Housed in a former monastery (and brewery), the Augustine Hotel has been transformed into a 5 star luxury property... Combining modern touches, with authentic elements from the buildings past
When it comes to European cities steeped in history, Prague is up there with Rome, Paris and Athens. Google it and you will see that its ancient streets are almost too perfect to be believed. Ground zero for this medieval beauty is the area around Charles Bridge. Here you will find the most gorgeous buildings, the royal castle and countless other points of historical significance.
Housed in a complex consisting of some of the area’s finest edifices is the Augustine Hotel - a Luxury Collection Hotels property. Dating all the way back to 1284, it is the essence of Prague’s historic character and beauty distilled into one property. If it was not a hotel, I am sure that The Augustine Hotel would be a tourist attraction in its own right, as it features almost as much history as the nearby museums and castles. On top of this it has its own brewery, and has been tastefully converted to provide guests with a truly magical experience.
The hotel takes its name from the monastery which used to occupy its buildings. Of course it has been adapted to accommodate guests, but every effort has been made to keep it as close to how it looked when the Augustinian monks walked its corridors. In total seven buildings make up the hotel complex, all stuffed with historic significance.
Take the Refectory Bar for example, where the monks would gather to eat all the way back to the 14th century. Its ceilings are adorned by beautiful frescoes depicting cherubs, and despite the modern decoration it does feel like stepping back in time. Alternatively head down to the basement, which was previously one of Prague’s oldest pubs. Today it serves as a meeting room, but the space is basically a vast cave complete with stalactites and stunning to see. Even the rooms reflect the hotel’s monastic heritage as they are decorated to give a sense of the cells in which the monks lived (although of course with a lot more comfort added!).
We stayed in a Classic Room which was extremely spacious by European standards, and had all the comfortable touches we have grown to love with Luxury Collection Hotels. This included a welcoming dish of pretzels and some of the St.Thomas beer – a delicious ale which is brewed and exclusively available on site. The room was tastefully decorated with light colored furniture which helped make it feel bigger than it was. Meanwhile, the bathroom was filled with the luxury products made by Byredo, and came complete with heated floors… a definite plus on those cold nights.
Augustine offers an array of rooms and suites and each one is slightly different, thanks to the historic nature of the buildings. Each one is special, but perhaps the most exceptional is the Tower Suite. If you truly want a magical experience, the Tower Suite is the room to book. Housed in the monastery’s astrological tower (which you have completely to yourself), it consists of three floors and offers unrivaled views of the city.
The hotel is also home to what must be one of Prague’s best restaurants, the Augustine Restaurant. Very much a modern gourmet establishment, chef Marek Fichtner has put together a menu which draws on the best of European culinary traditions. Despite the quality of his ingredients and combinations, at the heart of his creations is simplicity, and everything which leaves his kitchen is presented with almost clinical and beautiful precision. We went for one of the tasting menus, and so were treated to a broad range of offerings. It was one of the best meals we had in Prague. The veal sweetbread served with parsnips, risotto, parmesan chips and egg was a particular highlight, as was the pork loin in the hotel’s own St. Thomas beer sauce.
The food is complemented by the ambiance of the restaurant. The dining room sits inside and around the old cloisters of the monastery (cloisters were peaceful courtyards which provided a place for monks to reflect). As such, it has a tranquil and elegant feel with some homely decorative additions. Breakfast is also served in the restaurant, and every morning we would be treated to a lovely buffet of fresh fruits, juices, cereals, breads and hot foods.
In a hotel as fancy as this, it would be a surprise if there were not some great facilities, and Augustine does not disappoint. It has the spa, the swimming pool, and the concierge, but it also has something else few hotels can offer – the monastery itself. As I said earlier, this place would be a tourist attraction if it wasn’t a hotel but because it is, guests get exclusive access to its historical charms. The staff at the front desk will happily provide the background information helping to put the monastery, church and library into context as you admire the ornate baroque architecture and decoration. There is something very special about standing in a church this beautiful all by yourself.
Once you have had your fill, you simply have to step out the front door to reach more of Prague’s unique attraction. The Castle Complex with its crown jewels and palaces is a short walk up the hill. Walk downwards instead, and you quickly reach the famous Charles Bridge. Crossing it takes you into the heart of the old town. Here the attractions are too numerous to mention but include the square with its astronomical clock, St Vitus’ cathedral and the Jewish quarter.
If you are looking for the full Prague experience, this is the place to stay. Short of turning a castle into a hotel, you can’t really get a more authentic flavor of the rich history which makes the city so beautiful and fascinating. Despite this, it does not lack modern comfort by any means – it is truly worthy of the Luxury Collection label. Add in the food and location, and you can’t really ask for more than this.