Review: Hilton Prague Old Town

The comforts of home in the center of Prague
After a six-month renovation, the Hilton Prague Old Town opened its doors in late 2007. The Hilton Group already has a one of Prague’s finest hotels (the Hilton Prague in Prague 8), but it’s all about location in this city; despite being a 10-minute walk apart, the two hotels reside in different worlds – one in a business district of the city, the other in its historical center. Tourists visiting Prague generally want to stay in the historical center (and will likely have a much better time doing so, with quick access to sights, attractions, dining, and shopping), but accommodation in the center often makes sacrifices; architecture must be preserved and ordinances must be followed. Staying in Prague 1 – even in some of the city’s finest hotels – often means choosing a hotel that may not offer all the required amenities. The Hilton is one of the few hotels that hopes to change that.

The building, which was formerly the Renaissance Hotel, features an interior that was completely redone by acclaimed interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud. Dark greens flood the interiors of the hotel (as well as the branding, in a departure from the traditional Hilton blue) and the modern architecture recalls Czech Cubism. The striking lobby bar, with its harsh metal gates, feels a bit out of place but makes for quite a center of attraction; it was packed throughout most of my visit. Past the bar is the already-popular Maze restaurant, which comes from renowned Scottish chef Gordon Ramsey and is modeled after his London venue.



While I didn’t dine at Maze (a glance at the menu during my stay told me it wasn’t exactly vegetarian-friendly) the interior of the restaurant is arresting – fitting with the general look of the hotel, it has kind of an Art Deco modern-cafe feel. The expansive, open room is filled with imposing quasi-Cubist furniture and mirrored walls. Within a few months of opening the restaurant had been praised as one of the finest in Prague by local media. Maze also offers 24-hour room service and breakfast options for hotel guests; a rare, if pricey, treat (though a 575 CZK breakfast from Maze seems reasonable.)

In a quick and easy procedure, my companion and I checked into the hotel at about 17:30 on a Friday night. I’ve (almost) always been satisfied with customer service in Prague hotels. The receptionists here made that extra effort to make us feel right at home; in fact, I can say the same for all the other employees of the hotel we came across.

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Elevators were accessed using room key-cards. The second floor houses a number of conference rooms and a modest fitness center (more on that later). Most of the conference rooms overlook V Celnici street; one of them (the Vivaldi) features beautiful stained-glass windows that were part of the original architecture of the building.

The individual rooms, in a departure from the style of the rest of the hotel, are what one comes to expect from a hotel room: friendly and intimate, providing all the comforts of home. Not that I would want to sleep in a Cubist bed (or would I…?). While there weren’t many surprises with our room – in design or presentation – all the basics were provided to the highest possible satisfaction.

The restroom was immaculately clean, equipped with a high-powered shower that offered the perfect amount of water pressure. Toiletries from La Source by Crabtree & Evelyn include just about everything you might need or have forgotten to bring, from soap and shampoo basics to a shaving kit and feminine products.

I also liked the safe, which was sized specifically to fit a laptop – something I’m always wary of leaving behind in the hotel. Nice touch.

Sleek, slim LCD TV’s in each room provide the usual amount of entertainment: approx. 40-50 channels with news, sports, music, etc., many in English, some in German, the rest in other world languages – I counted channels in 8 different languages on a quick click-through, which could be off.

Movies and Internet time can also be purchased through the TVs. Films on offer included a number of Hollywood hits that had been recently released on DVD in the US, as well as children’s films, and some adult entertainment. A more than satisfactory selection. One problem: a video glitch while we were viewing Die Hard 4 caused the sound to go out of sync for a few minutes. Shortly after a call downstairs, however, it was fine (whether something was done or the problem resolved itself, I cannot say).

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The Internet TV was more of a mixed bag, with strengths and weaknesses that will be known to anyone who has used WebTV: a nice, big presentation that can be browsed from bed is offset by compatibility issues that may cause some pages not to display correctly. But the hotel also provides access to high-speed internet through WiFi (wireless) internet throughout the hotel and ethernet jacks in each room, so laptop users can hook up without problem.

Media prices: 430 CZK for a movie, and 430 CZK for 2 hours of Internet-TV access. Or 830 CZK for unlimited 24-hour access to both, which is a relative bargain (considering).

One of the most important aspects of any hotel is getting a good night’s sleep. Our mattress and pillows were beyond what I’ve come to expect from hotel standbys; soft, body-conforming materials that define comfort and induce sleep.

But almost every hotel or residence in the center of Prague suffers from one unavoidable side-effect: noise pollution from cars, public transportation, and loud tourists (and locals) outside. The Hilton has gotten around that problem, however, by seemingly soundproofing the rooms. While opening and closing our windows was a cumbersome procedure, once they were shut we didn’t hear a peep from outside: a stag group chanting on the street one moment, glorious silence the next. Not a peep from inside the hotel either; nothing from the rooms around us, nor any ambient air conditioner hums. Heavy curtains helped drape the room in a total darkness even the sun couldn’t penetrate in the morning. I’ve lived in Prague 1 for years and can’t recall having slept so well in the center of the city.

Waking refreshed, we headed downstairs for a complimentary continental breakfast. On offer was a variety of bakery items (breads, bagels, and sweet confections), cold cuts, cereals, yogurts, fresh fruits, and fresh-squeezed juices. Everything tasted was fresh and delicious – I only wish there were more options available. The excellent fresh-squeezed juices (which included orange, grapefruit, and apple) were a highlight. The breakfast was a well-executed example of what I’ve come to from a Prague hotel; international travelers may expect a little more variety. For an extra 100 CZK, however, you can order eggs – any style – from the Maze restaurant.

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After eating (awhile after…) we decided to check out the fitness facilities. Modest but perfectly efficient; during the 1.5 hours we made use of them, we were the sole patrons. An exercise room included about 10-15 exercise bikes, treadmills, steppers, and other machines along with free weights. The cozy pool was perfect for doing a few quick laps. Best of all: a wonderfully relaxing steamroom and sauna, both of which were just what was needed before heading out. Use of the fitness facilities is free for guests, but I found the rates for visitors reasonable, even for locals: 200 CZK for an hour, 300 CZK for two. Tanning beds and a variety of massage services are also available at additional fees.

Checkout is at noon; an extra hour from what I have come to expect as the usual. We checked out half an hour late (on purpose, I swear) without any hassle. In fact, in an incredibly painless procedure, we were out the door in less than a minute.

Of course, any Hilton skews to the higher end of price ranges (and this one is no exception), and cost will likely be the deciding factor for many travelers. For price quotes, which will vary based on the season and type of room, see the Hilton website at hiltonpragueoldtown.com, which advertises prices from 139 EUR per night.

Do you get what you pay for? Absolutely. I’ve had a number of lesser experiences at similarly-priced hotels across Europe and elsewhere; my visit to this Hilton matched a number of near-flawless experiences that can be counted on two hands. While the Hilton Prague Old Town doesn’t break any new ground, it is everything you would want and have come to expect from a modern hotel: superior service, all the necessary amenities, and – perhaps most importantly – a wonderful nights sleep. And the location cannot be beat: this is one of the very few premiere hotels in the heart of Prague.

Hilton Prague Old Town
V Celnici 7, Prague 1
Tel: +420 221 822 100         
Fax: +420 221 822 200
www.hiltonpragueoldtown.com


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