Travel Agent recently traveled to Prague to check out what’s new in the Czech capital. December is a magical time to visit “the city of 100 spires,” as the pretty Christmas Markets brim with holiday cheer (and plenty of hot mulled wine). But there’s really no bad season for your clients to visit this ancient hub on the banks of the Vltava, where medieval curiosities (like the 15th-century astronomical clock in Old Town Square) and the glittering hilltop castle create a fairytale setting. In May, the Prague Spring International Music Festival draws quite the crowd to the city’s concert halls and opera houses. Travelers and ex-pats alike have certainly discovered what was a fiercely guarded secret under Communism, but tourism does not take away from Prague’s romantic allure. During our visit, we found an invigorated culinary scene and lots of cutting-edge Czech design in the city’s new hotels.


The Winter Garden offers a view of the Kempinski Hybernska Prague's private garden.

The Hilton Old Town Prague saw the debut of chef Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Prague, an outpost of his acclaimed London establishment, in November 2007. Formerly a Renaissance Hotel, the Hilton Old Town opened its doors after a multimillion-dollar transformation inspired by Czech Modernism and Cubism. The sleek restaurant and public spaces were designed by David Collins (the visionary behind The London NYC and the Blue Bar at The Berkeley in London).

Maze vies to be the best in Prague with haute cuisine showcased in a signature tasting menu. We sat down with Head Chef Philip Carmichael, a protégé of Ramsay’s, to discuss his new enterprise and culinary philosophy. Fresh from a visit to a cattle farm north of Prague, Carmichael explained how their goal is to start sourcing beef, duck and pork from local farms. Menu items like roasted Barbary duck with red cabbage, potato fondant and crispy leg have their origins in classic Czech dishes. Nice perk: When your clients order room service at the Hilton Old Town, they’ll be tasting dishes prepared by Ramsay’s team at Maze.


The penthouse of the Prague Hilton.

The hotel is 10 minutes away from the Hilton Prague, the largest conference hotel in Eastern Europe with nearly 800 rooms. Hotel Manager Monika Bevreus ([email protected], 011-420-221-822-101) told Travel Agent that the two hotels complement each other; one caters to the upscale leisure traveler, and the other to the business sector. The Hilton Old Town has created a personalized and cozy environment, and Concierge Katarína Frágnerová ([email protected], 011-420-221-822-212) can handle all kinds of requests. Clients who seek the classic comfort found at Hilton hotels worldwide will feel at ease in the well-equipped guest rooms. The recent refit of the 305 rooms was overseen by interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud, renowned for her work at the Boca Raton Resort & Club and Manhattan’s Carlyle Hotel. We liked the new Presidential Suite (No. 818) and the luxurious Penthouse Suite (No. 918), which used to be the Executive Lounge in the old hotel, so its two stories are flooded with light from a wall of windows. Note: When you book a room on the Executive Floor, your clients will enjoy such perks as access to the exclusive Executive Lounge.

Just south of Wenceslas Square, the Icon Hotel is truly a delightful boutique for the hip set. (Diesel dressed the hotel team.) General Manager Nah-Dja Tien ([email protected], 011-420-724-723-138) has succeeded in creating a fun and laid-back ambiance. Above all, the Icon is an excellent value with room rates including á la carte breakfast served all day in the restaurant. As appropriate for a design hotel, the Icon celebrates contemporary Czech artists. The lobby is adorned with whimsical sculptures, and during Travel Agent’s visit, a local artist had created an exhibit that spanned all four floors, dangling above the staircase.

In addition to art, the hotel pays homage to technology. There are iMacs in the lobby, and the guest rooms feature free wireless Internet, Skype connection on the direct-line phone, biometric safes (that unlock with a fingerprint) and flat-screen TVs.

The highlight of the 31 rooms is the handmade bed from Hästens, makers of the best (and most expensive) beds in the world. There are three room types—20 Standard rooms, nine Deluxe rooms and two Superia rooms. Room No. 109 is really a Junior Suite—though classified in the Superia category—because of its separate living room and bedroom. Note that the Standard rooms still feel spacious because of the tall ceilings (except for the top floor, which is gabled). Mini-bars provide a taste of the Czech Republic with special Czech products in addition to the cans of Red Bull and classic glass bottles of Coke. Bathrooms have tub/shower combinations, and cosmetics from Rituals. Feel free to contact PR & Marketing Manager Renata Žižkovská,
([email protected], 011-420-725-551-319) for questions when booking. Your clients will be greeted with a personal welcome card in-room.


A sleek one-bedroom at Prague's hip Icon Hotel and Lounge

After exploring Prague with a GPS City Navigator by Navirent (for rent at the front desk), your clients can relax with a Thai massage at the Zen Asian Wellness Center, or unwind with a cocktail at the happening Jet Set restaurant and bar.

Agent Advice

Jenny Moehring of The Travel Authority is a self-professed Francophile, but loves Prague almost as much as Paris. “I recommend the Hotel Pariz for its Old World charm and Old Town location,” she says. A historic Art Nouveau landmark, the hotel is home to the Café de Paris, a popular meeting place that reflects the vibrant café culture of Prague in the 1920s.

She adds, “I also like the Hilton because of its proximity to the river bank. It’s nice to walk the long paths next to the river and see some of the modern architecture on the edge of the old city.”

In fact, walking is the best way to go sightseeing in Prague. “It is a bit confusing to follow the street signs, since in some places they don’t exist,” she says. “But the people are friendly and will help if you get lost. Walking along the river, crossing its many bridges and walking around Prague Castle are all wonderful ways to pass the time.”

The minute we stepped into the lobby of the new Kempinski Hybernská Prague, we recognized its level of luxury—not just for its service (from gracious staff at the door and front desk), but also for its aesthetic appeal. Housed in a former Baroque Palace dating from the 17th century, the Kempinski is graced with an impressive contemporary art collection. The lobby, like the rest of the hotel, is filled with light and space. Beneath a soaring ceiling covered in glass, colorful canvases deck the walls, and a flower arrangement—itself a work of art—spills from a giant martini glass. The fitness center is also distinguished by its glass-capped ceiling. The Kempinski is in the heart of the city, so it’s a pleasant surprise to discover its garden oasis, a large terraced space boasting original historic features.

Managed by Sedat Nemli ([email protected], 011-420-226-226-111), the hotel opened in October 2008. Of the 75 rooms (including 62 suites), we were quite taken with the Presidential Suite. Located on the seventh floor, this superb space features a private terrace with a Jacuzzi overlooking the rooftops. There are eight Duplex One-Bedroom Suites; No. 215 faces the courtyard garden. All rooms (except the 12 in the Superior category) have kitchenettes with Nespresso coffee machines and walk-in closets. For VIP bookings, travel advisors may contact Director of Sales Dajana Blichova ([email protected], 011-420-226-226-136).