May 07, 2009

Western Europe, pay attention: your neighbors to the east are in the middle of a design-hotel boom. PRAGUE Aria Hotel (9 Trziste, Mala Strana; 212/201-1155; www.ariahotel.net; doubles from $330) takes its operatic name seriously. Mosaic-tile floors are imprinted with musical notes; rooms are decorated with caricatures of Puccini and Mozart. Another Prague property, Carlo IV (13 Senovazne Namesti; 39-049/828-7777; www.prague.boscolohotels.com; doubles from $420), was reimagined by architects Adam D. Tihany and Maurizio Papiri. Formerly a bank, it has been transformed into a 150-room Renaissance jewel, with gold fabric-draped columns and glowing cocktail tables. TALLINN, ESTONIA In three interconnected medieval houses dating backto 1362, Three Sisters (71 Pikk, 2 Tolli; 800/337-4685; www.designhotels.com; doubles from $300, including breakfast) fuses modern and classic styles—Le Corbusier armchairs, antique canopy beds. ZAGREB, CROATIA At the Arcotel Allegra (29 Branimirova; 385-1/469-6000; www.arcotel.cc; doubles from $210), the first boutique property in the city, linens are silk-screened with the faces of inspirational travelers such as Galileo, Hemingway, and Picasso.
—Robert Maniaci

Three Sisters Hotel

Boscolo Carlo IV

The sign outside the Hotel Carlo IV, which reads Czech Mortgage Bank (a reference to the building’s 1890 financial roots), and its lobby with marble floors and gilded stuccowork are the first indications that Hapsburg-era opulence awaits inside this Neoclassical bank building in Prague’s city center. Half of the 152 guest rooms maintain this Baroque style (original carved-wood headboards, mahogany furniture, frescoed wall panels), as does the sprawling Roman-bath-style spa, while the suites in the contemporary wing feature clean lines and a muted sage-and-green palette. Public spaces are a sleek, steel-and-glass affair, with appealingly low lights by illumination guru Adam D. Tihany. But design aside, what ultimately turns first-time visitors into repeat guests is the Boscolo brand’s patented Italian service: from bellboys to concierges, the staff warmly attends to guests’ every request—often before they’ve made it.

Aria Hotel

An Italian mosaic representing an ancient Gregorian chant bridges the distance from the front gates to the main entrance of the Aria Hotel, a music-themed luxury property in Malá Strana. Just a four-minute walk from the Charles Bridge, the hotel is adjacent to the Vrtbovská Garden, the oldest Baroque garden in Prague. Each of the 52 guestrooms is dedicated to a musical style or artist—such as Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, or Mozart—with corresponding artwork, books, and preloaded iPods. The Aria also contains a music library of more than 1,000 CDs, a private screening room, and the French-influenced, fine-dining Coda restaurant.

The ARCOTEL Allegra

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