Hotel Josef: Prague. Park Plaza Wallstreet: Berlin

These are the two hotels I stayed in.  Both modern, design hotels and as different as day and night.

Hotel Josef is very well run and the front desk with one exception, was perfect.  The exception was not insignificant however….when I got to my room I hated it.  It was grim, barren, faced an apartment complex and was in the beige tiled hallway next to the elevators.  So in the morning it was noisy with house keepers moving about and whenever anyone brought their rolling luggage onto the tile, it was loud…so I went down and told the front desk, they were very understanding, looked and said there was another room they could move me to.  I was heading out for dinner and asked if I should do it now or could I do it when I got back, they assured me I could do it when I got back.  Long story short when I got back they had given it away.  I was, in a word: furious.

Hotel Josef is a super modern hip hotel unlike really anything else in Prague, I found it a refreshing change to come home to something modern after a day of walking about antiquity.

The next day I got a new room which I loved, it over looked the court yard and even though it was essentially the same room there were small differences that made it a completely different experience, even the way the light fixtures were placed in the room….in the first room they made it seem stark and bright in the second warm and cozy. Technologically this is a super advanced hotel with high speed Internet and a top notch tech team.  When they were out of adaptors (I had brought the wrong one) the tech guy had a solution to swap out the cord on my MacBook: genius.

The view from my room:

If you go to Prague and you don’t want an old world hotel experience I heartily recommend Hotel Josef and would consider splurging on a superior room or suite (I staid in the standard room which Hotels.com refers to as a deluxe…confusing and sort of deceiving I think). Just be very clear – you want a non smoking floor, and you do no want to stay in a room ending in the numbers “16 or “18” (in the Orange House I’m not sure how it is configured in the Pink House which is the one facing the street) basically avoid any room in the elevator hallway. Also I think you might get the best deal by booking directly through Design Hotels instead of a consolidator like Hotels.com.

The other thing I really liked about this hotel is the location, it’s 5 minutes to the historic center and just on the edge of “real Prague”, with the metro, trams and a Citibank all within a few blocks.

Very posh cars are available to pick you up and drop you off from where ever you need to be picked up or dropped off from!  I took one to the Train station and it cost 250 Kc  ($13.32 USD for a 5 minute trip about the distance from 14th street to Houston st).  Which was much better then the 500 kc the crooks at the train station charged me when I arrived.

Park Plaza Wallstreet Berlin is one of those places that has on the face of it a lot going for it.  A great location right next to a U Bahn station, good rates and big modern fun rooms.  The lobby is nothing special and the bar area kind of ugly in that cold Ikea modern way.  The elevator is decidedly slow.  The hotel is a converted old courtyard building and should somehow be very charming and cozy: but isn’t.

Or at least I didn’t find it to be.

My three grievances are, in no particular order: they offer: “free Internet” as a marketing ploy, when you book the room.  OK free Internet is a good thing and something essential to me as I am always uploading pictures and online or streaming videos that I might want to post, etc.  I won’t stay in a hotel if internet isn’t included.

Well what you quickly discover when you log onto the the free Internet is that it is basic Internet. So you really can’t stream videos and to upload 4 pictures it took 15 minutes and if you uploaded too many you got a warning message saying you have reached your data quota (or some such thing).

This pissed me off.

And to get proper actual working Internet it was 15 Euro a day ($20.36).  Which the first several times I tried to buy it I was not able to as I kept getting error messages.  Grrrrrrrrrr.   And when I asked the front desk they said: sorry we don’t control that it is done by an outside company so you have to call them.

I did.  They didn’t understand the error message either, but in the end when I paid for it on my credit card instead of to my room it worked fine.  And was very quick and allowed me to do everything I needed.  So, not a hotel for business.

Here is another example of why this is a for shit hotel if you need to get anything done: My friend Malka bought me a pay as you go phone so I would save some money while in Germany and as a birthday present.  She brought it by on the afternoon of the 11th. The front desk of the hotel made no effort what so ever to contact me to say: hey you have something at the front desk.  So 24 hours later I go to the front desk and say: Don’t you have something for me?

The front desk guy looks about then says:  We can’t find where the other front desk people put it and it’s the weekend so we are very busy can you come back Monday?  Which is the day I left.  Needless to say I waited until they found it.

Lastly and probably the most damning, as the other two things are not really important if you are just a tourist and aren’t doing anything at the hotel, but sleeping there.

Sleeping is a challenge here as both times I was placed across from or beside a fire door that was used regularly and at all hours of the day and night and slammed shut.  I was down the hall from the elevator and people would stomp up and down the hall like elephants on stampede and open and close the fire door which in my second room not only would  he slam reverberate thorough my room but a weird suction thing would happen causing the door on my room to rattle and bang.

So at 7 am after going to bed at 3 I hear stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp, BANG, click, rattle, giggle, loud Italian talking (I think it was Italian) BANG (their door closing) Then BANG, BANG (Their door, then fire door closing) then there were the drunk Germans and the people next me whose voices echoed clearly from the adjacent wall….it was like that Sarte Play No Exit– only hell in this instance was the Park Plaza Hotel Wallstreet and unlike the characters in the Sarte play I was, thankfully, able to leave.

In fairness I have to say I really liked my rooms (I stayed at the start and end of my stay – above is my last room – the noisy one) the second one was an executive room with a huge gorgeous bathroom.  But in the end I don’t sleep in the bathroom and a noisy hotel with bad Internet just isn’t worth it: it was a good deal for a reason.

I can only imagine that they must have some quiet rooms as it gets great reviews, I sadly didn’t ever get placed in one.  And the later room 504 (I think, I’ve already blocked it out of my head!) I would have asked them to move me from, but it was my last night so I ended up more or less staying up all night and leaving early in the morning just as the door banging was starting.

Lastly this hotel did something I find most peculiar and perplexing: on queen size beds they use no top sheet and two small single duvets.  So if you were to be there with someone you would never feel like you were under the covers together, but rather like you had been divided and were both meant to roll over and face the wall, clutching your single duvet to yourself.  Why would you do this? It boggles the mind…

To recap Hotel Josef by all means check it out and if you like the look of it stay.  Park Plaza Wallstreet: best avoided.

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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