Prague Hotels: Holiday Inn Prague Congress Centre Reviewed
Why We Chose This Hotel
After deciding on Prague as a destination and booking flights, accommodation was next on our list. Our Prague trip was slightly unusual, as it was structured around free stays in the middle in two top-class hotels. But we needed to find a base for the nights before and after. Holiday Inn Prague Congress Centre ticked the box on three criteria.
- It was in a good location, within 5 minutes walk of a metro station, which got us into central Prague within minutes.
- It came at a good price, with a very favorable IHG rewards points rate per night.
- It had an executive lounge, which we could access for free food and non-alcoholic drinks if we got upgraded to an executive room.
Getting to the Hotel From Prague Airport
After a night at Holiday Inn Prague Airport on arrival in the Czech Republic, we were pleased to find that the transfer to Holiday Inn Prague Congress Centre was easy. We took bus 100 to Zlicin, where we picked up the metro (line B/ the yellow line) to Florenc. Here we changed onto line C/ the red line in the direction of Haje. We got off at Vysehrad and, as we came out of the metro station, we saw the Congress Centre in front of us.
Holiday Inn Prague Congress Centre is located around the other side of the Congress Centre. It usually took us 5 minutes to walk from the hotel to the metro, slightly longer with luggage on arrival.
As we passed the Congress Centre, we came to a large granite-faced building of 6 floors, with a lower wing at right angles. We were reassured to see the recognizable Holiday Inn logo. Although the hotel looked out over the entrance to an underground car park, an attempt had been made to disguise this with a large border area of shrubs as well as a number of large plant pots near the entrance. There was also a row of flags in front of the hotel.
We passed a coffee shop, serving light snacks, on our way to the canopied front entrance. The lobby area was entered through automatic revolving doors.
There was a table with a jug of water, flanked by tall plant pots and interesting plastic floral arrangements. To the right, there were low-slung modern chairs and also some cash machines. A modern reception was located along the back wall. The grey tile floors of the entrance area gave way to a well worn wooden floor to the left of the entrance. Tables with chairs covered in grey or cream material had been placed here as an overspill seating area from the bar, which was located towards the rear of the building.
An interesting silver-framed floral display divided the seating off from the main reception area. The low hanging lights were unusual in this area, as they had a collection of handwritten thank you notes hanging from them.
There was a grand piano in the bar area. The artexed ceiling appeared a little dated, as did the old air conditioning vents. We could see an entrance to the restaurant and a conservatory area beyond, at the back of the hotel.
Arriving at 11.30 am, we were a little early for the 2.00 pm check-in. A very efficient trainee explained that our room would probably not be ready, but that we could store our luggage. He confirmed that we had been given a complimentary upgrade to an executive room, due to IHG Rewards Club status. Our room turned out, after all, to be ready. Our executive room keycard would also unlock the door to the executive lounge, which was music to our ears. We were directed towards the lifts beyond the bar area.
If you plan on staying in InterContinental Hotel Group hotels, it is worth joining the Rewards Club. Membership has its benefits, such as reduced stay rates. As you go up the tier status, the benefits increase, with potential free room upgrades. It is also worth researching relevant credit cards, which can boost your tier status.
Our Room, Stay One
Room 536 was, as the number suggests, on the 5th floor of the main building. The corridor was wide, well lit, and decorated to a high standard with a good quality carpet. The wide oak door of our room was unlocked with a touch of the key.
To the left was a narrower wooden door into the bathroom and to the right the wardrobe area. Beyond, there was a desk area, with the bed facing it. A tall window around 40cm off the ground looked out over the front of the hotel. The UPVC window opened to the side, restricted by low bars and an external metal shutter-effect decoration. There was an interconnecting door in the far corner.
The fitted wardrobe area had a sliding mirror door halfway along with a vertical chrome handle. A shelf ran along the top and hanging spaces were split into a tall and slightly shorter one. There were also 5 small shelves.
The rest of the fitted furniture in the room was in a pale wood color with grey trim. A good-sized wooden suitcase holder with chrome ribs on the base, backing and to one side, started off the desk/dressing table unit with a useful gap below it. Below the moderately-sized desktop, there was an opaque glass door into a pricey, but well-stocked minibar. On the wall behind, wooden backing led up to a decent-sized flatscreen TV.
