You shopped around for flights, found a great deal to Prague on JustFly, and you’re looking forward to your fairytale Czech experience. Then you get into Old Town and feel like you’ve been dropped in front of the main stage at a summer music festival. “What is the deal with all these frickin’ tourists? My god there must be 10,000 of them!”
The capital city is a beautifully preserved swath of ye olde Europe and there’s no place quite like it in the world. It has become one of the poster children for overtourism though: millions come here but some 80% of visitors to the Czech Republic never make it outside of Prague. The narrow streets are jammed with visitors, the famous St. Charles Bridge looks like it could collapse from so many people on it, and the tour buses outside the castle are lined up 30-deep.
May we suggest an escape?
Although few seem to take advantage of it, the Czech Republic is blessed with dozens of great destinations that are only a couple of hours from the big city by bus or train. Crowds get thinner and prices drop by half no matter which direction you go in. If you head north an hour and a half on a $4 bus or the train, you could be in Teplice with that view at the top from your window. That was mine while staying at Prince de Ligne Hotel, right on the historic main square. Here’s what it looks like from the other direction at night.
This stately historic building is named after Charles-Joseph Lamoral, the 7th Prince de Ligne who was from Belgium but traveled and vacationed throughout Europe, including here. Its stately interiors give a feeling of reserved grandeur, including the wide marble staircase leading from the lobby to upper floors.
The main restaurant serving lunch and dinner is right off the lobby, in a formal luxurious setting with folded cloth napkins and tablecloths. There’s a set meal option at lunch, then a menu of hearty Czech specialties and a few international choices at dinner, with a decent wine selection and full bar.
A buffet breakfast is included in the rates and that’s in a different room at the far end of the lobby. It features a mix of meats, cheeses, breads, and fruit.
Take a walk out the front door and there are several other dining options within a few blocks, including two indoor-outdoor pubs right on the main square. In those you can get a pint of local beer for the decidedly non-Prague price of $1.50.
A sauna on the ground floor comes with an extra charge, but you can bring along up to six friends when you book it.
The rooms in the front of the building are the most desirable since they look right out at Zámecké Square, an area where the heads of state from countries as wide as Holland and Russia once strolled and negotiated, The king of Prussia, Frederick William III, visited faithfully for 27 years. You can look out your window and imagine the historic figures who strolled the cobblestone streets of this spa town, like Beethoven, Goethe, Casanova, Liszt, Wagner, Chopin, and Schumann.
Sizes of the 33 rooms extend from a single with twin bed up to a Presidential Suite with bedroom, living room, and formal dining table for six. Most rooms are filled with period reproduction furniture to give you a sense of a glorious past era, but there’s complimentary WiFi, TV, minibar, comfortable bedding, and well-equipped bathroom with tub. When I stayed there was a heat wave hitting Europe though and one missing element in the rooms became clear: no air conditioning. Usually this doesn’t matter, but be advised if you’re booking for July or August.
Rates average around $126 double, with breakfast and tax included, with an extra $10 or so if you need parking. You can step up to the Presidential Suite for around $240. Rates don’t vary much throughout the year or by day of the week.
Editor Tim Leffel was hosted one night at Hotel Prince de Ligne while researching a Czech travel article for another publication. As always, all opinions are his own.