Notes on Prague and Munich

Before returning to the USA from Europe, I had the opportunity to visit Munich and Prague. I had been to both cities, but had not returned in quite some time. Here are my notes from the trip, and information I thought would be helpful for you and your clients:

Munich: I flew into MUC airport, which is ultra-modern, efficient, well laid out. The airport is quite a distance from downtown Munich. A taxi is usualy the quickest way in, but the cost is about $100, (around 65E). There is frequent bus service to the main train station (Hauptbanhof) which is the hub for subway, metro, and local transportation. From the train station, take a taxi to your hotel/destination. Munich is a fantastic city, well worth a visit. It is also a great 'base camp' from which to explore the area, visiting places such as Salzburg (less than one hour by train), the castles in the Bavaria region, and charming villages at the foot of the Alps. Munich is a great city for walking, but spread out over various neighborhoods on both sides of the Isar river. My advice is to use the great U-bahn (subway) system. Buy a one day unlimited card for 5 Euro, good for 24 hours on the entire system within the central zone of Munich, where most of the main attractions are. Munich has a long tradition of art, and there are over twenty world-class art museums. A few favorites: For Modern art and design - the Pinakothek der Moderne and Neue Pinakothek; for Classic art of the 16-17-18th centuries, the Alte Pinakothek is a good bet; for Art Nouveau lovers, visit the Villa Stuck interiors, now open to the public; for fans of Roman and Greek art, the Glyptothek is a great option; and for enthusiasts of over-the-top Baroque architecture, my favorite church by far is the Asam church, near the town hall, a small jewel that must be seen to be believed. If you have time, visit the royal apartments at the Residenz, which go on for miles (or so it seems!).

I visited the Rocco Forte Charles Hotel, which is located two blocks from main train station and across from a beautiful park that used to be the botanical gardens of Munich. This is a new hotel, now four years old, which has redefined luxury in Munich for several reasons: first, it offers the largest sleeping rooms in the entry level category (smallest room is 400 sq feet); secondly it has a superb spa/gym/pool area which are a welcome oasis after a day of sightseeing; the restaurant Davvero is excellent and the breakfast buffet will blow you away, but most of all - what impresses is the staff: helpful, caring, efficient, on top of things. I visited various rooms categories. MY favorite were the rooms facing the park, with direct views of beautiful trees right across the street. The hotel has an entire floor of suites, many with terraces with amazing views. Note - the suites connect, so if you have a family this may be a good option to offer. Contacts on property are Sarah Drecoll at [email protected] or Holger Flory, Director of sales at [email protected] both very supportive of our network.

From Munich I went to Prague, my last stop on the continent. In my humble opinion, Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, right up there with Paris and Venice. Prague was not bombed during WWII, so the quality and quantity of original, spectacular architecture from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau periods is without peer. For lovers of art and architecture, Prague is Mecca. The setting of the city is also magical. The Vltava river runs through Prague and cuts the city into left bank (Mala Strana, Hradcany areas) and right bank (Stare Mesto and the 'New City"). There are endless sites to see on both sides. My advice is to stay on one side one day, switch to the other another day, to avoid going back and forth. The metro is not very developed in Prague and not convenient to most tourist sites, so my advice is to get an unlimited tram ticket (buy at any Tabak shop) for 100 Crowns, about $6.25. This is the best and cheapest way to get around, and trams are very frequent. On the 'left bank' do not miss Prague Castle (especially the church of St Vitus), Strahov Monastery (do not miss the historical libraries, now re-opened to the public and more beautiful than ever) and St Nicholas church (buy a ticket to see the church from the upper gallery for a superb,closer view of the painted ceilings). On the 'right bank' you should see the Old Town Square (wait for the hour to strike in front of the astronomical clock, an event in an of itself), Municipal building (a landmark of Art Nouveau - buy tickets early in the morning for the guided/timed visits to see all the stunning interiors - sells out daily), and of course the Charles Bridge, which connects both sides of Prague with a series of great sculptures on either side of the bridge.

In Prague, I visited the Mandarin Oriental Prague Hotel. This is a beautiful, iconic hotel, offering 99 rooms inside the walls of a 14th century monastery. The hotel's structure was added on over the centuries, so you have a renaissance wing, a baroque wing, and a more modern wing recently added before the opening. The hotel is an oasis of calm within the walls of the monastery. You walk in and immediately greeted by the friendly staff. There is no lobby per se- just a check-in desk and a bar to the left, famous for the best martinis in Prague. The feeling is upscale, relaxed, intimate, cozy. Dining is either inside the beautiful restaurant with high ceilings, or outside on the terrace in the entry courtyard of the hotel. The hotel took 3.5 years to build as all the various buildings had to be connected and harmonized, The halls are a simple white, with high ceilings. My favorite rooms were the Baroque wing or Renaissance wing, for their high ceilings and spacious feeling. There are also rooms over the spa (Spa wing) or in the new Modern Wing, overloooking a garden. For your top clients, book the stunnning Presidential suite, with a terrace overlooking the castle. Overall, I was impressed with the appointments and the service at the hotel. Contact Gabriela Markova who is the director of sales at [email protected] so she can help you find the right room for your clients. Gabriela can also give you great restaurant recommendations. While in Prague, I had dinner with Jana Frintova and her son Jakub, who run Patriot Travels Prague, the destination specialist. Jana is a gem of a resource, and knows everyone in the city (or so it seems!). Jana can make special arrangements for your clients with private visits, arrange special events, get concert and opera tickets, and also arrange visits outside Prague to castles, Unesco world heritage sites, palaces, and much more. A last word of advice on Prague - Prague is more expensive than Germany. The exchange rate is 16Crowns to 1USD and the money goes like water! Meals, site tickets, etc can be expensive compared to other parts of Europe. But- Prague is well worth the investment. Truly, the best thing to do in Prague is just to walk around, take in all the architecture of the city, and watch the sunset or sunrise from the Charles Bridge.

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