I visited Prague for the first time this spring, and I wanted my temporary home to be centrally located and convenient to get around. When I laid eyes on NH Collection Prague Carlo IV – albeit digitally online, I knew I had found the perfect place.
It's the Perfect location!
I chose the Carlo IV because I arrived by train at Prague’s national train station. After exiting the station, I simply turned right and walked to the end of the street, and the majestic hotel was in front of me. I traveled with a carry-on-sized bag, so it was an easy jaunt.
The hotel’s proximity to many of Prague’s attractions was also a key factor in my choice, yet it is tucked in a quiet neighbourhood away from the touristy traffic. Everything is within a 10-20 minute walk, but I could also choose from several trams that stop at the corner across the street if I didn’t feel like walking.
[Aside: public transit in Prague is fantastic! There are subway lines and busses, but I preferred the trams – they go everywhere and offer great views of the city’s beautiful buildings, bridges, and the Vltava River. It's also very affordable! Day passes are available for various duration. A 24-hour version costs just CZK120, equivalent to USD5.50 or CAD7.40, which is a steal. The best part about the day pass is if you validated it at 11 am, it’s good until 11 am the next day, so you can use it again the next morning.]
First impression of the Carlo IV: impressive!
Even before I walked up the steps to the hotel’s front door, I could tell the place is going to be palatial. The imposing façade in neo-Renaissance style is adorned with columns, arched-top windows, and highly-finished masonry, topped with carved moldings and statues.
Once inside, I faced a large lobby that spans almost the entire width of the building. Check-in is on one end of the room, and the rest of the lobby is dedicated to seating, ending with an elegant bar at the other end. Majestic palms and greenery grace the room, and a frosted skylight running the length of the ceiling brings in tons of light.
The hotel is a living museum
What I learned about the Carlo IV from Lenka Hník Jurášková - the hotel’s public relations manager – is even more exciting, as the hotel has an amazing history! First of all, the building was opened in 1890 as the Czech Mortgage Bank. Lenka pointed out the outlines of the teller cages along the wall and showed me the bank vault with its original doors and locking mechanism. The vault is now an intimate place to enjoy a cocktail while perusing the photos and displays of the hotel’s storied past.
Lenka went on to tell me that during the Communist regime, the building became the headquarters for the Prague Post Office. At a time when censorship was rampant, mail was opened and inspected for any content that did not align with the Communist messaging. Any valuables inside - such as cash or gifts - were taken away.
In 2003, the building was converted into a luxury hotel by renowned Italian architects Maurizio Papiri and Adam D. Tihany (what a coincidence to see Tihany’s name as he has also designed several luxury cruise ship interiors). Many of the building’s original features were either preserved or painstakingly restored, earning it National Heritage status.
The rooms are exquisite and historical
The rooms and suites in the Carlo IV have contemporary furnishings and come with everything you need to be comfortable, including robes and slippers. Rooms in the historic wing have original extra high ceilings, hardwood floors, and windows draped with plush swag curtains. The historic wing used to house the bank’s offices, and the frescos on the ceiling have been beautifully restored. Staying here, you can’t help but imagine what it was like back in the late 19th century. The historic wing does face the main street though, which means you can hear the noise from the trams, which start running as early as 4:30 am. Light sleepers may prefer the modern wing located at the back of the building.
Dining and Service are Outstanding
The complimentary breakfast served in the 1890 restaurant (named for the year the building was opened) is one of the best I have seen. Every hot or cold breakfast item you would want is at the buffet table or can be ordered. Omelettes arrived fluffy and filled with goodness, and there are all kinds of fresh juices, non-dairy milk, fruit-infused waters, and specialty coffees and teas.
At dinner, the restaurant serves regional and international cuisine. During my visit, asparagus was in season, and a special asparagus menu was served, down to dessert!
Service in the restaurant and all areas of the hotel was outstanding and well worthy of the five-star rating. A concierge is available to provide dining, shopping, and sightseeing tips and recommendations, and doormen greet and welcome guests as they come and go.
The Spa is Sublime
When was the last time you went to a spa that used to be an underground vault? The Carlo IV Wellness and Spa is just that! The star attraction is the heated 20-metre (65+ feet) pool where you can swim laps or hang out in the whirlpool alcoves (one has a reclining seat where you can be massaged by the water jets). A steam room and sauna are located just off the pool, and there is a fitness centre with equipment. I tried the Czech Aromatherapy massage, which uses blossom oil from the linden tree, which is the Czech Republic’s national tree and appears on the banner of the President of the Republic. Heavenly!
NH Collection Prague Carlo IV & Prague: a Perfect Combination
If you are looking for a five-star experience in Prague with easy access to sightseeing yet tucked away from the touristy areas, the Carlo IV is a perfect choice. Lenka advised that rates start at €180 a night. A quick search for October and November pricing came in between €200-250 a night, and fall is a great time to visit Prague. For a five-star property with a lavish breakfast included in the price, the Carlo IV represents excellent value. Prague is such a historical city, complementing your stay with an equally-matched hotel is a smart move.