Outstanding Christmas markets, private yoga lessons and a rooftop Jacuzzi with bubbles – say hello to your luxury and last-minute getaway…
The countdown to Christmas is on. There are lights in every window, trees on every corner, and Mariah Carey is on repeat – whether you like it or not.
While I’m no Grinch (I’ve been keen to put up my decorations since mid-November), the stress of Christmas can be overwhelming. Shopping can be a nightmare – do kids still want slime in their stockings? – and don’t get me started on the packed commute in December…
It’s fair to say I was looking to shake off the stress that comes with this time of year and instead embrace all the things that I love about Christmas – the food, the snow, the carols, the mulled wine. I wanted to throw myself into all things festive with a truly magical getaway without having to spend weeks organising it.
So I did just that.
There is so much more to Prague than cheap beer and hen parties. Whether you want to explore the city in a vintage car, experience some of the best restaurants the city has to offer, or simply relax with a snooze-inducing massage, Utopian can organise these unique experiences prior to your stay so that when you arrive all you have to do is enjoy the beautiful city. A luxury last-minute city break without the headache of trying to work out how much you can cram into forty-eight hours. Sounds like the dream, right?
Arriving at The Emblem, you’ll instantly notice how perfectly located this boutique hotel is. Just a stone throw away from the Old Town Square and a 100m walk to the world famous Christmas markets, it’s set in the very heart of Prague. You’re never more than a few minutes walk away from the city’s top restaurants, famous landmarks, and it even has its own spa – but more on that later.
If you arrive early, head down to the The M Lounge where you can help yourself to tea, coffee and juices and entertain yourself with books, board games or the telly while you wait. I stayed in a Queen Dom room, a compact and modern room with a balcony overlooking the cobbled road, a much-needed Nespresso machine and even some socks for purchase in the wardrobe. Each room boasts a smart phone at your disposal which is hooked up with 4g so you can take it out and about with you. You’ll never get lost when wandering down the city’s quaint streets, and you can also use it to book tables at top restaurants, find recommendations for things to do and make phone calls to home.
However, the gem in The Emblem’s crown has to be the rooftop Jacuzzi which overlooks the city and can be privately booked for one hour to allow yourself to really unwind (with a bottle of bubbly, no less). Think stunning views of snow-covered rooftops while you’re warming your bones in a steaming hot tub. Perfect.
Once you’ve finished with the jacuzzi, head straight to the treatment rooms for a classic massage. Let your stresses melt away with an hour of full body relaxation and let go of any niggles – just enjoy being completely pampered.
But before you rush back to your room for a snooze, head to the seventh floor and experience the first-class M Spa which includes a sauna and a steam room. You can retreat to the spa’s relaxation room and even book in a private yoga lesson to really get your zen on. Guests have full access to the facilities, which also includes a gym, and additional services can be booked through Utopian before your arrival – they also offer a 25% spa discount. No reason not to book that massage…
After a long day unwinding, there’s nothing quite like hopping under the rainfall shower, making yourself a cup of tea and throwing on your bathrobe. Bliss.
Once you’ve made the most of the hotel facilities, visit the gorgeous Christmas markets in the Old Town Square, the biggest and oldest festive market in Prague. You’ll get the chance to see live singing and dancing on the performance stage, watch the lights twinkle on the enormous Christmas tree, and pick up some traditional gifts for your loved ones at home. Be prepared to dip in and out of a range of stalls – there are tonnes of arts and crafts, food, and sweet treats on offer.
While you’ll want to pick up some hand painted postcards of the city, you’ll also want to dig into some of the world famous food. Feast on mouth-watering slices of Pražská Šunka, or Prague ham, which is roasted over an open flame, and pick up a famous grilled red sausage, known as Pražská klobása. And make sure you give the mashed potato with bacon a go. Wash it all down with a (very reasonably priced) local beer.
Don’t forget to try trdelnik, a traditional Prague dessert also known as chimney cake – it’s a hollow tube of delicious sweet dough (think a mix between a doughnut and churros) complete with a healthy dollop of Nutella in the middle.
While staying in this gorgeous city it would be a sin not to explore. However, with December temperatures dipping to -7 degrees you probably won’t want to be wandering around for too long. Instead, take a vintage car tour to see some of Prague’s most famous landmarks. Ride top down if the weather is fair, but if you’re feeling the chill you can have the car zipped up with a plastic cover, making it into a lovely little bubble car that includes a heater and blankets to keep you warm. Take in the grand orchestra house, the World War II memorials, the churches, and the Lennon Wall on this hour-long tour.
All these activities are bound to make you hungry, and luckily the city hosts some real gastronomical experiences. Head to Cuban restaurant La Bodeguita del Medio on Kaprova for some creole specials, latin music and very cool graffitied walls. Try the beef tenderloin with crispy, floury potatoes, and a cooling salsa verde.
An unparalleled taste of Italy is also on your doorstep. Find La Finestra just a minute’s walk from the hotel, offering a range of delicious plates including a grilled octopus and wild boar ravioli. If you want something light, try the burrata, avocado and mango salad. It’s divine.
For a more traditional dinner, go straight past the Christmas market to get to U Modré Kachničky II on Michalská and ask for a table upstairs. Think candlelit tables, a live piano player and warm, homely decor. You have to go big and opt for the tasting platter. Seven courses, including veal pate, maple-wood smoked duck breast, fruit sorbet, roasted roll of veal leg, roast duck, haunch of venison and chocolate cake – you’ll get a taste of everything the menu has to offer, which goes well with a glass of Czech cuvée quatre.
But for the ultimate fine dining experience you absolutely have to visit George Prime Steak, located in The Emblem itself. Offering a selection of the highest quality beef, your waiter will even bring you a tray of each cut served on the menu to show you what to expect, along with insight into its flavours and suggestions of how your steak should be cooked. Start with the smoked Scottish salmon and trio of caviar, followed by the Porterhouse for two – a tender T-bone that will melt in your mouth. Add some black truffle mac & cheese and some creamed spinach au gratin – you won’t be disappointed.
Once you’re ready to hit the pillow, head straight to the Headspace app to unwind as you cosy up in bed. Utopian Hotel Collection offers complimentary access to the app for all their customers, allowing you to listen to the full meditation library throughout your stay and beyond. Whether you’re a nervous flyer, you need help nodding off or you simply want to unwind after a long day, plug in your headphones and allow your mind to relax, leaving the bustling city at the door.
How to book:
You can book a truly unique getaway with Utopian Hotel Collection through their website.
Rates and Prices
The Emblem Hotel Queen Dom Room: £160 per night (subject to time of year)
Private yoga class: £52
Classic Massage: £85
Rooftop pool: £77
So what are you waiting for?