No touch comes more golden than TripAdvisor’s nowadays. The mere sight of the dosed-out owl and digital laurel leaves on a hotel’s landing page or front door instantly earns the place credibility, cool, and profit. That’s what the Spanish owners of the BoHo Hotel in Prague are learning to their great delight after being named 5th Best Hotel in the World in the 2017 Travelers’ Choice Awards “Chosen by Millions of Travelers.”
Not Prague, not Europe—the world.
Rather than support or debunk the award, I prefer to see the honor as recognition of a job well done. Indeed, the reviews on Trip Advisor are stocked with praise. “From start to finish this hotel has everything right, reads one, while another, “You can see that the designers thought of every small detail.” The front desk attendants, cleaners, bartenders, waiters, and managers that keep it all running smoothly also cash in. “The staff was amazing from A to Z.”
In mid-February 2017, I hung a left Jindřišská Tower, crossed Senovážná Namesti (all decked out for a 1930s film set), and slipped through the BoHo’s thin sliding glass doors marked in equally thin letters “BO,” but not before a volley of praise for the hotel’s location. Although huge numbers of tourists pass through nearby Wenceslas Square, few fall into the BoHo’s quiet nook, making it an ideal spot for this part of town—so close to the action, yet seemingly distant.
The front is suitably demure, but classy, like a box for a handmade Italian shoe. The dark wood panels, thin glass, and light cyan curtains set the color tone for virtually the entire hotel. This is definitely not Bohemian in the classic sense, but instead a new concept of “Boho Chic” that seems to draw inspiration from more northerly directions, albeit with a bit of play. The long front lobby and bar exhibits just as much, where the gray marble bar top is overhung by lights looking like slimmed down black monoliths. In another life, it could be a great 2 am bar for classy drunks, or perhaps the cover of a ‘70s prog-rock album.
This is also where the guest experience begins, with a “welcome” flute of Italian Prosecco—always a nice touch, although something more local might be cooler. A second drink, thanks to a voucher left in the room, showed more ambition: Bacardi Carla Negra, maple syrup, apple juice, and cinnamon. Sadly, the taste was anything but chic and entirely unappealing and undrinkable. Another option would have been nice, but nonetheless the gesture was appreciated.
Step behind the front desk, and the rest of the hotel spreads out among the building’s historical framework that prefers nooks to open spaces. To the left of the main corridor is a library and lounge (free sugared croissants, yum) with shelves of random books seemingly plucked from second-hand shops (think Scandinavian baking guides) in the major languages on one end and a gas fireplace cupped by sofas and arms chairs on the other. All and all, it’s a good place to talk business or snuggle a glass of wine in a moderately intimate and private atmosphere.
One of BoHo’s centerpieces, the breakfast lounge, is back across that hall. In contrast to the dark tones of the rest of the hotel, this appears remarkably bright in large part to wrap-around windows on the dining side, where a long, cushioned banquette backs a row of two-person café tables. It’s a fitting setting for the morning buffet, which the hotel is proud of, with good reason. The fruit and vegetables are fresh, pastries light and flaky, eggs sizzled and scrambled on the spot, and maple syrup for the pancakes 100 percent pure.
BoHo’s second feature amenity is one floor below in the Wellness Area. Just fitting a mid-sized gym and spa in a historical city center building is an achievement in itself, but to do so with style is particularly commendable. One room holds a mid-sized fitness center, with treadmill, elliptical, and weights; another hosts the short menu of massage treatments, but the third, the “spa,” gets the lion’s share of space and attention. Inside is a Jacuzzi so large it might be considered a small pool, plus a steam room and sauna side by side, all installed with a flat gray stone and Klimt-esque gold wall panels, giving the impression of a boutique cave.
If the BoHo service broke down anywhere, it was here, as my efforts to catch a hot sauna were foiled by malfunction or poor communication (I’m not sure which), but based on the efficiency with which the rest of the hotel is run, I’ll take this as an aberration. Two thumbs up on the steam room, though.
The hotel achieves purely excellent results with the accommodation itself. The 57 rooms across 5 floors cover four grades from standard to suite, all in similar design and spirit, but still unique compared to every hotel I’ve ever stayed in—no small feat. Room 202, a superior (starting at $215 per night) revolved around a large glass cube bathroom in the center of the space, and a lovely bathroom it was. With the freestanding, adult-sized tub to one side, it’s lovely enough to book at least an hour inside it, fizzing in bath salts and more Prosecco, or wine (free in the breakfast lounge 5-6 pm daily). It’s a good time to flip through the gift book (another nice touch) of Prague photograph. Come Saturday and a free tour takes you to many of the spots in the book. The queen bed and work station that make up the rest of the room do their job admirably, but not with any supernatural comfort.
Whether the BoHo hotel really ranks fifth in the world matters far less than the general quality of the service, which is the real thing to be proud of here. This is a hotel that understands hospitality, runs efficiently, and earns your money. More than this, it speaks with a clear, distinctive voice in a city where it would be easy to be drowned. Perhaps a bit more Bohemia of the body would be a welcome addition to this Bohemia of the mind (perhaps a welcome Becherovka or Moravian white wine?), but there’s plenty of that right outside the front door.
Mike Dunphy stayed as a guest of the BoHo Hotel. Lead photo by the BoHo Hotel. All other photos by Mike Dunphy