Want to hear a secret before everyone else finds out? Prague,
a snow-dusted, almost mythical, stunningly beautiful city located
along the banks of the Vltava River in the heart of Europe, is "the" place to be during the holiday Season.
Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic and the gateway to the
Old World, is rich in culture, romance, music, history - albeit
a sometimes bittersweet history - and just oozes with winter charm.
medieval streets are awash in a sea of architectural masterpieces,
and its panoramic skyline, etched with venerable towers and
spires of antiquated cathedrals, monasteries, convents, bridges,
and castles, is the idyllic backdrop for crispy winter days
when the sky is so blue and clear that it defies the imagination.
the Middle Ages, Prague has always been known as one of the
most picturesque cities in the world because of its blending
of natural beauty with its myriad of architectural styles including
Baroque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Romanesque. For the traveler,
this means uniquely wonderful places to explore, including:
Mala Strana, the "little quarter" neighborhood that
sprang from 9th century market settlements that includes the
Charles Bridge - lively with street musicians and vendors
- and Prague Castle. The ancient hilltop castle, unbelievably
pretty at night as its golden lights dapple the entire city
with an ethereal glow, was once home to the royalty of Bohemia.
the residential district around the west gate of the Prague
Castle became a town in 1320. Cool factor: Mozart supposedly
composed some of his music at Strahov Monastery.
Hill, an amalgamation of eight parks with plenty of trails perfect
for brisk afternoon walks. It is said that from the top of the
Petrin Tower, you can see all the way to the woodlands of Bohemia
south of the city.
touristy-yet-fun Old Town Square, the heartbeat of Prague
since the 10th century, that is a maelstrom of shops, markets,
cafes, and even horse-drawn beer wagons.
the Old Jewish Quarter that contains the remnants of Prague's
former Jewish ghetto, a number of striking synagogues, and
the Old Jewish Cemetery, all of which the Nazis once cruelly
declared a "museum of an extinct race."
is especially pretty during the Christmas holidays when the
entire city becomes a gift-wrapped wonderland of color decorations,
and lights. Toss in the heat of crackling fireplaces and the
piquant taste of hot wine sold everywhere by street vendors,
and this is winter's charm at its best. But here's another part
of the secret: there is no better place to enjoy the warmth
of the season than at the Aria Hotel, a hotel that is the essence
of Prague itself and absolutely unlike any other in the world.
Aria manages to blend together in one neat package all of the
elements of class, style, elegance, history, and most importantly,
a deep appreciation for music and its importance to Prague.
Aria, located in the Mala Strana, is a reminder of the greatest
composers and performers of all time. The four guest floors
of the Aria are dedicated to a particular genre of music that
helped shape Prague into what it is today. Each of the guestrooms
features the music and history of a different artist or genre.
On the classical floor, for example, there are rooms dedicated
to Brahms and Bernstein; on the contemporary floor, the guestrooms
highlight the musical styles of British Rock and Bossa Nova.
On the opera floor, you can drift to sleep to the music of Puccini
and Mozart, or you can opt to sway to the soulful sounds of
Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday on the jazz floor.
it's true that music soothes the soul, then a holiday stay at
the aptly named Aria will humble even the most grinchiest of
grinches. With distinctive rooms such as the "Music Salon,"
with its berry-red hued walls, leather furniture, and working
fireplace, the sophisticated Aria will feature special holiday
programs all throughout the Christmas season. The Aria also
has a rooftop garden, which is just right for enjoying a glass
of fine wine, and afternoon snowfall, and the jingling of sleigh
bells in the distance.
music connoisseurs may be hard-pressed to leave the Aria at
all, there are scores of other holiday fairs and musical offerings
scattered throughout the city. As you wander the cobblestone
streets listening to festive music and plundering through Christmas
markets, the aroma of gingerbread, cinnamon and traditional
Czech fruit pastries like kolache make the season brighter than
are outdoor performances with everything from church choirs
to professional ensembles. And if you're fortunate enough to
be in Prague on Christmas Eve, there is a mass at Old Town Square
with performances by the State Opera and National Theatre.
no place quite as amazing as Prague at Christmas," says
Hilda, a transplanted American now living in Prague. "Ti's
really exciting and romantic, just like you expect Christmas
even try to rent a car, as the streets are very narrow
and local drivers are quite aggressive. Prague is definitely
a walking city, but with its cobbled streets, bring good
walking shoes. While Czech is the official language, most
local people have basic knowledge of the English Language.
But Christmas cheer, snow-filled days, and visions of
sugarplums dancing in your head are universal, so language
barriers seem to not matter at all.
more information, visit www.prague-info.cz.
the Aria at www.ariahotel.net or call for reservation, toll-free, at (888) 454-ARIA.
Czech Airlines by visitng the website at www.czechairlines.com or by calling toll-free at (800) 223-2365.