As a little girl, I was told that anyone who referred to themselves as a Bohemian simply meant they were free spirits. Imagining long, cotton skirts that moved in the air as you twirled, massive oversized hoop earrings, a certain je ne sais quoi—that is what I had in mind when I went to visit Bohemia decades into my adulthood.
The moment I landed in the Czech Republic, it instantly seduced me with its natural beauty and expressive passion. Bohemia is a region of romanticism. It’s the place where artists took traditional art forms and made them modern. It’s where writers who, for fear of persecution, wrote in silence or underground, in the labyrinth of an ancient city that still exists below the streets.
History + Design
Of all the cities in Bohemia, Prague is the place that drew creatives in droves. Great writers such as Franz Kafka were inspired here to expose the humor in the human condition. (The place where he did much of his work is now a Sofitel Hotel.) It’s where Milan Kundera’s fictional lovers ravaged each other and toyed with ideas of sexuality generations before it was socially acceptable.
Prague’s history of wartime activity is worth exploring as well. It’s where the assassination of General der Polizei Reinhard Heydrich took place during WWII—one of the only successful assassinations of a high-ranking Nazi officer. Prague was also one of the few European cities left relatively intact during the war, so traversing through the old town is like being transported to yesteryear. Let’s face it: Prague is pretty badass.
The city is an architecture enthusiast’s dream. Brightly colored Art Deco facades adorn the cobblestone streets. You’ll likely come across an array of styles from gothic and rococo to functionalism and the Moorish revival. There are remnants of the Communist era evident in city canals and streets.
Among the city’s celebrated modern structures, the work of world-renowned architects still stands out: the über-modern Dancing House by Frank Gehry and Jože Plečnik’s Church of the Most Sacred Heart. Nearby, you’ll see houses with stained glass, statues and ornate ironwork adorning front doors, and corner windows, making you feel like you’ve stepped into an Alphonse Mucha poster.
For a different kind of historic adventure, take a tour of the city’s underground tunnels dating back to the 13th century. To book an underground tour, visit prague-underground-tours.com.
Above ground, walkways run parallel to the Vltava River, which runs alongside Bohemian Forest and is about a third of the Czech Republic territory. Cafes, parks, and sculptures line the route. When you’re in the mood for divine cake and coffee, grab a seat on the outside patio at Bella Vida Café.
The Swagger of Schwaiger
Originally built in 1849, the Hotel Schwaiger served for years as a family residence under the name Villa Klára. Registered as a Czech Republic cultural heritage site since 1921 under the name Villa Schwaiger, the hotel underwent a full transformation and in August of 2017 opened its doors as Hotel Schwaiger, an exclusive four-star boutique hotel. Reminiscent of the 1920s, clean lines and solid colors accentuate the picturesque refinement of modern affluence. Alongside its sister property, Pod Vezi, the Hotel Schwaiger offers a modern interpretation of the spirit of Prague that fostered some of the world’s most creative artists, academics, and artisans. Prague is sexy. And so is the Hotel Schwaiger. hotelschwaiger.cz
The Czech Republic is home to an abundance of dining experiences, and while it may not hold the most Michelin stars, its food speaks to the culture. At V Zahradě at the Hotel Schwaiger, the chef, Radek Ryška, shows his knowledge of Czech cuisine by taking traditional dishes and infusing them with modern flavors and textures that take you through a culinary wonderland. Coupled with freshly baked breads, every locally sourced dish can appease even the most selective palates.
With exciting creations such as cream of goat cheese served with pumpkin and pistachio or smoked trout with marinated cucumber and ash bread, Ryška has created more than just a meal. Soft jazz, fresh bouquets, and handmade colored glasses adorning each table make for one unforgettable introduction to modern Czech cuisine.
Nothing at the Hotel Schwaiger is typical. According to the hotel’s manager, Martin Čelko, the hotel keeps the best of the old and twists it with the new, all while preserving the artistic spirit known to the region. “We wanted the hotel to be eco-friendly and economical to the customer while offering high-quality products.” Čelko says. “A decade of research helped our team circumvent common problems guests have and fine-tune our mission for the hotel.”
If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of visiting Prague, I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s a city of unsung heroes, impeccable beauty, artistic inspiration, and unparalleled hospitality. If you’re searching for that Bohemian je ne sais quoi, you’ll feel its essence the moment you arrive. That feeling is the epitome of luxury.