Golden nights

The Prague Post

Sleep in style under Prague Castle

Malá Strana’s Nerudova street is routinely packed with tourists making their way along Prague’s Royal Route either to or from the castle. Lucky ones will have booked a room at the Golden Wheel, a boutique hotel about halfway down the street.

“When guests open the door, they smile,” says Petr Šmelhaus, the hotel’s director. “It’s more than they expect.”

The Golden Wheel, opened three years ago, was previously a family home and has retained much of that type of character and quirkiness. The lobby is like a small front parlor, with a huge picture window looking out onto the street. Low, striped upholstered chairs are grouped around a huge glass covered table. Underneath the glass is a clock face — one that’s actually ticking and showing the correct time. A small reception desk is on the right side, while an entrance to the hotel’s café is on the left. Up the back, just like you’d expect in someone’s home, narrow stairs lead to the floors above.

The hotel has 17 guest rooms scattered over five floors; three of the rooms are located in back of the building in the “villa.” Outdoor steps bring you to the room’s entrances, and, as a bonus for all the guests, there is a small garden nestled in the back, complete with grass, park benches, rose bushes, an ivy-covered wall and, most importantly, excellent views of the city’s Lesser Quarter.

Touches of home can be seen throughout the property as you wander its narrow corridors, up and down random flights of short steps. A framed painting here, vases and pots of fresh flowers scattered about. When you bump into the glass elevator, you are momentarily startled. Look closely while waiting for the lift. On each floor, in the elevator shaft, are paintings — elliptical renditions of Prague scenes painted by Ulian and Veronika Benoni.

“Because this is an old house, each room is different,” Šmelhaus explains. “Some have a terrace, some with hand-painted wooden beam ceilings, some with an office nook.”

The look of the rooms is very reserved. Mauve and cream colors dominate. The floors are a light wood, with a slightly darker wood for the furnishings. Wall sconces give off soft light and the artwork is simple photos of sites around Prague, matted and framed in brushed silver frames. The bathrooms are surprisingly modern: the tiles are black and white, and a huge white basin sinks perched on a black marble counter. Large mirrors topped with big spotlights ensure a well-lit grooming area.

One of Šmelhaus’ favorite spaces is the Panorama Suite. Spread over two floors, its slanted windows offer excellent views. The bottom floor has the main bathroom and living space, while up a set of steep stairs you come to the bedroom with small windows tucked under the sloping eaves and a big bed partially embedded in the raised floor.

Another spot to take advantage of is the hotel’s glass balcony, which gives way to some good photo ops. Off one of the hallways, there’s a small square glass porch for those brave enough to step onto it. Šmelhaus believes this contrast of stylistic time periods is one of the hotels’ unique selling points.

The Italian developer, Nino Altomonte, “was very involved in the reconstruction, and he inserted modern contrasts but not to destroy the atmosphere of the old,” Šmelhaus says. “The balcony is modern — the facade is old.”

Reconstruction of the building, which was almost completely destroyed, took about a year. The basement dates to the 15th century, but a fire at the end of the 17th century destroyed the building portion so the current structure dates to about then.

The hotel’s Arcadia Café is a big example of where designers went for fun, in a progressive way. The café is a narrow space set off to one side of the building, with a separate entrance from the street. A long black bench takes up one wall with light wood and red tile tables and gray upholstered chairs to match. The bar area is in the middle and tucked away in the back is a second space, which is also where the hotel serves breakfast to its guests.

After sampling one of the more than 30 different types of hot chocolate the café offers, be sure to stop by and experience its bathrooms. The ceiling is the typical historic curved brick covered one that’s seen in many buildings from this time period. Straight back is a hanging sink and to the left are toilet cubes of frosted glass. Looking like they were partitions simply dropped from above, the first box has a sink, while the second one holds the toilet.

So while the café bathrooms aren’t something you normally run across while visiting someone else’s home, the Golden Wheel, on the whole, will be sure to provide a warm and homey atmosphere to all who enter.

“We try and make it comfortable for the clients, so they feel better here than when they are at home,” Šmelhaus says.