A high-backed, wooden framed chair with a padded back and seat stood at the desk. This was matched by an armchair in the opposite corner. A chrome-based single side support coffee table with a wooden top was in front of the window.
The bed was king-size on a base with low wooden legs. There was a wooden fitted headboard with three sections of padded cushioning and a grey-trimmed shelf on each side.
Three walls were painted cream and the one behind the bed was papered in a beige color. Aside from this, the dominant color was blue. The pattern of the carpet was in shades of blue and the frame of the wardrobe was in a dull blue. The material on the seating was in a turquoise blue. The blue theme was picked up by two small cushions on the bed and a throw across the bottom. At the window, there were full-length white net and also blue curtains, which were effective at keeping out the light.
The bed sheet, pillows, and duvets (there were two single ones) were white and the bed base was beige. The padded sections on the headboard were covered in a bronze-colored material.
Heating and Lighting
There was efficient air-conditioning in the room and also a low radiator below the window.
The room was well-lit from several light sources. There was a ceiling light above the main door. A free-standing standard lamp on a chrome base with a cream rectangular fabric shade stood in the far corner. The lamps on either side of the bed had similar matching shades and also had integral reading lights. There was a chrome and black anglepoise desk lamp and also useful strip lighting in the wardrobe.
The room was well served with power points. There were three by the desk and three more near the bed.
There were 7 hangers in the wardrobe and 3 trouser hangers. I make a note of this because I had a friend who used to pack her case with clothes on wire hangers, ready to be lifted out at her holiday destination. She said that it saved time and that there were never enough hangers in hotels. I often remember her advice when I run short of hangers!
The wardrobe was also home to an iron and an ironing board, as well as two bathrobes, two pairs of hotel slippers, a clothes brush, shoe horn, shoe polish, and a sewing kit.
There was a telephone on the desktop. The safe located below the desktop was operated by the room key and the bin was positioned below it. A rectangular grey framed mirror was located on the wall above the desktop. A trouser press stood in the corner of the room.
Refreshments with a Surprise
In addition to the minibar, we found two complimentary small bottles of water with two small milky way bars on the desktop upon arrival. The room was well-equipped with two wine glasses, two tumblers, and two branded coasters. A full-sized kettle came with two mugs and a bowl containing tea, coffee, fruit tea, sugar, and sachets of creamer.
When we returned to our room later in the day we were pleasantly surprised to find two bottles of still water, two of sparkling and a quarter bottle (187ml) of Czech red wine. There was also a dish containing peanuts, walnuts, dried fruit, and two Prague versions of chocolate club biscuits. This was accompanied by a letter from the manager, welcoming us to the hotel and hoping we would stay again.
There was a turndown service on the executive floors. So each evening we would return to find the duvets turned down, the curtains drawn and a Prague chocolate on each pillow.
Thoughts on our Room
The room was of moderate size, but it had been tastefully decorated and well-maintained, making optimal use of the space available. In comparison with other similarly branded rooms, it deserved its executive description.
A marble black and grey doorstep was at the entrance to the bathroom. The room had a light and airy feel about it with large cream floor and wall tiles. There were also decorative rows of very small mosaic black and bronze tiles around the edges, near the sink, and halfway up the wall.
Fixtures and Fittings
The white bathroom suite looked reasonably modern. The sink and surrounding top were a single unit. There was a large mirror behind the sink, as well as a wall-mounted chrome circular shaving mirror on a retractable support. Tissues were in a chrome wall-mounted holder and there was a hairdryer on the wall nearby.
The toilet was mounted on the wall opposite the door with a heated towel rail fixed to the wall above it.
The bath had a shower over it running off chrome mixer taps with a hose and shower head on a vertical rail, all enclosed with a partial glass shower screen. There were chrome racks for toiletries, as well as a grab rail by the bath and a towel rail at the far end.
There were some old-fashioned scales (for those who want to track their weight whilst staying in the hotel). A shower mat was rolled up under the sink.
Toiletries and Towels
A Laura Hutton soap dispenser was located by the sink and similarly branded soap and shampoo dispensers near the bath. In addition to this, there was a tray by the sink containing three soaps, nail files, shower caps, bath and shower gel, shampoo, and body lotion (two of each).
There were two hand towels and two bath towels of good quality and generous size, as well as a floor mat/towel.
Despite this being a relatively small bathroom for the standard of room, it made optimal use of the space available. The room was brightly lit, well-equipped, and decorated to a good standard.
