Early this summer, I had an opportunity to travel to Europe to network, attend Germany’s largest buyers trade show and conduct a few site tours and inspections at properties we sell via Critics Choice Vacations (CCV) but I had not yet had the privilege of experiencing myself.
My first destination to visit with a dear friend was the beautiful city of Prague, affectionately known as the “City of One Hundred Spires.” CCV sells Prague in conjunction with customized tours or as a popular, stand-alone pre or post river cruise destination. It truly is an impressive city teeming with amazing architecture and historical sights. I was delighted to meet with one of our Destination Specialists for Prague, the small, family-run and owned Patriot Travel to conduct a site tour of the city. Our tour was conducted by an outstanding, English-speaking local guide, Frank who not only entertained but also educated us about the Golden City.
The Four Seasons Prague sits on the banks of the Vltava River, around the corner from Old Town Square, just steps away from the Charles Bridge and within easy walking distance to many local sites and attractions. The hotel’s lobby is stunning with an array of fresh flowers refreshed every three days, creating a warm and welcoming area to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with friends or colleagues. The rooms vary between two types, one with an old European charm and the other modern and sleek. Regardless of the style, the rooms are spacious and aesthetically arranged, many with picturesque views overlooking the river. Breakfast is not only a culinary delight but a visual treat as you overlook Charles Bridge and the river below.
Idyllically located in the heart of Prague, The Augustine rests between the Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge, in the picturesque Lesser Town district. Easily explore all that Prague has to offer right outside the hotel’s front door by foot, bike or public transportation. The Augustine is a stunning piece of architecture, dating back to 1284 and once used exclusively by monks. Several practicing monks continue to live on the property today. The garden area, where breakfast and lunch are served during favorable weather, is relaxing and stylish with areas of fresh, well-manicured garden lawns and fauna. The Refectory bar is a “must see” located in the monastery’s barrel-vaulted, double height hall. Marvel at the ceiling’s 13th century frescoes meticulously restored by the monks. Try the tasty St. Thomas beer which is still brewed by the monks today and can only be purchased at The Augustine.
After conducting a full site tour at The Augustine and viewing several of their master suites, my favorite is the famous One Bedroom Loft Suite with stunning 360° views above Prague and over the river. This is a fabulous, romantic honeymoon or anniversary suite option. The Augustine is very classic with a “monastic”, rustic feel integrated with flares of elegance and history. Daily breakfast is included and is delicious. Our room offered an amazing view overlooking the Prague Castle (see photo attached).
I also visited and conducted a site visit at the centrally-located Mandarin Oriental Prague. Housed within a former 14th century monastery, the Mandarin Oriental Prague is both a 5-star luxury hotel and a wonderfully preserved piece of history. Blending contemporary design with period features, the rooms are large with high ceilings and special personal touches are pervasive throughout such as colored door hangers. The use of wood and bright flashes of color in each room create a warm, welcoming and fresh vibe. Lunch at Spices was enchanting and a culinary experience not to be missed especially if you are a guest at this property. I think the photos speak for themselves.
The highlight of my time in Prague was a privately-guided tour with Frank of the world-renowned, Baroque Strahov Library. We were literally the only people inside this magnificent room during the tour. Books date back to the 1200s and the halls flow with gorgeous wooden floors and intricate murals above featuring acts from history, the Bible, and fables. Not all tour companies have access to the Strahov Library so be sure to work with a travel agency such as CCV with these “insider” connections so you do NOT miss such a masterpiece.
Following a few days in Prague it was time to move onto Dresden to attend the annual Germany Travel Market trade show. It’s a “shopping” show CCV attends to network, develop new partnerships and meet with vendors, tour companies and hotel properties on behalf of our clients. This is an excellent venue organized by the German Office of Tourism in Germany as well as the host cities and our local offices of the German Tourism in New York City. Dresden, as a host city certainly did not disappoint. This magical and architectural wonder of a city pulled out all of the stops for their international trade and PR delegations. Our venue began with a warm welcome and magical opening ceremony at the Frauenkirchen Dresden, the Church of our Lady complete with pieces played on the 4,876 pipe organ. Magical! We were then treated to several artistic presentations during the show both musical, dance related and some with a typical German flare. Our opening dinner for the night was hosted at the Verkehrsmuseum (Transportation museum) in Dresden….a great place to visit when in Dresden for those interested in transportation trends and changes over the years.
The finale of the show was an amazing night on the Elbe River enjoying dinner, music, new and old friends as well as a surprise Opera Show on the banks as well as a fantastic fireworks show put on just for the PR and delegations attending the show! Dresden outdid herself!
While in Dresden, I took the opportunity to do a site tours at the historical and stunning, Taschenberg Kempinski Dresden (where we enjoyed dinner and peeked into one of their top suites where many former presidents have stayed). I had the chance to stay here in 2013 and it is a property NOT to be missed. The location is perfect and the property just lovely. We ended our stay at the Buelow Palais Dresden , a 5-star, luxury property located on the opposite side of the river complete with a room view of the cathedral right outside our window. While at this hotel, we were spoiled by the attentions of General Manager Ralf J. Kutzner who not only greeted us upon arrival in their lovely waiting area with a glass of champagne but also served us breakfast the next morning. I must say, this was the first time I have ever been served breakfast in any hotel in the world, by the General Manager. What a class act! Thank you so much Ralf for a wonderful experience at your hotel!
The last stop on my whirlwind trip was to the chic and cosmopolitan city of Berlin. We were welcomed by the DOS, Carmen at the Regent Berlin. Just steps from some of the major museums around Museum Insel, great restaurant choices around Gendarmenmarkt Square and unforgettable attractions like the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie the Regent Berlin combines sumptuous comfort, exceptional amenities and exquisite dining experiences with flawless hospitality. While at the Regent Berlin, drool over a piping hot cup of asparagus soup (in season) on their outside patio and deck. The rooms are spacious and impeccably appointed with full length patio door windows which open onto the bustling city of Berlin. Make sure to check out their hot and renovated bar...completed the day we arrived.
My site tours continued at the famous Adlon Kempinski, located right next to the Brandenburg Tor. This hotel has recently undergone an extensive renovation of their lobby and it turned out smashing. The main entrance lobby is just beautiful and serves as a popular social haunt for friends to chitchat over an afternoon cup of tea, relax with a cocktail, people watch to their hearts content and of course, indulge in a slice of famous German cake (see photo attached). I was fortunate to view the Imperial Palace Suite at the Aldon Kempinski and it is indeed fit for a king with a rich interior, ornate fixtures and incredibly spacious (it must have at least 30 doors!). My hosts were delightful in showing me around and discussing options for upcoming and future business together.
Germany is a diverse destination rich in history, culture and architecture with lush landscapes, enchanting castles, superb art galleries, amazing and innovative museums, exceptional cuisine, fertile wine and beer making regions and a myriad of outdoor activities offered year-round. Germany is often overlooked for the warmth and vitality of its people. I have lived in Germany and been to Germany at least 25 times in my life. It is an easy country to navigate by car, train or plane and should be a destination on your bucket list if you have not been before! CCV can customize a trip to fit your budget, interests and wishes!