A showcase of cutting-edge contemporary design set inside the remains of a Medieval and Renaissance monastery, Prague’s luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel symbolizes the city itself.
Smart and stylish, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel still reflects the grace and serenity of the building’s monastic beginnings. The rooms, of course, are a lot more luxurious and comfortable than when 14th-century monks lived here. Modern guests can choose between rooms in the beautifully converted historic section or the strictly contemporary design of rooms in the newly built section around the cloister.
While I had seen the renovations in progress just before it opened, my husband is just back and reports that the results are as outstanding as I had expected. In the original portions of the building, the impressive Gothic vaulted ceilings have remained, giving texture and perspective to the public rooms of the first floor. In the ballrooms (also used as meeting rooms) they give the large rooms grace and humanity; in the dining room a sense of intimacy. But the décor is strictly contemporary. Comfortable upholstered furniture in muted colors creates an aura of space and order in the public areas.
In his words, “The guest rooms and suites of the upper levels of the older structures are particularly attractive because of play between architecture and décor in combining vaulted ceilings and dashing contemporary design. Off-white vaulted ceilings draw the rooms together comfortably while the clean lines of the furnishings create the sense of serenity, relying upon a few dashes of color in fabric, or a few details of adornment to bring life and interest to the rooms. The Presidential Penthouse Suite is stunning, high in its own tower and with a private terrace with views of Prague Castle and the historic District.”
Especially impressive is the way space was found for additional rooms, while still maintaining the integrity of the original buildings. The former cloister was in ruins, so a section along two walls was used to construct a new section. The new and old were separated by a few feet, and a glass roof added. So from inside, the new and old appear to be separated by only a thin translucent curtain. Windows of rooms in the old section overlook the historic street while in the new section they face the beautifully landscaped cloister.
The Spa and Fitness Centre is on the site of the monastery’s chapel, so the slipper-clad feet of patrons patter over a glass floor that reveals the excavated ruins of the chapel floor. The huge fitness center is filled with state-of-the-art equipment and the private treatment rooms include a couples’ room, all of it beautifully decorated in sleek modern lines.
I knew I should have gone with him on this trip, however, when I read his emails describing the meals in the hotel’s dining room:
“Dining here is an experience in cultural amalgamation. The Asian roots of the mother company are very evident on the menu, but so are the roots of Prague’s Central European cuisine. Rather than fuse the two completely, the chef has put them together so that guests can make their own choices. Since for other meals here I have opted for typical local dishes I chose the Asian-inspired dishes: Jhinga Prawns marinated in yogurt and Indian Masala; prawns cooked in coconut broth with shallots, lemongrass and straw mushrooms, flavored with coriander; and ravioli filled with lobster, water chestnut and mascarpone, served with lobster medallions in a lemongrass and ginger reduction. “
It’s no accident that the luxury hotel group Mandarin Oriental should choose Prague as the site of their first hotel in Eastern Europe. Prague is the showcase city of the entire region, its original Medieval, Renaissance and Art Nouveau architecture virtually untouched by World War II, which destroyed so many European cities. Its rise from the neglect of the Soviet era has been spectacular, and its buildings now gleam with fresh restorations and careful preservation.
The hotel’s exterior fits very comfortably into its historic neighborhood of 14th to 19th century palaces and mansions. In the Mala Strana section, it is in the center of the city’s historic district, only a short walk to the Prague Castle and the historic Charles Bridge that dates from the 14th century. Another portion of the monastery, attached to the hotel, has been transformed into the Czech Museum of Music.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Nebovidska 459/1, Mala Strana, 11800, Prague 1, Czech Republic. Tel +420 233 088 888, FAX +420 233 088 668.