by Terence Baker | September 01, 2005

The Pachtuv Palace Hotel

Regal lodging:
The Pachtuv Palace Hotel
comprises two Prague palaces.

It might be a bit more difficult to find bargains in Prague today than it was a decade ago, when the city still reveled in the flush of post-Soviet freedom, but the Czech capital remains an incredible repository of fairy-tale architecture and quaint cobblestone streets. Along with the charm, a number of excellent hotels are on hand to serve the meeting attendee.
    But the Czech Republic encompasses more than this showcase city, and since the country joined the European Union in January 2004 (though for now the currency remains the Czech koruna), increasing numbers of visitors are discovering other areas as well.

In the Capital
Early next year will see the opening of the 98-room Mandarin Oriental, Prague. Near the Vltava River and the historic Charles Bridge, the property began life as a 14th-century monastery. On site will be a spa, a gym, a restaurant, an elegant ballroom for 100 people and two meeting rooms, each hosting 50.
    Another interesting and intimate property is the 50-room Pachtuv PalaceHotel, which opened late last year and comprises two palaces, one from the 18th century that surrounds a courtyard (and once hosted Mozart) and a later building that faces the Vltava River. The property is adorned with restored fireplaces, frescos, wooden beams and vaulted ceilings.
    In Prague’s Old Town, the Maximilian Hotel reopened early this year following a renovation. The vintage 1904 property now looks sleek and modern and offers 71 guest rooms and a small spa. One meeting room accommodates up to 50 people. Also on site: a library and a drawing room.
    A small and sybaritic spot is the new Residence Hotel Alchymist, which occupies another of Prague’s opulent, baroque palaces the U Jezisek. Nine guest rooms opened last September, while this month will see the debut of an additional 36. Events can be held in some very ornate public spaces, including an outdoor courtyard with a fountain.

Farther Afield
The country’s western region of Bohemia has long been a mecca for those seeking the “water cure,” and the legendary spa towns of Jachymov, Karlovy Vary and Marianske Lazne (better known by its German name, Marienbad) remain popular.
    Following a major renovation, the 168-room Falkensteiner Grand Spa Hotel Marienbad reopened in 2004. The art nouveau property dates from 1875 and contains a 25,000-square-foot spa, two luxurious indoor pools and exquisite event space, including an orangerie and the marble-columned Emperor Room, which accommodates up to 100 people.

New Horizons
In the east, toward the Slovak Republic in the region known as Moravia, Brno gives Prague a run for its money as a center of cultural appeal. The 364-room Hotel Voronez is ideal for meetings; the property is connected to a congress center that hosts events of up to 1,000 people.
    Access to the city greatly improved in March, when Irish carrier Ryanair began a daily direct flight from London’s Stanstead Airport, an initiative that has helped open up some other interesting Moravian destinations.
    Ostrava is one such up-and-coming city, featuring  some wonderful modernist architecture and a trendy nightlife area called Stodolni, while Olomouc is a medieval town with a thriving university. Moravia is the country’s main wine region.
    Also noteworthy: By 2007, as the Czech Republic melds into the European Union, the country will have no passport checkpoints outside of its international airports.