Sometimes, too much of a good thing is really too much of a good thing. Prague’s hotel market has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 10 years, adding luxury hoteliers with fusion restaurants, spectacular room amenities, and properties with beer-theme spa treatments, astronomical thread counts, even on-site monks.
But, after all that building, the city is in something of a hotel hangover, with more hotel beds than Vienna and not enough people to fill them. But that can work in your favor; even during the high season, essentially May through September or October, prices have dropped off a bit in recent years, and they absolutely plummet in the shoulder and low periods, with room rates at half or a third off their highs. Just remember that this time period is not for everyone; wintertime in Prague can be beautiful, but it gets cold and daylight is at a premium.
Even during peak times, don’t be afraid to shop around for a good price. Start watching the prices two months before you intend to visit. If you see something you like, go ahead and book. Almost every hotel will let you book online. At this point, there’s enough inventory that visitors don’t need to settle for a hotel outside the center unless they specifically want to stay in one of those areas, or if they’re looking for a deal during a busy time like Christmas or Easter. If you plan to explore the rest of the Czech Republic, the greater the distance from Prague, the lower the prices go. Lodging in the capital is much more expensive than in the rest of the country.
The most desirable neighborhoods to stay in are the Old Town (Staré Město), the Lesser Quarter (Malá Strana), the Castle Area (Hradčany), and the New Town (Nové Město). Neighborhoods outside the center, like Smíchov and Vinohrady, are easily accessible by Prague’s inexpensive, highly efficient metro and tram system.
If you’d prefer to try something a bit different from a chain or five-star hotel, the vast majority of hotels and pensions are privately owned and operated. Private hotels can certainly be quaint and atmospheric, but they can also be stripped down—lacking a/c, breakfast, or amenities—which is a fine line; one person's shabby chic can be another person's just plain shabby. If you want to really go local, try renting an apartment in the city. Several agencies now help book rooms in private apartments, and you can find some very nice places at more reasonable prices. On the flip side, remember that there’s no shortage of three- and four-star "design hotels" that boast sleek rooms and free Wi-Fi for about the same price; you don’t have to go without unless that’s the vacation you want to have.