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Prague’s endless range of surprises


Michelle Chenery reports on some creative MICE facilities

I spent just 48 hours in Prague and my head is packed with memories of remarkable food, fascinating quirky buildings and uniquely created visitor attractions. It wasn’t my first visit to Prague, but in the couple of intervening years much has been added and changed so that it did not in any way seem like a re-visit.
I was in a group invited by the Prague Convention Bureau and the itinerary proved that if any organiser is looking for an interesting destination, then the Bureau can be recommended as a first port of call. It can point you in all the right directions.

We were hosted for two nights at Andel's Hotel Prague, managed by Vi Hotels & Resorts. In the business centre of the city, it has tram stops and a metro station close by. It was built in 2002 and offers 290 modern rooms and suites as well as a range of facilities in a conference centre.

There are two sides to the property: Andel’s Hotel and Andel’s Suites, distinguished indoors by the change in the carpet and of the corridors. Andel's Hotel comprises 144 Superior rooms, 87 Executive, four Junior Suites and four Senior suites. Andel's Suites offers 51 suites in a variety of configurations.

Each room features high speed internet access and Wi-Fi, laptop safe with integrated charging capabilities, plasma satellite TV, DVD player, direct dial phone, minibar, underfloor heating in the bathrooms, work desk and either a large king-size bed or two large single beds.

Close to the lift on each Executive Floor are tea and coffee-making facilities.

Andel’s Conference Centre features 15 modern rooms with a total event space of 650sqm. Moveable walls allow a range of configurations. The largest event space can cater for up to 350, while an adjacent cinema can accommodate 300 people. Just a couple of minutes walk away across a courtyard is the Angelo Hotel Prague, also a Design Hotel, and its 362sqm event space in 31 meeting rooms can be utilised to form a total capacity for up to 3,000 delegates.

The restaurant Delight can cater for up to 220 guests, along with three rooms for private dining and the Crystal room. Buffet breakfast is served in Delight. Oscar's Bar and Brasserie is open seven days a week with a more informal setting for tea, coffee, quick snack or a relaxing drink.

Fascinating Old Prague
For our first outing we rode a tram into Wenceslas Square for a historical walking tour hosted by Prague City Tourism. In the Old Town Square we watched the Astronomical Clock run through its 60 seconds sequence in a tower built in 1364. We were then walked to the top of the tower for views across the whole city and into the 13thC cellars that once housed prisoners. We viewed the old water wells and some of the devices used to humiliate and punish criminals.

A selection of the rooms in the Old Town Hall are available for private use.
Charles Bridge was a short walk further where we were shown a spot from which we could not resist taking some picturesque shots of the ancient part of the city on the other side of the broad Vltava River.

U Fleků was our venue for dinner and entertainment. Founded in 1499, it is the oldest brewery in town. Its eight halls can cater for up to 1,200 for dinner. Old Bohemian dishes are served with dark beer brewed on the premises. We were hosted in the Knights Hall in view of a life-sized portrait of Vit Skremenec, U Fleků's first brewer. The carved wooden chairs bear the emblems of Czech towns and an ornamental door lists all of the names of the brewers from 1499 to 1883.

I was recommended to eat the very enjoyable traditional Czech beef in cream with bread dumplings, washed down nicely with the 13deg strong dark lager Flekovský ležák. A folk band got us singing and clapping and at the finale the entire hall was on its feet.

Annual Jazz Festival
Our visit to Prague coincided with the 36th annual Prague Jazz festival. We went to the Reduta Jazz Club to listen to a number of international artists. Reduta has had an interesting history since its opening in 1957, adding to Prague's rich cultural life. You can bump into anyone there. In 1994 Bill Clinton arrived unexpectedly and joined in the fun by playing on the saxophone in a jam session. The Reduta theatre hall can seat up to 130 and the Jazz Club has seating at tables for up to 99 people, with drinks available in the club's Saxophone Bar downstairs.

The Prague Castle area on the other side of the river was aour destination on the second day of our visit. The Lobkowicz Palace, the only privately owned building in the Prague Castle complex, is home to the Lobkowicz Collections. The 22 galleries display the history of the family and artwork from masters such as Canaletto and Velasquez, fine porcelains, military and sporting rifles, musical instruments and original Beethoven and Mozart manuscripts.

