At Signature Travel Network’s 2018 Conference at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, November 27-30, executive vice president and “not-so-secret weapon” Ignacio Maza hosted a seminar titled Around the World in 60 Minutes; during which, he spoke about several of his favorite destinations, what you must visit at each and what you can do if you’ve already visited once, twice or more.
Each emerging destination, Maza says, was chosen for its authenticity (the top factor), special experiences, accommodations and value. For each, the accommodations and tour operators he suggests have a “personal, creative, quality, innovative, meaningful and customized” approach to hospitality.
First up, Maza professed his fondness for Prague, Czech Republic. Highlights of the city include: The Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock; the St. Nicholas Church; Powder Tower; Charles Bridge; Prague Castle, Kampa Riversise and Malá Strana (Lesser Town).
“If you're going to Prague for the first time, you want to spend some time in the Old Town and you want to see St. Nicholas. You want to see the astronomical clock,” Maza says. “You [also] want to go up to the Prague Castle and, maybe if you do a day trip, you want to go to Český Krumlov, which is about an hour or so south of Prague.”
Maza’s tip for seeing the Astronomical Clock: Show up 15 to 20 minutes before the hour to get a good viewing spot, as a crowd will form. Another tip for exploring Prague is to simply put your phone away and get lost: “It's a maze of little streets. It's charming. Get lost. Discover. The place is not that big. You are not going to get lost—I promise you. And you will discover, really, the heart of the city.”
After a day of exploring, Maza suggests having dinner on the riverside at a café and watching the boats pass along Vltava River.
Destinations in the city for second-plus-time visitors include:
- Architecture: Municipal House, Kinsky Palace, Dancing House
- Modern art collection: Veletržní Palace
- Cubist museum: House of the Black Madonna
- Libraries: Klementinum and Strahov Monastery
- Music: National Theater, State Opera, Estates Theatre
- Cemeteries: Old Jewish Cemetery
“If your clients have already been, and you want to take them to the next level, this would sort of be Prague 2.0: I would spend time looking at art collections and going to some of the libraries,” Maza says. “And if I was doing a day trip, I wouldn't go to Český Krumlov if my clients have already been: I would recommend a place like Kutná Hora, which is about an hour east of Prague—very interesting place, a UNESCO World Heritage site; very authentic and not crowded.”
Whether you’re a musical fan or not, you should visit the Estates Theatre, Maza says. “If you go to one opera house, make it this one, which is so special—the Estates Theater—the only theater in the world where Mozart actually conducted.”
Where to stay? Maza’s top options include Hotel Paris Prague and Radisson Blu Alcron Hotel (more affordable options). For a higher-end option, the Aria Hotel Prague and the Mandarin Oriental, Prague are his picks.
Maza’s recommended tour operator is Patriot Travel Prague. He says they can organize private visits and access to special rooms at the Strahov Monastery, a visit to the Municipal House with an Art Nouveau expert, a tour of the Terezin Concentration Camp with a historian, overnights at Český Krumlov with an expert guide and more.
Also to note: Prague, since it’s small, gets very crowded in summer. Maza says to visit in the early spring or late fall—even winter, where the crowds have disappeared and the value at hotels have increased—is a good time to visit.