Can you escape the dawdling Americans and the lairy parties
THE trouble with cities like Prague is twofold: one, their wholehearted embrace of tourism and two, Americans. Formerly ravaged by Soviet rule (a guide on a river tour noted the site of a statue of “that monster” Stalin), then opened up for the beer-swilling stags of England, and finally recognised as the beauty it is by wealthy American tourists, it is unsurprising that well-heeled visitors must sometimes wade through a good deal of detritus in order to find the hidden gems.
Grotty underpasses full of shops selling overpriced beer and tat; neon signs crying out for the custom of stags and backpackers, and of course wildly expensive and not very good cafes located along every stretch of river.
Yet the Four Seasons – a Canadian chain beloved of Americans – has made its mark in Prague. Composed of a grand 19th century neo-Renaissance building, a neo-classical house (1827) a Baroque house with conference rooms and the Presidential Suite (1568) and a modern structure, it has nabbed a prime bit of river view. My room overlooked the Kafka Museum.
It was a million degrees outside and I was sleep-deprived and had a terrible headache. After a well-intentioned walk along the parched Veleslavinova in Old Town, the relief of hyper air-conditioned, brocaded comfort and a bath the size of Loch Ness cannot be underestimated.
This isn’t one of the most elegant or most architecturally exciting Four Seasons – it’s no Florence (a Medici palace) or Budapest (Gresham Palace, an art nouveau office of a British insurance company). But it hits hard where the Four Seasons normally does: beds so plush you can’t be bothered to go out (and with the Charles Bridge in front of your nose, why bother?), a brilliant concierge and good food.
The restaurant is Italian (in my view they should really incorporate the local cuisine) and for extra panache, you can choose from a raw bar (think ceviche); cheese cave and prosciutto tower.
It’s all solid stuff, although not particularly memorable. Here’s what made it great, though: the restaurant terrace is on the riverfront, sandwiched between two historic buildings. As the sun went down, making the Vlatava River as pink as the stone of the baroque buildings, I felt smug in the knowledge that there was absolutely no better spot in town for dinner; not a stag in sight. And that counts for a lot.
Rates for Four Seasons Hotel Prague start at £266 on a room only basis, based on two people sharing (including taxes and charges). For more information and reservations, go to fourseasons.com/prague/ or call 0800 6488 6488.