingly, the quality and reputation suffered little. The dark-wood showroom upstairs is worth a look if only to get the feeling of Prague at its most elegant. (Open Monday to Friday from 9AM to 8PM, Saturday and Sunday from 10AM to 7PM.)
Best guidebook: Praha/Prague Artel Style by Karen Feldman
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