The Executive Lounge
As this was the first occasion that I recall staying in a Holiday Inn with access to an executive lounge, we were keen to check it out. So, shortly after arrival, we headed down to the first floor, where we had been told that it was located. I was surprised that it wasn't on the 5th or 6th floor with the executive rooms. I was even more surprised when I saw the first-floor corridor. The carpet was stained and it compared poorly with corridors on the higher floors. I am guessing that in the gradual refurbishment of the hotel, apparent from the website, that this will be put right.
We gained access to the lounge with our room keycard. The initial impression was disappointing. The lounge consisted of a moderately sized room, containing a sofa, two square wooden tables, pushed together, with six high-backed chairs around them, a further table along the wall, and two units with two small fridges on top of them. The first thing we noticed was the amount of uncleared, used crockery.
Upon further exploration, we noticed that one fridge contained bottled water, juice, and coke and the other a selection of sandwiches. There were more soft drinks in a drawer. On top of one unit, there was a facility for making hot drinks, a selection of cutlery, crockery, cups, and glasses as well as cakes and fresh fruit.
We also noticed access to a larger meeting room, which had three desks, four large swivel office chairs, two sofas, a laptop, and a printer. The latter was useful at a later date for printing off our boarding passes for the return flight.
Despite our initial disappointing impressions, we made good use of this room during both our stays. Returning later on day one, we were encouraged to find that all the dirty crockery had been cleared, the fridge had been restocked with fresh sandwiches and there was a selection of apples, pears, and satsumas as well as more cakes.
We got accustomed to a routine of stopping by in the morning for a coffee and snack, grabbing some soft drinks for the day, before setting out sightseeing. On our return, we would often stop by the executive lounge for a light meal of sandwiches, fruit, and cake. This was a rare trip abroad when we didn't need to buy any bottled water.
When supplies were running low, a quick call from the phone in the corner of the room to reception would result in a staff member appearing reasonably promptly with more food. This worked well until the day when we got back later than usual, only to be told that food was not available after 8.00 pm We later found a notice under the sideboard, saying that food was available from 10.00 am until 8.00 pm.
This was not the best executive lounge I have ever been in. Our best experiences have been in Crowne Plaza and Hilton hotels. But we considered it a bonus in a Holiday Inn and certainly better than nothing.
Food and Drink
After accommodation, refreshments come next on the list. Whilst the executive lounge was a bonus, it did not cover all of our food and drink requirements.
We were offered the option of breakfast at check-in for 16 Euros each, which we declined. We had brought cereals from home, as well as disposable bowls and spoons. All we needed to buy was some long-life milk from a convenience store on a neighboring road or from a small supermarket in the Muzeum metro station.
Obviously, the executive lounge fell a little short of providing a main meal. As we tend to find dining in hotels is not the cheapest option, on day one we enquired at reception about nearby dining options. We were told of three nearby choices. There was a restaurant opposite the hotel, an Italian and a restaurant at the side of the hotel, serving food all day. We opted for the latter, V Case, a Czech bar, where we enjoyed stuffed rabbit, chicken risotto, and apple strudel with cream, washed down with Czech wine or beer for a total of 549 Czech Koruna. We planned on returning but never made it, as we ate out in Prague the other days, whilst sightseeing.
As is customary in InterContinental Hotel Group hotels, we were offered the choice of drinks vouchers or welcome points, due to IHG Rewards Club membership. We chose the former and later on day one, duly headed down to the bar.
Unfortunately, the experience did not match our expectations. The staff were unfriendly and deliberated at length over the vouchers. Eventually, we were given a glass of wine and a beer. There were no crisps and grudgingly we were given a few nuts.
Tip: When offered the choice of drinks or points, we tend to check first how many drinks are on offer. As a rule, if two drinks are offered, we take them, but if it's only one, we take the points.
There was a note in our room, offering us the option of a drink on the house if we didn't have our room cleaned. Given our less than friendly experience in the bar, we opted for a clean room.
What do you look for in a hotel?
Getting Out and About
If you look at a map of Prague, don't be put off by the impression that the Holiday Inn Prague Congress Centre is a fair way from Prague center. In fact, Prague is a reasonably compact capital city. The hotel is a 5 minutes walk from the metro station at Vysehrad. From here it is possible to take the metro into the center of the city in just a few minutes. The hotel is just over 2 kilometers south of Muzeum metro station, at the top of Wenceslas Square. Trains are frequent and tickets are relatively inexpensive. We used to purchase tickets from the newsagent's stall at the station or, for the braver travelers, there are self-service machines.
