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Not so long ago, Prague used to have a shortage of hotel rooms, and if you arrived in town without reservations there was a good chance you would be without a place to stay. That's no longer the case (though it always pays to reserve in advance if you find a good place at a good price). Hotel construction became a boom industry during the past decade, and if anything, the city now has too many beds, not too few. That's great news for travelers. It means that prices might someday start to come down from their lofty peaks. Inexplicably, hotel prices in Prague the past decade or so have been higher on average than in Paris or Amsterdam, for facilities that were usually inferior.

The combination of new hotels plus the worldwide economic recession in 2009 succeeded in driving down prices somewhat, meaning that, depending on the night, it was possible to snag a good place in the center for under $100 for the first time in many years. It's not clear what the future will bring, but it always pays to shop around. Bargains are out there.

The highest demand and highest prices are for properties in Malá Strana and Staré Mesto, widely considered the two most desirable places to stay. They offer the closest proximity to the main sites and the possibility of a castle or river view out your window. Of the two, Malá Strana is the quieter and more upscale. Nové Mesto, the city's commercial heart, is also a popular lodging choice. A hotel here will probably offer the same walk-to proximity to the major sites, but may lack some of the innate charm of Malá Strana or Staré Mesto. The leafy inner suburb of Vinohrady has increasingly evolved into an alternative lodging locale. This is an upscale and highly desirable area, but requires a metro or tram ride to get to the center. For other outlying districts, look at the map carefully before booking your room. Try to get as close to a metro or tramline as possible, or you'll spend too much time trying to figure out your transit routes and not enough time enjoying the sights.

A Note on Floors -- Remember that Europe's floor-numbering system differs from that in North America. European buildings have a ground floor (corresponding to the first floor in the U.S.), then a first floor (the second floor in the U.S.), a second floor, and so on.

Hotels -- Prague offers everything from five stars on down to modest mom and pops perched on the side of the road. Most hotels in the center fall in the three- to four-star range, where rooms are normally clean and secure with attached bathrooms and modern conveniences like TVs, telephones, and occasionally (but not usually) air-conditioning. Most, but not all, hotels will offer some form of in-room Internet (whether Wi-Fi or LAN connection). This may or may not be free (always ask before booking).

Nearly all hotels are now smoke-free or at a minimum offer smoke-free rooms (be sure to make your request known upfront). Most hotels won't have on-site parking but are likely to have a pay garage or lot nearby. Figure on shelling out an additional 500Kc a day, on average, for parking.

Wheelchair access remains a problem and most older or smaller hotels are not likely to be accessible for persons with disabilities. The best bets are chains and larger hotels built or remodeled in the past couple of years. Contact the hotel directly for up-to-date information on accessibility.

Most of the big international hotel chains, including Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, and several others now have properties in Prague.

What's for Breakfast? -- In most hotels and B&Bs the room rate includes breakfast -- usually heavy bread or rolls (rohlíky), jam, butter, cheese spreads, and sometimes liver pâté, plus yogurt, cereal, juice, milk, and coffee or tea. Occasionally, slices of Prague ham or smoked pork (debrecínka), hard-boiled eggs, local cheeses, and fresh fruit will join the buffet. The better places will also offer bacon and eggs cooked to order. Don't expect, however, to get drinkable coffee. It's invariably of the black-sludge variety. Better to eat your breakfast and grab a coffee somewhere after you leave the hotel.

Pensions -- These are typically guesthouses, often family-owned, which offer fewer services than hotels but tend to be cheaper. In practice, there is little difference between a pension and a two- or three-star hotel.

Short-Term Apartment Rentals -- An increasingly popular option is to pass up high-priced hotel rooms and opt instead for private apartments. Several agencies now offer short-term rentals for what are surprisingly nice places in high-demand areas like Malá Strana, Staré Mesto, and Nové Mesto. These often can accommodate up to four people (usually more) and have modest kitchens. Services, however, are limited to things like pickup and drop-off at the airport. You will usually have to arrange a time in advance to pick up the keys, since there's no reception.

Local real estate agency Svoboda & Williams at Benediktská 3, Prague 1 (tel. 257-328-281; www.svoboda-williams.com) offers luxury short-term rentals starting at about 2,000Kc a night for properties in the center. Apartments in Prague at Petrínská 4, Prague 5 (tel. 251-512-502; http://apartments-in-prague.org) has some beautiful properties in Malá Strana and elsewhere starting at 1,500Kc during the off-season up to 4,000Kc a night and higher for New Year's Eve. Check both companies' websites for apartment photos.

Room-Finding Agencies -- Prague has several agencies that can assist in helping to find a room in a hotel or pension, or even book a short-term apartment rental or a private room in someone's house. These agencies normally offer a wide selection of properties and allow for online selection and payment. One of the market leaders is Prague-based E-Travel.cz (www.travel.cz or www.apartments.cz). Its office is near the National Theater at Divadelní 24 (tel. 224-990-990; fax 224-990-999). Mary's Travel & Tourism at Italská 31, Prague 2 (tel. 222-254-007; www.marys.cz) has an excellent range of hotels from two to five stars and a well-organized website. Simply choose how many stars you want and what district you want to stay in, then type in the data and you're set.

Websites with Online Reservations

In addition to the room-finding agencies listed above, the following travel agencies also provide online room-booking services. It's always a good idea to check prices on several different websites. In addition, be sure to check out individual hotel websites, since hotels frequently post seasonal or last-minute discounts that may not be available elsewhere:

  • www.euroagentur.cz
  • www.praguehotels.cz
  • www.hotelline.cz

Money-Saving Tips

The best way to save money on a hotel room is to book as far in advance as possible and make use of the local room-finding services or big hotel aggregators, like Expedia.com. Their customer-finding clout gives them leverage to extract discounts from hotel owners, part of which they can pass on to you. In addition, always check out the hotel's own website. This is where hotels post their special offers as well as last-minute and seasonal discounts. Rates can be shockingly low as hotels, seemingly, will stoop to any level to fill beds. So much the better for you.

Czech hotel receptionists have little interest in haggling over room rates, but sometimes you can still get a deal by simply asking at the end: "Is this the best price you can offer me?" Hotels are under increasing pressure from the competition, and last-minute rate cuts have become the norm and not the exception. Your bargaining position is stronger if you're planning a longer stay.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.