Standing out as a luxury hotel can’t be easy. To make a meaningful notch in the market, a property generally needs either a unique history, a killer location or some other defining singularity. Step forward Prague’s One Room Hotel, which foregoes the usual approach by having a solitary bed.
“Welcome. Come with me please,” says concierge Lucie, ushering me towards the lift. I’ve just checked in on the ground floor of Tower Park Praha, better known as the Žižkov Television Tower. The building might have only one guestroom, but it stretches the definition of boutique. At 709ft in height, it’s the tallest structure in the Czech capital by some distance. Its construction began in the Soviet era, and it stands on the skyline like a gawky, oversized rocket that’s inadvertently landed in one of Europe’s most exquisite baroque cities.
This isn’t your average communications mast. People say the tower was originally built to scramble radio signals from West Germany. Today, thanks to the work of conceptual artist David Cerny, it also has nine giant naked babies permanently crawling up its exterior. Six pods are fixed at different heights to the central spine of the tower: three of these are observation decks, one is a cocktail bar and another is a restaurant. The remaining pod — hanging around 230ft above ground, just out of reach of one of the shaft-scaling babies — is my room for the night.
Leaving the lift, we emerge first at the welcome desk for the restaurant. Lucie leads me up a set of spiral metal steps, then through an unmarked door between two restrooms. At the far end of a dark vestibule, she opens a further door and a wide, light, flower-filled suite appears. Lucie lists a couple of points — minibar drinks cost extra, room service is available until 11pm, there’s a second TV embedded in the bathroom mirror — then, with a smile, she’s gone.
The suite is extremely comfortable. There’s a king-size bed, a glass-walled bathroom and a living room area. Five large vases of lilies are positioned like scented sentinels. It’s very quiet. I move over to the double-glazed windows. One-hundred feet below, a pigeon flies past. The view is spectacular, even though it faces east, rendering the castle and Old Town frustratingly invisible. The windows are collectively around 30ft wide. I find myself wondering who cleans them.
I make an espresso, then play with the electric blinds. I wander over to the bathroom and investigate the myriad shower settings. I flick through the hotel directory, where I read that guests can surprise a partner by arranging for a ‘love message’ to appear outside the suite window, held by a member of staff who’ll abseil down with a large sign in his hands. It sounds frightening for all concerned. Maybe he’s also the person that cleans the windows.
On the TV, the Czech Republic are playing Russia at ice hockey. It’s surprisingly watchable, although my eyes are soon pulled back to the window. Highway traffic is filing in and out of the city, and the sight from up on high is almost hypnotic. On the TV, the Russians take the lead, then the Czechs equalise, and I eventually twig that the match is going on somewhere in ground-level Prague and I stare out of the window again, trying to spot where it might be.
In the evening, I walk out to a local pub for something to eat. There are people on the pavement taking pictures of the tower, now illuminated in the red, white and blue of the national flag. By the time I’m back, the restaurant and cocktail bar are both busy, although up in the suite itself there’s no noise but the hum of the air con.
I sleep well, with the exception of one five-minute period in the dead of night where I wake up and realise I’ve no idea whether I’m the only person up the tower. I try not to think too hard about this, or about the giant babies perched outside, and stir again just before dawn. Opening the blinds, I catch the first rays of a tangerine sun spilling over the city. The morning sky, lined with aeroplane contrails, looks astoundingly beautiful.
When I descend the spiral stairs for breakfast, a waiter is already poised. He shows me to a corner table in the empty restaurant. Other diners (outsiders from the real world — the nerve!) appear soon after. It’s surprising how quickly you get used to being 230ft above ground, but there must be few more indulgent ways of starting the day in Prague than busying yourself with an omelette and good coffee while the Old Town glows to life in the distance.