JINRICH STURM, THE ARIA HOTEL, PRAGUE

The Aria Hotel has it covered when it comes to musical variety (with 52 different musically-themed rooms), but where else would they recommend you to spice up your stay?

The Aria is one of Prague’s best hotels – can you tell me a little bit about your guests and what sort of experience they are looking for in Prague?

Our guests are sophisticated and educated; their interests vary from theatres, operas and ballets to private excursions both in and outside Prague. They quite often travel out of the city to visit medieval castles or beautiful country towns. We can arrange trips to meet members of local noble families and guided tours of art galleries and museums.

The Aria has a musical motif running through it – where can guests find the best live music in Prague, for classical, jazz and dancing?

If I‘m not talking about opera in the National Theatre, Estates Theatre or the State Opera, then the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, who usually play in the Rudolfinum, is the best in the country. Reduta is the oldest jazz club in Prague, but for dancing we recommend the Latin tempo of La Casa Argentina or clubbing at La Republica.

Prague has a very touristy Old Town, where would you advise your guests to eat and drink (other than your own in-house establishments) to escape the ‘authentic’ tourist restaurants?

We are a boutique hotel and our guest feels more comfortable in smaller places like V Zatisi, U Maliru, Bellevue, La Finestra, U Modre Kachnicky. Beer halls like U Fleku or Novomestsky Pivovar tend to be mostly visited by groups of tourists.  For authentic Czech cuisine we tend to advise going to Olympia, Celnice or Savarin – all part of the Kolkovna Pilsner Urquell group.

Have you seen a change in the type of visitor who comes to Prague over the last couple of years? Is the Czech hotel industry suffering because of the global economic crisis?

2011 was quite good for travellers, particularly at the more 5* luxury and unique hotels. They stayed for longer than usual and we had guests from as far as Australia, Siberia, Brazil and Argentina. The situation in the 4* and 3* hotels is very different and they are still turning over the same revenue as they were five to seven years ago.

What are the current trends in eating out in Prague – what are some of the most interesting new openings? 

Well, a lot of places have closed due to the global economic crisis but maybe that’s the point of creating the best restaurant; only the top ones will survive. Everybody is looking forward to what will replace the Allegro (in the Four Seasons Hotel) so expect a new concept there in March 2012. At the moment, the hippest restaurant is called Sasazu, with a very popular nightclub next door. As is the new restaurant Aureole in Prague 4, which is always full.

When you’re off duty – where do you tend to eat out in Prague? What are the little secrets that you keep all to yourself?

My favorite places have always been Cafe Imperial, Noi, Olympia or Hybernia. And the places I visit the most are near my house in Zizkov, Persona and Kabinet.

Describe the quintessential Prague experience?

Prague is a fabulous ‘puzzle’ of architectural styles that have survived multiple conflicts over the last 400 years. Explore Praha and find hidden corners in the Castle district or New Town, but remember that good shoes are essential to wander around on your own. Visit the Jewish synagogue almost next door to the church in the Old Town Square. On a night walk you can explore the open-air sculpture gallery of the Charles Bridge, which is 601 years old. Buy tickets to one of the city’s many musical performances or float down the Vltava in the evening on the Jazz boat. And you can’t miss the romantic gardens or the view of more than 440 spires from the high points near the Castle.

What is going to be exciting in Prague in 2012, what new restaurant/bar/club openings are you looking forward to and are there any major events we should be attending?

Every year there is the Prague Spring Music Festival in May followed by the String of Autumn in the second part of the year. The Film festival at Karlovy Vary has become a very popular summer activity for visitors to Prague. Popular clubs? Bilkova13, Sasazu, La Casa de la Havana Vieja, Cloud 9, Fragola or OnClub (G/L). And trendiest places to dine are currently La Degustation (Boheme Bourgeois), Terasa U Zlate Studne, Aureole, Sansho or the Phenix Cafe.

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