By Dorothy Jordon & David Ferber
It was our first time visiting Prague and we were very excited. Everyone said that Prague was simply the most beautiful city. So, having figured out all of our flights (Prague was our 2nd stop of 3), it was time to book a hotel. After talking with friends and family, the unanimous opinion was that The Four Seasons Hotel was the perfect choice. Well, we love The Four Seasons so it seemed like this would be easy. But when we started to look at hotels we realized that, since we were off-season (March), prices at most of the luxury properties were substantially cheaper than the $325/night price at The Four Seasons.
Following a bit of research, we knew we wanted to be located near or in Old Town, not too far from the Charles Bridge and within easy walking distance of the Jewish Quarter. We only had four days, and although Prague is a relatively small city, the old criteria – location, location, location — still resonated. The Mamaison Pachtuv Palace, situated about the same distance from the Charles Bridge as The Four Seasons but on the other side, seemed to fit the bill.
No one we knew had ever heard of the place. Having spent the better part of my life as a travel writer, this was a bit surprising. Even friends who wrote exclusively about hotels couldn’t help. Part of a group that has properties in several Eastern European capitals: Moscow, Warsaw, Bratislava and Budapest, it was the reviews on Trip Advisor that swayed us (and the price, less than half the price of The Four Seasons).
Arriving in Prague at 9:30 at night, we decided not to deal with taxis at the airport, having read that there are lots of scams. Instead, we noticed on the hotel website that it offered an airport transfer for about $35 and booked that through the guest relations department. Leaving the plane we didn’t know whose name the booking was in, as David made the room reservation but I made the transfer reservation. Needless to say, it was already a good sign that the driver, Stanislav, had both our names on his placard. 20 minutes or so later, we arrived at the Pachtuv Palace Hotel.
The unpretentious entrance didn’t tell us what a gem we had come upon. But, once we were at reception, we started to get the feeling that we had made a good choice. To begin, from the entrance to the hotel, we could see the Charles Bridge and the Castle all lit up. This must be the number one photo that folks take in Prague and here it was, right at our doorstep.
We had booked a superior room. They took us to a very large room, with king-sized bed, large bathroom and a small kitchen. The room faced one of the inner courtyards and had a small table and chairs on the balcony for what I knew would be my morning coffee. It looked great. But, then again, it meant going outside before getting coffee in the morning and that didn’t sound so great. David asked if there was another option (there are a total of 50 rooms), whereupon we were taken to a somewhat smaller room but with the most amazing view! Trust me, it wasn’t hard to wake up to this vision every morning. It’s no wonder that Mozart chose to stay here when he visited Prague!
Blessed with incredibly beautiful weather for mid-march we spent four fabulous days wandering around this amazing city. Because it was spared the bombings of WWII, the city consistently inspired us with its remarkable architecture. We walked and walked for hours, day after day.
We had planned to take the train from Prague to Berlin. Alas, it was too late to book on line (where substantial savings can be had) so we went to talk to Tomas, the concierge who always seemed to be going out of his way for somebody. He said, not to worry, someone from the hotel would go and collect the tickets for us. And, when we learned that Czech Transport offered a private car to Berlin for almost the same price, Tomas said he would prefer that we had a known person driving us and arranged for one of the hotel drivers to take us at the same price. Talk about good service!
The hotel, parts of which date back to the 17th Century, was actually built as a castle for the noble Pachta family, and is part of a group of cultural and architectural monuments in Prague. There are two inner courtyards, adorned by the whimsical sculptures of Lea Vivot, several of which are also in the hotel lobby (where you’ll also find a filled umbrella stand for guests in need). It was not quite warm enough to sit in the garden, which promised to be just spectacular come summer. While we don’t have immediate plans to return, return we will. Four days was enough to whet our appetites for more time in this spectacular city. And this time we won’t have any doubts about where to stay, it will be at the Pachtuv Palace. Its understated elegance, accompanied by a truly helpful and caring staff, could easily become our home away from home.The Mamaison Pachtuv Palace