The first floor rooms can be hired for events, including the Concert Hall to host up to l20, Balcony Room for up to 140 theatre style and the Terrace, boasting fantastic views over Prague, for up to 80 guests for cocktails. Other spaces include the salons of the galleries, the grand Imperial Hall which features marble floors and frescoed, tromp-l'oeil embellished walls, hosting up to 180 for a banquet. There is also an 18thC Bird Room displaying works or art created from real bird feathers and watercolours.

From there we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the Lesser Town Square and were transferred to Kampa Island and to the Zofin Palace.

Built in 1835 on Slavonsky island, Zofin Palace has been hosting cultural and social events since 1837. In 1884 the entire island was bought by the municipality and the building was converted over the course of two years into the present Neo-Renaissance palace with richly decorated interiors and fine halls, which have enriched the Prague events scene for the last 150 years. The latest renovation of the property in 1994 saw interiors and exterior fully renovated, equipped with modern lighting, sound and projection technology and air conditioning and offering views over Prague’s historical panorama. Zofin Palace Great Hall can cater for up to 800 for a gala dinner and up to 900 for a buffet, including the foyer and Gallery areas. The Knights Hall, an arched chamber located at the basement level, provides a completely different atmosphere for 120 guests.

The Zofin Garden, a covered outdoor restaurant, heated in the winter months and with removable sides during the warmer months, it is able to cater for groups up to 600 people.

We walked further to Mlýnec for lunch with excellent views of both the Vltava river and Charles Bridge from its large windows. We enjoyed dishes from the Czech degustation menu, including goats cheese Gervais with beetroot chips Raisons, homemade gingerbread and grape dressing followed by a poached 62 degC organic egg with smoked veal tongue, horseradish mousse, pickled mushrooms and wood sorrel. Then came traditional Czech duck leg confit, served with red cabbage foam and potato dumpling. To top off the meal I had a deconstructed apple strudel.

The restaurant is owned and run by the Zátisí alongside three other restaurants in strategically located spots around town. They offer event catering services under the umbrella of Zátisí Catering, in venues such as Prague Congress Centre, Skoda Auto Museum, Industrial Palace, Rudolfinum and SaSaZu to name a few.

Forum Karlin was the next visit on our itinerary. Opened earlier this year, the heart of the complex is a multifunctional auditorium for up to 3,000 people standing or 2,000 theatre style and 1,100 banquet. It can host events with demanding and complex stage technology. A load bearing ceiling can suspend a car. from there if you wanted to, as well as its own catering facilities and equipment. Forum Karlin has three floors in total, two containing a foyer and a gallery running around the auditorium in a u-shape and the bottom floor with a foyer and the auditorium.

Next stop on our comprehensive tour was DOX Centre for Contemporary Art. Huge white walls allow full image projection, branding and lighting effects. An Auditorium can seat 300 persons and it is also possible to link it with the G2 Gallery. This measures 270sqm, the cafe and terrace233 sqm and lecture theatre 100sqm. The largest of the spaces available, the Main Hall, covers an area of 616sqm and can be supplemented with the area of the Maisonette adding a further 270sqm. The Sculpture Terrace can be used for outdoor events, once displaying two Mercedes cars amongst the sculptures.

We spent the evening of the second day in the Old Town at the Hard Rock Café Prague. Opened five years, it is housed within the historical V J Rott Building, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It boasts an outside terrace as well as three levels, a historical cellar, basement, two bars and a Rock Shop selling Hard Rock's merchandise. Able to cater for up to 324 guests seated and 650 guests standing, the Hard Rock Cafe also offers tours of its more than 300 pieces of authentic rock memorabilia on show throughout the restaurant. Groups can also enjoy cocktail lessons, usually lasting two hours. The events team can arrange a DJ, band and other activities, from henna tattoos, dance shows and Smilebox, to football, air hockey and poker tables.

The menu had every kind of classic American dishes: burgers, chicken wings, ribs and pulled pork sandwiches. After polishing off the majority of a shared platter with the rest of the group, I opted for a hickory barbecue bacon cheese burger. I was not disappointed, but, accustomed to big portions at Hard Rock, I had to leave some so that I could then try a few spoonfuls of the newly introduced Oreo cheesecake for dessert. I'm so glad I did.

Signal Festival of light
But the day’s packed itinerary still had more in store. We went back to the Charles Bridge, went aboard river boats and were hosted by representatives of the Signal Festival. It was a wonderland of lighting effects. In one location, called Murmur, the members of the public made sounds that were then interpreted in the form of ripples of light, which ran up and down the tower of the bridge. On the opposite bank of the river we experienced Flow, an interactive installation exploring aerodynamics. It projected onto a screen colourful particles flowing around cars. The movement of the spectators affected the flow of the streams of light.

