Prague’s Enchanting Aria Hotel
By Steve Jermanok
My initial intention for this column was to write about the Four Seasons Hotel Prague, situated near the historic Charles Bridge on the Old Town Square side of the Vltava River. With an ideal location, spacious rooms, and a contemporary flair, it’s a good choice in town. But the better option, the property with more character and comfort, was the first lodging we stayed at on a recent trip to the city, the Aria Hotel. Also situated near the Charles Bridge, yet on the Prague Castle side of the river, the nondescript gray building is simply topped with a musical cleft, not nearly the grand entrance one has when entering the Four Seasons. But once inside, peering at all the illustrations of musicians who line the walls, from Brahms to Bono, you’re instantly under the spell of the musical motif.
We stayed in the Beatles Suite overlooking the inner courtyard, furnished with a large bed that was topped with one of the finest mattresses I’ve ever slept on. When I finally managed to get out of bed in the morning, I was treated to a heavenly rainforest shower with powerful flow. Breakfast, included in the price of the room, was downstairs in the art deco style restaurant. The lavish spread consisted of croissants and other homemade bread, poached and sunny side up eggs, thick bacon, fresh salmon, fruit, and granola, all washed down with strong coffee.
Afterrwards, we strolled the adjacent walled-in garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that offers a glorious overlook of the river and the red-gabled houses of the city. This vista was even more magical at night when we dined on the Aria’s roof rerrace restaurant, CODA, one of the hardest reservations to get in Prague. We would soon understood why. As the night grew darker, Prague Castle, just up the hill, and the massive St. Nicholas Church were illuminated by lights to create a mesmerizing scene.
The food was just as dreamy as the view. First course was a sublime mushroom and dill soup, with a hint of balsamic vinegar. Then came entrees of wiener schnitzel and crispy duck breast, with tender meat falling off the bone. Dessert was strawberry dumplings and a sweet tapioca pudding. Even if you don’t spend the night at Aria, it would be wise to make a reservation at CODA for an unforgettable dining experience.
The concierge service at Aria was also exemplary, with wonderful suggestions of local pubs to sample the creamy pilsner. One recommendation, Lokal, was a pub under the Charles Bridge, where young families would stroll their babies up to the bar to grab a pint and then head outside to savor the sunshine and the moment. The Front Desk even offered to take our remaining Czech Korunas when leaving and apply it to the bill, so we wouldn’t have to leave the country with the currency. Everything added up to a memorable stay, the type of property you treasure when traveling.
Steve Jermanok has explored close to 100 countries and written over 2000 articles on a broad range of subjects, from food to art to adventure. He has worked as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, contributing editor for Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, and guest editor for The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. In May 2012, Steve and his wife launched ActiveTravels, a new type of travel agency where your travel advisors have more than likely been to that one country that entices you. Since ActiveTravels opened their doors, Steve and Lisa have booked over 1,000 trips to all corners of the globe. Steve has been blogging daily at ActiveTravels.com since 2009.