Architecturally stunning Prague features historical sites galore, first-rate hotels and restaurants, and a plethora of entertaining activities. By Don Douloff, March/April 2008
Everything was fine until The Man in the Red Tie lunged at our group. Thinking fast, we managed to elude him, then ‘shot’ him with a digital camera, ‘killing’ him instantly. No, we weren’t the victims of a random attack, but rather, were participating in an imaginative team-building exercise on the streets of Prague. Orchestrated by Prague-based agency Or-fea, the scavenger-hunt game featured a James Bond/Mission: Impossible theme that had our ‘spy unit’ prowling Prague’s Lesser Town, Old Town Square and tourist-jammed Charles Bridge for three hours, armed with clues leading us to a series of operatives – and the occasional ‘assassin’ (the aforementioned red-tie-clad fellow). We even ‘deactivated’ a ‘bomb.’ Or-fea can handle groups of 10 to 600.
As a first-time visitor, I was bowled over by Prague, whose 1,000 years of history and stunning Romanesque rotundas, Gothic towers and cathedrals, Renaissance houses and palaces, Jewish synagogues and baroque churches and monasteries make it a living textbook of architectural styles. Not-to-be-missed sights include stunningly beautiful Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral, the Czech Republic’s best-known religious site.
As with most European capitals, the city is compact and a joy to explore on foot. But all that walking works up an appetite, and I’m happy to report that on the food front, Prague delivers. Particularly memorable were the pork knuckle and duck at Restaurant Vikárka and the sumptuous, multi-course meals served at our host hotels. But our most entertaining meal came on our final night, at 180-seat Restaurant U Marcanu. Events are hazy (a roving server made it his personal mission to ensure that our wine glasses were never empty), but the evening passed in a delicious blur of potatoes, ham, cabbage, skewered meat and fruit-filled crepes. Capping off the three-hour night was a lively band serving up Bohemian, Moravian and Slovakian folk songs and dances that had me and my two fellow Canadian travel journalists carrying on with abandon. I can’t imagine a better group dine-around option. Our other group members – John Stephenson, of Motivations Inc., and Mirjana Sebek-Heroldova, director, Canada, Czech Tourist Authority, CzechTourism – also enjoyed themselves immensely that night. Kudos to John, who designed this magnificent FAM programme and led our group with aplomb, and to Katerina Benesova, of Senator Travel Meetings & Incentives, who made it all happen so seamlessly. Mirjana was an unfailingly pleasant and accommodating host.
On the meetings front, Prague delivers, too. For instance, upscale Hotel Le Palais, housing 60 guestrooms and 12 suites, offers two meeting suites (each of 780 sq. ft.); a meeting room, of 882 sq. ft., accommodating up to 80 people; a lobby bar and library (both open 24 hours); and an umbrella-covered summer terrace. Moreover, Le Palais is a five-minute drive to the National Museum and bustling Wenceslas Square.
For larger meetings, there’s the Diplomat Hotel, 10 minutes from the airport and close to Prague Castle. The facility offers 398 guestrooms and suites and reserves three floors for non-smokers. Its conference centre, decked out with Wi-Fi technology and a flat-screen electronic-navigation system, boasts 16 meeting rooms, covering 12,287 sq. ft., which can be configured every which way and can host up to 850.
Over time, the Czech Republic capital has earned many nicknames: Golden Prague; Stone Prague; Magic Prague; the City of a Hundred Spires; the Mother of All Cities. Each one applies, in equal measure.
Czech Airlines offers seven flights a week to Prague (four from Toronto and three from Montreal).