The Kraken awaited us as we disembarked. It mimicked the shape and movement of a great sea monster as bio-luminescent lights lit the water from beneath. Back on dry land, our final stop off on the tour was Crystallation, a tunnel of light where visitors had a chance to contribute to its final appearance with the option to purchase and hang a crystal within the tunnel.

In total there were twenty one Signal Festival happenings all over town, with many of the city's main buildings used for video mapping displays. It is scheduled to return to Prague next year from 15th-18th October.

The following morning started with a trip to Musée Grévin, staying true to its founders vision of providing the public with a real face of the people in the news, the Grévin Prague is devoting generous space to host local celebrities such as President Václav Havel, the long-distance runner Emil Zátopek, the singer Karel Gott and the author Karel Čapek. Housed over 3 floors visitors can also bump into more globally known celebrities within its seven worlds, Harrison Ford in his Indiana Jones guise, famous sporting icons like Martina Navrátilová, or take a seat next to John Lennon in the Magic Theatre. Enter the Ballroom to find Brad and Angelina, Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. Pictures can be taken with all of the figures on display, touching and hugging of the figures has lead to certain body parts having to be replaced every so often, Angelina Jolie has had a few body parts replaced already. There are three spaces available for rent within the Grévin, the Grand Ball Room where 72 can be hosted for a banquet or up to 150 for cocktails. Theatre Grévin an art nouveau setting, has fixed seating for up to 40, and can be extended to fit 60. The Lobby is large enough to accommodate a car and up to 300 standing, whilst 50 can be seated within the Café.

We walked on to the Municipal House, a national heritage property and one of the most important Art Nouveau buildings in Prague. It houses the Smetana Hall, which can seat 1,200 for a concert. In addition there are a 1920s American bar and the Pilsen Restaurant and Winebar, decorated with touches from local artists of the time, original wood panelling, ceramic ornamental floors, inset relief ceramic tiles and mirrors. Works by Alfons Mucha can be found in the Mayor’s Hall, the most impressive of the interiors, as well as works of art and sculptures throughout a further 17 events spaces.

By now it was still only lunch time. We moved to the Designhotel Elephant in central Prague. It has a total of 178 rooms, with 158 Superior spanning 23sqm and 20 Deluxe of approximately 27sqm. All air-conditioned and equipped with free hi-speed internet, minibar, LCD TV, writing desk and chair, safe, bath and shower.

Designhotel Elephant is connected to the Congress Centre U Hajku, where there is 1,500sqm of event space. Over two floors there can be as many as 9 separate halls and meeting rooms, from 45sqm up to 120sqm, a highly flexible facility space able to cater from 30 classroom style, up to 530 for a banquet.

We ate in Bistro U Hájků. Located within the conference centre complex, it serves a range of Czech cuisine, with the menu changing regularly dependent on the ingredients in season. I started with a traditional Czech soup. went on to steak and chips and ended with a thick chocolate and caramel sauce dessert.

Tallest building in Prague
Our call stop was at the tallest building in Prague. Now known as Tower Park Prague, it was opened in1992 as the Zizkov TV Tower. A complete refurbishment in 2011 by a team of Czech architects and artists created an interactive environment. We watched ten giant babies climbing up and down the buildings, the work of acclaimed Czech artist David Cerny.

Located on the ground floor and with a separate entrance is a conference facility for up 150 people. There are also event spaces at different levels in the tower block. At 66m there is a restaurant floor, with Café Oblaca, Bar Oblaca and Restaurant Oblaca each able to cater for 50. Also on this floor there is access to the One Room Hotel. A cabin was transformed into a luxury 6-star suite, facing east, so that guests wake up to the rising sun. The suite can also be hired as an exclusive conference room.

An observatory floor is reached a further 27m higher, where each cabin is themed differently and offers a unique perspective of Prague. One called Prague Images reflects on the most beautiful places in the city; Echoes of Prague allows you to relax in suspended bubble chairs and listen to the sounds of the city; and Golden Prague offers superb views of Prague Castle, St Vitus Cathedral, the Petrin Lookout Tower, the National Theatre and the Old Town. There are touch screens allowing visitors to learn more about each famous sight.

Visit the Prague Convention Bureau site
or contact Lucie Rajdlová, Marketing & PR Manager, Prague Convention Bureau, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To View more pictures from the trip please visit our Prague Facebook album

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