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The City of a Hundred Spires: A luxury travel guide to Prague

Rebecca Underwood visits the Czech capital and enjoys a unique cultural experience in this remarkable city.

By Rebecca Underwood  |  February 12, 2022
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After more than two decades since the collapse of communism and the Velvet Revolution, the city of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, continues to attract visitors from all over the world.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was fortunate enough to visit this bustling city and I was instantly enthralled by the magnificent examples of Renaissance, Gothic, Neoclassical, Baroque, Art Nouveau and Cubist architecture.

Just one of Prague’s outstanding neo Gothic architectural gems is the Basilica of St Peter and St Paul, originally founded in the 11th century by the first Bohemian King Vratislav II. The interior of the church features a Gothic painting of the Virgin Mary dating back to the 14th century, and it is simply magnificent. Although pressed for time, and when there is so much to see, I visited the beautiful Romanesque crypt, where Vratislav II was buried in 1092.

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Built in 1400, Charles Bridge is the oldest bridge in Prague

To fully appreciate the grandiose towering spires of the Basilica and the splendid panoramas of Prague, I took a leisurely stroll over Charles Bridge, built in 1400, and stopped for a moment or two to admire the beauty of the Baroque statues lining the parapets.

I meandered along the medieval lanes in the Old Town, pausing at the Town Hall to view the Astronomical Clock built in 1490, then headed for the Castle District and discovered the wide variety of bars and lively beer gardens serving delicious knedliky (dumplings) and Klobasy (sausages), either of which provide a welcome and tasty snack along with a cool, refreshing glass of Kozel, which, I am reliably informed, is a very popular local beer.

Should you enjoy quenching your thirst with a pint or two, consider visiting Prague during the Czech Beer Festival from 17th May to 2nd June when you will have the opportunity to taste more than 70 brands of Czech beer served by 200 local boys and girls dressed in their resplendent national costume. The main beer tent has a total seating capacity of 10,000, and with live music and an abundance of food, there is sure to be a jovial atmosphere and much merriment.

prague clock
The Old Town has many attractions including the famous Astronomical Clock

For music lovers, the Prague Jazz Festival should get those feet tapping! This event, which runs from February to October, is one of Europe’s most popular music festivals and has featured world class musicians such as John Scofield and Marcus Miller.

My insatiable quest for culture remained and I decided to visit the Kampa Museum located in Sova’s mills, a historical building in the centre of the city. The Jiri and Bela Kolar collection is simply stunning and includes exceptional Czech modern classic works in one section and an extensive range of abstract paintings in glorious colours, along with collages and prints prominently displayed in other areas. I wandered around the wonderful library within the Strahov Monastery, which houses over 3,000 manuscripts, 1,500 first prints and 200,000 prints, with examples dating back to the 16th century.

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Explore Prague against a backdrop of vibrant and colourful architecture

The Strahov Evangeliary, dating back to the 9th century, features the most exquisite and intricate Gothic and Romanesque decorations, and the elaborately adorned Theological and Philosophical Halls are not to be missed. Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world, is the most popular site for visitors. Constructed in the 9th century, the imposing castle has three courtyards, the beautiful Chapel of the Holy Cross, a picture gallery with exhibits including Ruben’s magnificent masterpiece ‘The Assembly of the Olympic Gods’.

And of course, the St Vitus’ Cathedral is the site of the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Roman emperors. I sauntered around the fragrant Royal Garden, created for Ferdinand I in 1535 and gazed over the wonderful tulip gardens where the flower was first acclimatised to Europe prior to exportation to Holland. I then made my way to the Czech Crystal Celetna and was dazzled by the display of glittering products from chandeliers to exquisite jewellery and pieces of porcelain. Try not to spend too many Czech crowns, but if this proves to be impossible you can seek out the nearest bar for a tipple or two to aid your recovery.

st vitus cathedral prague
St Vitus’ Cathedral is the site of the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Roman emperors

For those of us with a sweet tooth and seeking a special treat, the opulent Grand Cafe Orient, which dates back to 1912, is located in the House of the Black Madonna, an architectural example of Cubism. I was spoilt for choice and presented with the most delicious ice creams, I succumbed to the temptation and sampled a pastry or two.

To work off those calories, I took a brisk walk around the Lobkowicz Palace, a beautiful building, which was once confiscated by the Nazis and then again by the communists and is now a museum. The Lobkowicz family’s impressive collection of treasures includes Canaletto’s Two Views of the River Thames.

An intriguing story unfolds as the museum’s exhibits trace the rich Czech history with extravagant displays of musical instruments, gun collections, music manuscripts from Mozart to Beethoven and masterpieces by artists such as Velazquez. The spacious and elaborate Concert and Marble Halls and the beautiful Balcony Room are where you can just feel the ghosts of an intriguing past hanging in the air.

After exploring my surroundings, I felt the urge for an afternoon snooze and spotted the perfect place to stay. The Augustine Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, offers the highest standards of service and is located in the heart of the city, below Prague Castle and a stone’s throw from Charles Bridge.

augustine hotel prague
The Augustine Hotel is an impressive property located in the heart of Prague

This impressive property has been created from seven buildings of historical significance, including the 13th century Augustinian St Thomas Monastery and today several practicing friars continue to live in a separate part of the property, adjacent to the hotel grounds. Accommodations are luxuriously spacious and comfortable with rooms offering stunning views of Prague Castle, and the hotel’s courtyards and chapel. The property features vaulted ceilings, wooden beams and original doors with ornamental iron works.

I selected the rather lovely Tower Suite, which is housed in what was once the monastery’s astronomical tower. The suite’s three floors are connected by a spiral staircase with the ultra comfortable living room on the first floor leading to a spacious marble bathroom, which features a claw foot bath tub and heated flooring, and I was delighted to find a generous selection of Bvlgari products. An enormous king size bed, swathed in crisp, white linens, was the perfect spot for a rejuvenating nap prior to sinking into a tub full of bubbles and then venturing out again to discover more of Prague’s treasures.

For those seeking a unique cultural experience in a remarkable city, Prague is an ideal destination.

Factbox

A number of airlines offer direct flights to Prague from the UK. Flight time is approximately one hour and 40 minutes. For details of the featured accommodation, visit marriott.co.uk and to learn more about this fascinating city, go to visitczechrepublic.com.