Over recent years, Prague hotel prices have grown into a sizeable bubble. The good news for visitors is that it finally seems to have burst.
Although the strength of the crown continues to make the high life in the Czech capital less attainable than it once was, increased competition has led to a number of noticeable improvements in the city's hotels. The notoriously erratic Prague service remains a catch, of course, but many respected operations have slashed room rates while simultaneously improving decor, amenities (Wi-Fi is now pretty much standard) and eating options. Notwithstanding the recent economic instability, it's a good time to visit the city.
The historic & the designer
A majority of tourists come to Prague in search of history, and many find it in the city's grand old hotels. However, it's not all about tradition. The Czechs are well ahead of their Central and Eastern European counterparts in the style stakes, with modern, sometimes outlandishly 'designer' lodgings throughout the capital. The Hostel Rosemary appeals to latte-loving backpackers, while the Ventana lets those with more cash live out magazine-spread fantasies. Other, pricier new entries such as the Savic and the Riverside combine old-world elegance with modern appointments. And the flagship hotels such as the Savoy and Le Palais continue to refine their appeal.
After years of slim pickings, finding a room that sits somewhere between opulence and austerity is now an enjoyable and rewarding pursuit. Families can find deals at big names such as the Mövenpick and the Marriott, or family-owned inns including the Residence Řetêzova; while couples can nestle without breaking the bank at cosy charmers such as the Julian and the Hotel Anna. Independent innkeepers are being squeezed by competitive forces, but those same forces also keep drawing new entrants to the game.
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Staying within the shadow of Prague Castle does limit your culinary and nightlife options, and not everyone is up for a hike up the hill at the end of the day. But rooms here come with bragging rights, and the backstreets hold some treasures.
The Lesser Quarter feels like a small town in its own right. If you book well ahead, it's entirely feasible that you'll be able to score a bargain room on a cobbled, hilly lane straight out of a Dickens tale – or, if you prefer, a Jan Neruda story.
Sleeping in the heart of things won't necessarily break the bank, though you'll pay more for food and drink. New inns are always opening, and major hotels often offer discounts.
Prague's New Town lacks the medieval charm of Old Town, but more than makes up for it with lower prices, more rooms and better dining. And you're still only streets away from the centre, but also near the happening neighbourhoods of Vinohrady and Žižkov.
Staying towards the edge of the city (which is small, so all of the hotels below are within a ten- to 15-minute public transport ride from the centre) can mean fresher air, lots more neighbourhood character and a chance to mix with locals. It can also save you a lot of money.
Prices and availability in Prague hotels can vary hugely with the seasons. Rooms are generally 20 to 40 per cent cheaper off-season, and many deluxe hotels give similarly sizeable discounts in July and August. A relative lack of business conferences and some chilly weather combine to make the months from October to March, plus a few weeks in later summer, the most competitive times of the year for the city's top hotels. Hostels, meanwhile, tend to stay full from May to September. Regardless of your preferred price bracket, aim to book well ahead in summer.
Getting a bargain
If you want to maximise your buying power at hotels around the city, regardless of their style and budget, a little knowledge goes a long way. Smaller places may offer a significant reduction for cash payment; try to establish this, preferably with hard-copy confirmation, before you arrive. Internet booking discounts are also plentiful, so check the web frequently for special deals. And many hotels give discounts to groups and for longer stays of around ten days or more.
Service at the city's higher-end hotels is comparable to that of any European capital, and all deluxe hotels have English-speaking staff. Many hotels can also arrange airport pick-ups for a fixed price. However, service is less impressive at some of the city's more modest hotels, where staff – not all of whom speak English – sometimes give the impression that it's your privilege to stay with them rather than their responsibility to look after their guests.
A new generation of Prague hostels has put paid to the old image of peeling paintwork and broken toasters. These hostels come with designer interiors, private suites, nice bathrooms, no curfews, free Wi-Fi, cable TV and all kinds of amenities that have, until now, rarely been found in local hostels. Staff will happily arrange tours, provide free maps and show you where to park your car. Miss Sophie's Prague is a particularly outstanding hostel.
Pick of the hostels
Perhaps most unexpected of all is the general sense of pleasant quietude and cleanliness that pervades new establishments such as Hostel Rosemary. Located in the swinging Holešovice district, the A&O Hostel is more in the traditional mould than some of its competitors. However, its cellar cocktail bar is far from the cheerless canteen you might expect.
Elsewhere, the Hostel Boathouse is almost an athletics club, with canoeing, tennis and bikes for rent (breakfast included, of course). Sir Toby's Hostel, the neighbourhood's other hostel option, has recently invested in a cool retrofit, with a cosy red-accented common room and a lovely brick-decked terrace for milder weather. Miss Sophie's Prague in fashionable Vinohrady is a favourite: outfitted in antique chic, it's quiet as well, the kitchens are in a different building from the dorms.
See all hostels & backpacker accomodation in Prague
For roughly the price of a night in a smartish mid-range hotel, savvy Prague visitors can rent an apartment short-term in the city. Major agencies can charge almost as much as budget hotels for such a service, and sometimes a fair bit more, however other agencies offer great apartments, and great value.
British expat Nicholas Kirke's eponymous agency Agentura Kirke offers rentals on flats, with a minimum lease of one year. All flats are unfurnished. The properties kept on the books of Prague Accommodations include some of the most centrally located and elegant historic buildings available to the public. Prices range from cheap to moderate, depending on how many people plan to stay in any given apartment. Helpful staff at Stop City can book you into a pension, a hotel, a private room or an apartment, starting at around 480 K± per person. Rooms range from the slightly dodgy to slightly above average, with a wide range of price options ensuring there's something for every traveller's budget. The agency doesn't handle hostel bookings but staff are willing to make reservations for callers from abroad.
Apartments in Prague (http://apartments-in-prague.org) has 16 properties, all of which come with the usual amenities (such as Wi-Fi, a kitchenette and reading room), and range in size from studios to two-bedroom affairs. With a little more than a dozen apartments, Amazing Prague (www.amazing-prague.com) is another good resource for down-home Prague living.
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Taxi!: Prague's often-dubious service extends to the taxis that cluster around the entrances to many hotels, which often rip off tourists. If the hotel has its own fleet of cabs, it's a better option, but their charges may still be double those set for city taxis. The best bet of all is to call an honest taxi service yourself, such as AAA (14014/www.radiotaxiaaa.cz) or ProfiTaxi (844 700 800/www.profi-taxi.cz).
Information & prices
Hotels are classified by the price of their cheapest double rooms. Note, though, that these prices are usually only available off-season. Also, be aware that most hotels in Prague now fix their room rates in euros, even though the country is not yet in the euro zone. For the sake of consistency, we've converted all prices into Czech crowns. However, exchange-rate fluctuations may affect all prices listed here, especially given the fragile state of the global economy.
A 'Deluxe' hotel is one in which the cheapest double room costs 8,000 K± or more per night. Doubles in 'Expensive' hotels cost 6,000-8,000 K±; in operations labelled 'Moderate', you can expect to pay around 3,000-6,000 K±; and doubles in 'Budget' hotels go for under 3,000 K±. There's a separate category covering hostels. We've listed only prices for double rooms, but cheaper single rates are available at many properties. As, for that matter, are more expensive suites. And some hotels are also able to provide an additional bed for family rooms.
All the rooms listed in the 'Deluxe' and 'Expensive' categories have an en suite bathroom. The same goes for hotels in the 'Moderate' category, unless otherwise stated. Facilities in other categories vary – it's always best to check exactly what you'll be getting when you book.
While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.
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