The metro system, with just three intersecting lines, is much easier to navigate than those in other European capital cities.
Tip: To avoid on-the-spot fines, always remember to validate your ticket before boarding the metro.
If you prefer a transport-free day, another option is to take a walk around the local area and explore Vysehrad, translated as High Castle. This is the area of Prague first occupied by the Slav tribes and is located a few minutes walk from the hotel.
After four nights in three central Prague hotels, we returned to the Holiday Inn Prague Congress Centre for the last three nights of our stay in the city. Having had a good experience the first time around I was a little wary of how a second visit to the hotel would work. We checked in at 12.30 pm, once again a little early, but we were pleased to find a room ready for us. We were told that we had been given an upgrade, but that there were no executive rooms available on that Tuesday night. The customary drinks offer or welcome points offer was made and we were assured that we could still get access to the executive lounge.
The second-floor corridor contrasted strikingly with that of the fifth floor. It was very ordinary and dated, with orange walls in different shades and a red and orange carpet, which was marked in places.
Our Room, Stay Two
Although the door to room 230 was unlocked with a touch of the keycard, it still had an old fashioned round chrome doorknob and a keyhole. There was also a burglar chain for added security.
It was a large room, with plenty of floor space, despite there being two double beds in the room along the right wall when we arrived, due to a sofabed being laid out. Handy if you have had an argument I guess, but for a couple the use of a sofa is preferable.
The bathroom door was immediately to the left. The ceiling of the first section of the room up to the bathroom wall was lower to accommodate the air conditioning vent.
On the far wall, there was a tall window with a side opening. It was partially covered outside by a decorative metal grille.
A fitted wardrobe was located on the same wall as the main door. It had a single sliding mirrored door. There were four pale wood narrow shelves with additional storage space below them and a wider shelf across the top of the wardrobe. A narrow hanging space extended to the carpet and there was a shorter hanging space towards the wall with a shelf above.
The sofa bed/futon had an unusually high and sloping back.
The bed was made up of two single bed bases and mattresses, held together with one large sheet. The pillows were large.
The long worktop along the opposite wall had several scratches on its surface. At the left-hand end, there was a double shelved unit below the worktop with a sliding wooden door to conceal the safe.
Further along, in the corner there was a tall cupboard, concealing the minibar.
Two walls were in shades of grey, as was the sofa bed. The other walls, in cream, were marked. The carpet was in a dark grey pattern. An armchair had a grey frame and grey padding on the seat and back. A black swivel office chair was a little stained. The skirting board was a silver color. The bathroom door had a chrome strip across the middle, which was marked and the round chrome doorknob was dented. Two side panels of the wardrobe were an opaque grey. The wardrobe frame was dark grey.
The low hung ceiling was painted pale grey, but the larger higher ceiling area was white.
The furniture was in a mixture of colors. A bedside cabinet had an orange frame with a pale wood front on its drawer, mottled beige marble top, and a blue/grey wall backing. This was repeated on the other side. A grey-based lamp had a cream shade, which was cracked in places. The headboard was in pale wood.
Sheets and duvets were white with an orange runner across the bottom. The bed bases were light grey, with pale wood square legs.
There were full-length net curtains at the window, as well as lined blackout curtains in cream. A silver-colored board was above the window.
The worktop along the wall facing the bed was orange framed with a pale wood front and top, resting on a grey metallic one. The backing was grey. The tall cupboard in the corner also had an orange frame with a pale wood front, chrome vertical handle, and a mottled marble effect top. The backing was in a dark grey.
There was a modern piece of wall art on the wall by the mini bar in black and red and chrome edging on the corner of the nearby wall.
Heating and Lighting
There were light switches by the bed, as well as the lamp either side and a plug socket. There were additional sockets by the desk. A standard lamp by the armchair matched the design of the bedside lamps. There were two lights set into the ceiling, one in front of the wardrobe and the other near the door.
The air conditioning control was on the wall near the minibar. We found it noisy when in use.
There was a single pair of slippers in the wardrobe, as well as a shoe polish sponge, shoehorn, shoe polish glove, sewing kit, and laundry bag. There were eight hangers in total, three of these were for trousers.
