Prague is quite possibly my favorite city in Europe. It has everything you could want in a city: history, culture, amazing architecture, beautiful buildings, great food, easy walkability, an accessible airport, a remarkable hotel product, and even a river running through it. And you get all of this at a significant value compared to first-tier European cities like Paris, Rome, London, Barcelona, or Vienna.
Prague is part of the Euro Zone, but has its own currency, the Czech Crown, which gives it much more stability than many other small Euro countries. All merchants will take euros, crowns, or U.S. dollars. The city had little to no damage after the wars in Europe, and so is remarkably preserved with all of its historic charm and character intact. The airport is about 30 minutes from the city, and has direct flights to all of Europe, and easy connections to anywhere in North America.
The heart of Prague is Old Town Square, one of the best squares in all of Europe. Surrounded by historic cathedrals, old city hall, and many other amazing buildings on all sides, this place is magic every time you walk into it. An Easter market was under way while I was there, with temporary shops and stalls set up in the center, giving it even more vibrancy. It is an amazing place to sit down, have a glass of wine, and watch the world go by. The world-famous Prague Astronomical Clock is also in the square. So many movies have been filmed in Prague, it is really cool to walk by and recognize places from “Amadeus,” “Immortal Beloved,” “Mission: Impossible,” “XXX,” “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (with those last two, I never said good movies), and many more.
While there are no large or chain hotels directly on the square, many are within easy walking distance to it. The InterContinental Prague is less than five minutes’ walk, and is on the banks of the river. The outside of the building is fairly ugly, Brutalist architecture—the best the Communists could do in the 1970s. But the inside and the rooms are quite nice in this four-star hotel. There are 372 guest rooms, and ample meeting space for 300 to 400 people. The sleeping rooms are huge, some of the largest I have seen in Europe, and many have river views.
Closer to the square, also on the banks of the river, is the 161-room Four Seasons Hotel Prague. This hotel occupies four historic buildings, and the rooms are in four distinct styles. It is a nice hotel, but not over the top. The meeting space is on the lower two levels, and is a bit choppy, missing the nice flow that most mid-sized meetings prefer.
The beautiful boutique Kempinski Hotel Hybernska Prague is also very close to the square, with one of the loveliest gardens in the city. The hotel is small, only about 75 rooms, with meeting space for 30 to 40 people, but would be perfect for high-level board meetings and the like. The garden area reminded me of the Corinthia hotel in Lisbon—a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city.
One street from the Kempinski is the 293-room Prague Marriott, which is a nice modern hotel. The Marriott has a ballroom of about 5,000 square feet.
A little bit further out, on the banks of the river, is one of the largest convention hotels in Europe, the Hilton Prague. I love this hotel, the quality is exceptional, and the people there are unmatched. They have 791 guest rooms, and a ton of meeting space: a congress hall that holds 1,500 people with a built-in stage, a ballroom that seats 650 guests, and 37 breakout rooms. The health club and spa is huge, and there’s a great rooftop bar with stunning views of Prague at night. A tram stop is right next to the hotel, and for about a dollar-fifty, your attendees can be anywhere in Prague quickly. One can also walk to Old Town Square in less than 15 minutes.
Hilton also has the Old Town Square Hilton, a 303-room art deco gem of a hotel. The hotels are close enough to one another (about a five-minute walk) that they often accommodate overflow at this hotel if the Hilton does not have enough rooms for a group.
Set back from the city, on top of a hill, is the beautiful Corinthia Hotel. With 539 rooms and a largest ballroom of about 8000 square feet, the hotel is a hearty walk to the main attractions of Prague.
From Old Town Square, you can walk across the Vltava River on the world famous Charles Bridge, to Lesser Town. Dominating the hillside of the other side of the river, is the St. Vitus Cathedral and the Prague Castle. St. Vitus took more than 600 years to complete, and this spectacular gothic cathedral is a must visit.
I am sure that there is a more picturesque sight on the European continent, but I am having trouble thinking of one right now. It is a stunning vista, one that will imprint itself in memory forever. The below picture is one I took and have blown up as a poster in my office for the last three years.
On the Lesser Town side of the river, there are two main luxury hotels, both with about 100 rooms: the Mandarin Oriental, Prague, and the Augustine Hotel Prague. The Augustine used to be a monastery and still has six monks in residence. They have a three-story penthouse suite that is beyond compare. But even their standard rooms are lovely, and have great views of Prague Castle and the cathedral.
If you enjoy classical music, you have to check out the Lobkowicz Palace, which is inside Prague Castle. They have the original manuscripts, handwritten by Beethoven, of his third, fourth, and fifth symphonies. They also have Mozart’s handwritten adaptation of the Messiah by Handel. Of course, the city is teeming with classical music sights and sounds. Pretty much every church does a concert in the evening, mixing in the local boys like Dvorak and Smetana, with Prague regulars like Mozart, Strauss, and more. Great way to cap a long day of walking.
If you love books as much as I do, you have to visit the awesome Strahovsky Klaster, near Prague Castle. There are two libraries that are just stunning, and made me jealous for the rest of the day!
Most major venues can be rented out for dinners or receptions. IMS is a great destination management company that does excellent work in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.
A truly great resource for anything in the Czech Republic are the amazing people at Czech Tourism. They have several representatives here in the U.S., but Michaela Palkova-Claudino in New York should be your first call regarding the destination: (212) 288 0830 x102 or firstname.lastname@example.org
And if your group needs a tour guide, Milos Curik (email@example.com) with Arts and Music Travel is one of the best tour guides I have encountered in my travels. Certainly look him up when you are there.
I love Prague and cannot wait to go back. It is a stunning European destination, and one I feel that everyone would enjoy and love. There are many destinations you can visit, but I seek out those that make you feel happy and alive. Prague is one of those special places that offers that intangible feeling. I do not believe in bucket lists, but Prague should be at the very top of everyone’s travel list.
Timothy Arnold, CMP, CMM, is Regional Vice President with HPN Global, the Hospitality Performance Network. Watch for his destination reports from around the world, a regular MeetingsNet feature and part of our ideaXchange series.