Indian movies like the just-released Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif action masala, Bang Bang and Ranbir Kapoor’s Rockstar, and popular Hollywood films like Mission Impossible, Casino Royale and Les Miserables have found a way to highlight Prague’s beauty. The city has charm, substance and mystery. But it was for a very different reason that when a recent review asked me about my most memorable hotel stay in the last few months, I instinctively responded with the Mandarin Oriental, Prague. A location that brings the warmth of Asian hospitality along with meticulous attention to detail to the historical capital of Bohemia.
An Angelic Property
The hotel itself is classic and charming – housed in a former Dominican monastery with roots dating back to the 14th century. Part-Renaissance, part-Baroque and part-modern the hotel’s buildings represent over six centuries of architecture – while incorporating a large part of the outer wall of St Mary Magdalene, one of the oldest churches in Prague built on the site around 1330. While the hotel opened its doors in 2006 the property itself stands testimony to history and changes over the years.
You can’t miss the carefully framed and preserved moments of the past on the walls, including paintings of the monks playing peek-a-boo from behind the ornate curtains and excavated historic items visible on the private museum walk on the way to the spa. The latter is housed in a former Renaissance chapel, with a glass floor displaying the remnants of an old Gothic church. You can also optionally access it via an underground passageway (for privacy), and the treatment rooms are the former cells of the nuns!
The restaurant is made up of a line of five different houses, which can be noticed by unique ceilings as one moves from one room to another. Toward the back lies a mysterious flight of stairs leading to a vaulted wine cellar that can picks up on the dark romanticism of the city for a private dinner. The grand ballroom is made from a refectory, which is just another place for a wedding in their books!
As you explore the various bits of the hotel, you find yourself in the monastery lounge with an old cloister corridor and soaring ceilings and tall Baroque columns. Perfect for moments of quiet introspection is also the simple monastery garden within the property, which is singularly unique for Prague.
The Devil Is In The Details
Their on-site restaurant Essensia offers Asian flavours combined with modern Czech cuisine and does a fantastic Nasi Goreng. Also amazed to spy a version of our dosa on the menu (one of their chefs is Sri Lankan and can cook a mean curry or a South Indian biryani at a pinch). The staff is warm, attentive and helpful, finding creative ways to entertain children as well. The rooms have a kid-sized bathrobe and slippers for the young guests, with a singing Czech stuffed toy to ensure they never feel left out. As the festive Christmas season draws closer, they have a festive menu and Bohemian holiday packages lined up even as you experience the Christmas markets, live concerts and the buzz of the city under a blanket of snow.
The Sound of Silence
The hotel is close to the river with a lovely park and a one of Prague’s noted art museums on one side; a short picturesque walk to the Charles Bridge on another, with the Prague Castle in it’s vicinity…making for a lovely setting. In fact, that is what the entire property is about – quiet peacefulness which is a marked contrast to the vibrant bustle of the city and its nightlife. Away from the busy main street but right in the picturesque Little Quarter in the heart of the city’s historic center, the spacious vaulted rooms and hallways echo the sound of peace handed down over the years. With tasteful décor, never over the top, always muted, the hotel has managed to maintain the spirit of the property and it’s history in a remarkable way.
When The Bells Toll
There’s a lively list of things lined up for the last quarter of this year.
1. Design Block: Prague’s design and fashion week. (October 7 -12)
2. Strings of Autumn: A traditional finds experimental music festival mid October and early November.
3. Ruldof Firkusny Piano Festival (November)
4. Christmas markets that are spread out over the city, the most popular being the one in the Old Town Square (November and December)
5. Advent and Festive Live Concerts: Different parts of Prague, many within walking distance from the hotel, including those at the Czech Museum of Music, and Saint Nicolas Church.
Mandarin Oriental, Nebovidska 459/1 Prague – Lesser Town 118 00