By Janie Blank
We have been yearning for a trip to Prague for years. Somehow other things seem to have taken its place until now. We are off to London to stay with friends for three weeks. During that time we are taking some short trips. One is to Prague. It is just for three nights but hopefully we can pack a lot of sightseeing into the time we have.
We plan to be there in mid-October. The first thing we learned is that high season extends through October. So no discounts there. I usually buy a Fodors to start and see what he recommends. One of our favorite finds is a small hotel in Paris that Fodors called the best buy in the eighth arrondissement back in 1995. Friends have told us hotels in Prague are expensive but you will make it up on the food. That being said there still are multiple price ranges. The key is figuring out what neighborhood you want to be in and working from there.
We booked our flight from London on EasyJet (www.easyjet.com). The fares are amazingly inexpensive when converted to US dollars (www.xe.com/ucc). EasyJet is British so everything is priced in pounds. We are flying roundtrip from London for $272 USD total for two of us. Like going from Columbus to Chicago. Because I liked the EasyJet website and found the ease in booking very user-friendly I decided to click on their book a hotel button and see what they had. They had only some of the same ones Fodor had but enough that you could get a feel for their rating system.
EasyJet has a pretty good map you can click on for location of the hotel. This worked fine if what I was looking at was within the small map in my Fodors. But if it was outside of that area I had no idea how close or far it might be. The main landmarks that most of the sites refer to is Wenceslas Square, however on the map it is written in Czech as Vaclavske Namesti. So of course it takes awhile to figure this out! A hotel will say, for example, that it is a fifteen minute walk from Wenceslas Square.
After referring to the maps in the Fodors and to EasyJet and other travel websites I got by Googling hotels in Prague I decided I still needed a better map. I am kind of a big picture person and need to see the entire area before I can then key in on the specific locations. I want to know where they are in relation to each other. I went to another bookstore and this time I also found a Fodors but it was entitled Pragues 25 Best. Although I am sure this will be very helpful for the short time we are spending there since it refers to 25 tourist attractions, the thing that sold me was that is has a big fold up map of the city.
Once I spread out the map and then compared it with the smaller maps offered for the location of each hotel I felt like I was in business! I was particularly enamored with a hotel called the Green Garden (http://hotelgreengarden.cz/index.htm). If you have time just click on this and listen and look at the intro. It will make you want to visit Prague if not the hotel. After looking at the map I was concerned that it was a little farther from the main tourist attractions and might be on a noisy, busy street. However, I plan to check it out while there for future reference. It was not named in Fodors but was an EasyJet choice.
Eventually, after reading the hotel section in the original Fodors Prague I got a feel for the various neighborhoods and narrowed my choice down to three: the Old City (Stare Mesto), the New City (Nove Mesto) and the Male Strana. Not sure how they translate this but my Latin background would make me think BAD City! Ha! However Fodor highly recommends this area as being quiet and on same side of the River as the Castle which is a must see. I took a close look at hotels that seemed nice but were under 100 pounds per night. Actually EasyJet does a nice job of pricing them for the length of the stay you entered including all fees and taxes so if it says you are paying 177 GBP (actually what we are paying and converts to $331 USD as of today’s exchange rate) then you can convert that to USD and know that is your total cost. I like this a lot. We all know how that Hampton Inn for $89 a night turns out to be $117 with tax!
It is hard to say exactly how I made my final selection. All of the hotel rooms look stark with ugly bedspreads, even in the most expensive properties. So we are prepared for something fairly plain. One seemed to have trolley tracks in front so we were concerned about noise and we ruled that one out. Another looked really nice, but maybe a little close to a major intersection. The third was very close to the river as well as the Charles Bridge (this is called Karluv Most on the maps by the way), another big tourist attraction so we decided to go for it. It is on the Male Strana side but just a block from where they say restaurants line the river. The one we settled on was a City Partner hotel called Hotel Atos. I am completely unfamiliar with City Partner and probably could have done some additional research on this chain. I did look at some reviews from other websites and they all gave it a four out of five so I am hoping they are people with similar likes as mine! I assume it is like a Best Western or something. The negative to one persons review was the food included for breakfast is kind of cafeteria style. Although another liked it, so we will have to just experience that first hand. Since we hear food is good, plentiful and cheap we can always just find a little cafe if we do not care for the breakfast provided. Hopefully since we will be there at the end of the season things will have slowed down and all the school group and teachers will have departed and they will have more time and patience for us.
There seem to be hundreds of hotels so I am sure there is probably something fabulous I missed right next door. I guess we will know to make a recommendation to someone else!