It is one thing to open a luxury hotel. It is quite another to find a superlative site in the centre of an historic city. Kempinski have managed to do just that, in an old street just moments away from the almost fairytale-like Old Square. (Amusingly, the ‘new' square and ‘new' sector dates back to the 16th and 17th century!)
Led by 51 year old General manager, Sedat Nemli, this is one luxury hotel with great promise. Sedat was Vice President, Sales, in Kempinksi's New York offices for a long time, before taking over its Dome Belek, in Turkey. For the past year he had oversight of the developing Prague operation, with a total refurbishment cost of Euro 20 million, provided by investors.
Already featured in Prague media, Sedat says that though there has been a downturn in Prague's tourism figures (costs of oil and travel, etc) he believes the very exclusivity of the Kempinski hotel will be its selling-point: "There is always room at the top".
He points out that many Czechs are now returning to their home country, so staff are almost 100% Czech, most of whom are already well-trained in hospitality and foreign languages.
The Kempinski Hybernská is named after the street in which it is located. Unlike so many hotels claiming to be in the ‘centre' of great cities, this one truly is in the centre, with an abundance of places of interest on its doorstep!
The Old Square itself is medieval, and the new hotel is a listed, restored 17th century classic. Clients can stay there at a reduced rate until next March. Last year I passed the hotel when it was being refurbished – and it is in a lovely location.
The Hybernská has 75 rooms and suites and a Presidential Suite. All rooms are very large and sumptuous, retaining much of its earlier grandeur. The Restaurant serves both international and Czech dishes… the latter, mostly rustic and flavoursome, being found everywhere in Prague.
The hotel has its own ultra-modern bar and - something very unusual for such a central location – it has an enclosed large garden complete with trees. Kempinski hopes this secret garden enclosure will become a top wedding and private event location.
On the doorstep of the hotel are major businesses, tourist attractions, historic buildings, and the famed Old Square with its clock-tower, massive sculpture dedicated to the reformer, John Huss, the Huge Gothic church, and roads leading off to other very interesting districts, such as the old Jewish Quarter to one side (watch out for the synagogue with a ladder leading from a door at the top of the wall, to halfway down the wall, ending nowhere!), the ‘New' quarter on another side, and a route to Charles Bridge and the Palace on another.
Café's and restaurants abound! Plus, very unusual places such as the shadow theatre (puppets). The Opera House is not far away, as are a variety of museums. It is hard to think of another central hotel with so much right outside its doors. One tip, though – English-language guide-book place-names of Prague seem to bear no resemblance to Czech-language maps! So, compare the two carefully!
Also not far from the hotel is the wide Vlatava River, offering boat trips. From the hotel, it is well worth walking to the river-side, especially at night, to view the magnificent Palace on the hill opposite to the right. And from the Charles Bridge, the scene towards the hotel-side bank really does look like one from a Canalleto.
The hotel started life as two 15th century town houses. In the 17th century it was joined together to form a Baroque Palace, serially owned by a variety of Counts. With sensitive styling to keep to its historic roots, the hotel should flourish, if only because of Prague itself, a city of great beauty and interest. And, as you cross the Charles Bridge to watch the hourly changing of the guard at the Palace, say ‘hello' to the organ grinder and his entertaining monkey!Barry Napier
Hotel and Resort Journalist