24-Hour Room Service: Prague Inn Czech Republic
Saturday 24 December 2005
On the feast of Stephen (26 December), or any other day for that matter, the best place from which to look out onto Wenceslas Square will be the Prague Inn - specifically, from the bathroom of room 205. The view extends the 750m length of this narrow "square", with the statue of the good king himself aboard his horse outside the National Museum at the far end.
The hotel is so new that its only outward sign is a drooping banner proclaiming its name; it opened two months ago. Yet it occupies the oldest building on the square, the Golden Beehive, dating from the 15th century. The owners gutted the upper floors and created a clean, sharp interior - with the necessary security precautions in this crime-prone city. Each landing has its own chipcard access through heavy glazed doors leading off the grey stone stairwell.
One part of the building that was left largely in its original condition was the deep, ancient cellar. This is now the restaurant where an excellent breakfast (included in room rates) is served.
On my first morning, right on cue, the vault's plasma-screen TV offered MTV showing "Bohemian Rhapsody" to accompany the coffee and eggs. You can also eat outside at the street-level café, no matter how deep, crisp or even the snow may be, and watch the constant street theatre in the Bohemian capital.
At the south-east end of Wenceslas Square at 28 Rijna 378/15, Prague 1 (00 420 226 014 444; www.hotelpragueinn.cz). The hotel is 50m from Mustek metro station, where the A and B lines intersect. The location is schizophrenic; there are plenty of bars for the stag-weekenders, but high culture can be found around the corner at the Estates Theatre, where Mozart conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787. It is a five-minute walk from the Old Town Square with its Astronomical Clock, and a 10-minute stroll to the Charles Bridge for access to the castle and beyond.
Time from international airport: with clear roads and a good driver (ideally pre-booked at www.prague-airport-shuttle.com, to avoid rip-offs), you can make it from Prague's Ruzyne airport in 20 minutes flat, for a very reasonable 600kcs (£15). Otherwise, bus 119 from the airport takes you to the end of the metro line at Dejvicka, four stops from Mustek.
The 34 rooms are a decent size; their decor a good stab at designer chic. The effect is more Habitat than Conran, however - functional but not fizzing, and working hard for the four stars. The beds are comfortable, and the glazing keeps out the ambient noise from the square pretty effectively.
The loo with a view sits in a well-equipped bathroom even though the shower head does not extend above head height if you happen to be six feet or taller.
Freebies: unremarkable (but effective) soap and shower gel.
Keep in touch: direct-dial phone, satellite TV and, if you bring a laptop, free internet access.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In low season a double with a view costs €175 (£125), including breakfast. Book via www.travelcook.com, as I did, and you may be able to get the same for €85 (£61).
I'm not paying that: Try Sir Toby's Hostel (00 420 283 870 635; www.sirtobys.com) from 290KC (£7) a night in a dorm bed, 1,200KC (£28) for a twin room.
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