A chrome folding black webbed material suitcase stand was useful. There was a telephone by the bed, as well as a pad and pencil.
A large square mirror on the wall behind the desktop further emphasized the generous proportions of the room. There was a Grundig alarm clock/radio on the desk as well as a perspex leaflet holder. A large flatscreen TV stood on a black rectangular plinth.
The safe was operated with a keycard, but we found it a little temperamental, which was a concern.
The mini bar detected anything being removed. There was a kettle on the cupboard top with a bowl containing tea, coffee, and creamer.
In addition to the tea/coffee making facilities, we found water, wine, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate in our room later in the day, similar to our experience in the first room.
Thoughts on the Room
In spite of its size, we found the quality of this room disappointing. It had a dated appearance and was showing signs of wear and tear.
Grey was the dominant color of the medium-sized square matt floor tiles and the similar gloss wall tiles along the bath and halfway up the wall, where they gave way to white ones. The top row of tiles was missing, with flaky white paint there instead.
Fixtures and Fittings
The bath on the right was very small, at half or two thirds the normal size. It had a seat or raised area, so there was no hope of an adult stretching out in there and it appeared dated. There was a shower running off the taps with a flexible hose on an adjustable chrome bar. A chrome towel rail was over the bath and there was a grab handle with a toiletry rack by it. The whole area was enclosed by a white double shower curtain in a square pattern, hanging from a curved chrome rail.
The wall-mounted toilet looked slightly out of place, as it appeared more modern than the rest of the bathroom suite. Above it, there was a heated towel rail.
The sink was located in an alcove to the left of the door. It formed a single unit with the white top. Behind it, there was a large mirror, with strip light above it. There was a chrome-framed, wall-mounted shaving mirror on the right and also a chrome soap dish.
Tissues were in a chrome container, mounted on the wall above the toilet. There were two tumblers by the sink. A small discolored hairdryer was attached to the wall and there was a shaver socket nearby. A shower mat was rolled up under the sink unit.
Toiletries and Towels
There was a wall-mounted Lux branded shower gel dispenser by the bath. Toiletries on a plastic tray by the sink doubled in number while we were out. A liquid soap dispenser was mounted on the wall near the sink. There were two white flannels, two hand towels, two average-sized bath towels, and a floor mat. We requested bathrobes and slippers, which were in the room along with extra toiletries when we returned at 7.00 pm.
Dated and small are the words that best describe the bathroom in room 230. There were also ominous dark mildew marks on the ceiling.
Another Day, Another Room
Our second stay did not start off well. The bedroom qualified as an upgrade on size alone, but the bathroom was a downgrade. The first thing the following day my husband went down to reception and enquired about the chances of moving to another room. The receptionist recognized the small bathroom immediately and was very sympathetic. Later that day we were able to move up to room 637.
Tip: If you don't ask, you won't get. We had nothing to lose by asking politely if there were any executive rooms available the following day. It is in a hotel's interests to do whatever they can to keep their guests happy and in most cases, they do their best to accommodate the wishes of guests.
What do you do if you are not happy with your hotel room?
Our Second Room, Stay Two
It was a case of spot the difference between room 637 and our first room on the fifth floor. Apart from being a floor up and the room being the other way round, they were almost identical. There was no inter-connecting door this time and the small blue cushions were absent from the bed.
This was identical to the one on the fifth floor. There was only one bathrobe and a pair of slippers, but we were soon supplied with another set.
Another Welcome Drink
Having checked in again, we qualified for welcome points or drinks. We chose the latter and our experience was very different from the first time around. This time, in deference to my husband's brand membership status, our choice was much wider. We ended up with a pina colada and a gin and tonic, as well as olives and peanuts. This was a big improvement on the surly service of our first bar visit.
The rating for this hotel was a tough decision. In fairness, it just scraped into the 4-star category. Our stay was not perfect, but in most instances, the staff did all that they could to be helpful. They were not to blame that the hotel was full when we checked in the second time around. Upgrades can only be given if they are available.
The hotel rooms have been gradually refurbished and I have every hope that the second floor will be done in the near future if it has not already been done. In fairness, access to free food and drink in an executive lounge, a rare bonus in a Holiday Inn, can count for a lot in improving a hotel's rating.
Holiday Inn Prague Congress Centre served its purpose for us, as a comfortable base for exploring this fascinating city.
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© 2019 Liz Westwood