Sometimes the throngs of tourists clomping over the golden-tinged cobblestone of Prague can jar the senses. But in a secluded corner of the Mala Strana, an ancient section of the city awash with red-roofed houses, on the left bank of the Vlatava River, stands a tranquil refuge: Mandarin Oriental Prague.
Primarily composed from a former 14th century Dominican monastery, the hotel is an eclectic nod to the past. The builders highlighted architectural details like vaulted ceilings, exposed beams and columns to preserve the history of the three buildings used in the hotel’s construction. Find each of the 99 rooms (22 of them suites), not to mention the common rooms, distinctively assembled, an homage to centuries gone by. Perhaps the best example of this marriage of history and design is the spa—separated from the main hotel by an underground passageway. Built within the remains of a Renaissance chapel, it exudes—without exaggeration—a spiritual air. Like a window to the past, it has a glass floor which displays the ruins of a Gothic Church. Walking across it, from check-in desk to treatment room, feeds the imagination. Archeology buffs will be riveted here, as well as in the tunnel, which connects the spa to the hotel where artifacts from the rebuild are on display. When I visit the spa after a long day of sightseeing, I choose a TimeRitualTM treatment—which allows me to custom design my spa adventure, rather than being limited by the spa menu. For part of that time, I can’t resist the Linden Embrace, a scrub that utilizes the fragrant oils of linden—the national tree of the Czech Republic.
Perhaps the best example of this marriage of history and design is the spa—separated from the main hotel by an underground passageway. Built within the remains of a Renaissance chapel, it exudes—without exaggeration—a spiritual air.
Within the hotel proper, the guest rooms vary in size and in terms of views offered (castle vistas, church spires, or the garden), but all have polished parquet floors, swaths of navy and gold fabric, and original art. High-tech amenities, such as first-rate audio equipment, go without saying. All rooms boast regal, spacious bathrooms, abundant with black marble, limestone, and sensuous heated floors. Those guests choosing a terrace room will find private garden patios—the only ones in Prague. The penthouse Presidential suite, a favorite of Madonna’s, has a vast private terrace with prodigious views of Prague Castle. Sitting here is like floating above the city.
The restaurant, Essencia, marries local Prague cuisine with Mandarin Oriental’s Asian antecedents, thanks to the skills of both Asian and Czech trained chefs. Considered the most authentic Asian restaurant in Prague, the eatery’s Chicken Tikka Masala is its most-oft raved about dish. While the dining room references the Baroque, below ground a Gothic wine cellar, available for private events, holds an extensive cache of wine. Very popular with locals, the chic Bar Barego serves contemporary cocktails, coffee drinks, and desserts.
Visitors who enjoy hotels with sense of place will be delighted with this hotels historical gravitas and modern cachet.
- Climb the hill to Villa Richter and see the rooftops of Prague from its vineyards. Stay awhile and sample some wines. Villarichter.cz
- Have a traditional Czech meal at the typical Lvi Dvur, an old hunting lodge famous for its game dishes. Castle views are a boncu. Lvidvur.cz
- If you have time for only one museum in Prague, make it the Lobkowicz Museum within the Prague Castle complex. The audio tour is especially well done, and provides easily digested information about Czech history from ancient to modern. lobkowicz.cz
- Take a tour in a vintage open to car. Great fun and a super introduction for first-time visitors to Prague. Cost for one hour is around $80. guidingprague.com
- Go to the opera or the symphony. This is the quintessential way to experience Prague’s musical heritage. There are always worthwhile performances across town. Try the Rudolfinum Concert Hall or the Czech Philharmonic.
- Walk through Petrin Park. Because its up a hill, most tourist don’t bother meandering up its trails. Alternatively, take the finicular for stellar views of the river and city.
- Try some beer. Prague is famous for it. Various organizations offer beer tasting tours. Pubcrawl.cz