Bohemia Gets a Posh Makeover
Prague has long been known as a haven for budget travelers trying to escape Europe’s pricier cities. Lately, though, the picturesque Bohemian capital has been attracting visitors that are more likely to stay at one of a slew of new five–star hotels and dine at some of the continent’s finest restaurants. – Alysha Brown
American Airlines flies daily from New York’s JFK to London Heathrow. From there, connections to Prague on British Airways leave every few hours.
WHERE TO STAY
Book the four-bedroom, $4,000 Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons Prague. The 4,000-square-foot space is located on the second floor of the hotel’s 18th-century Baroque building and is outfitted with Hanover-style upholstered chairs, collector-worthy antiques, ivory alabaster lamps and has picture-perfect views of the Vltava River, Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. Elsewhere in the hotel, rates run from $350 per night for a standard room on up. At the newly opened Mandarin Oriental, there’s the Lazar Suite, a four-bedroom private residence right off bustling Mala Strana for $4,000 a night. In addition to the vaulted ceilings, linen menu and LCD TVs in every room – including the massive limestone clad bathroom with heated floors – there’s twice-daily maid service and a private dining area. Centuries-old features, like inlaid floors, are featured in the Superior Historic rooms and suites, which start at a little under $550 per night. In 2003, architects Adam D. Tihany and Maurizio Papiri transformed a former bank into the fabulous 150-room Carlo IV hotel. Ask about the well appointed Presidential Suite, which starts at $4,500 and is imperially dressed with ruby-red drapes and sofas with gold accents, or try the hotel’s entry-level Classic Room, which goes for about $625.
WHAT TO DO
Snaking through the Bohemian capital is the River Vltava, which can be easily crossed by walking over the statue-studded Charles Bridge. On the west side of the water, climb the winding path on the steep castle hill to visit the Gothic Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral and take in panoramic views of the entire city. On the east side, the Jewish Quarter, which is comprised of a cemetery, synagogue and shops, is a must, as is the candy-colored Old Town Square. Take a jaunt through the city’s other square and connecting boulevard, Wenceslas, and stop by the Narodni Muzeum, the largest and oldest Czech museum, founded in 1818. Prague is a walking city, so rest your feet with a 50-minute, $130 foot massage at Mandarin Oriental’s spa, followed by a one-hour pedicure. At night, take in a show at the world-renowned Prague State Opera or the National Theatre. Tickets start at $60 and can be delivered to your hotel.
WHERE TO EAT
In the Four Seasons Hotel eat at chef Vito Mollica’s Allegro, which serves up Mediterranean and Italian fare. Try the seared scallops with oven-roasted peppers, Tuscany white beans and pecorino or the Šumava milk-fed lamb with basil crust, eggplant parmigiana and potato fondant. Dinner for two costs about $150. On the seventh floor of the Frank Gehry-designed Dancing House is the French restaurant La Perle de Prague. Sample dishes like rabbit stuffed with sweetbread and duck liver, champagne-poached John Dory fillet with gratinated vegetables and figs and lobster ravioli with caviar. Expect to pay just over $100 for dinner for two with drinks. At trendy Café Savoy sample traditional Czech cuisine like juicy goulash made with pork cheeks and dumplings, and roasted Prague ham served over a potato purée and cranberry sauce. A dinner for two here will cost about $90.