Up until the early 1900s, Mariánské Lázně (also known as Marienbad) was one of Europe’s finest spa resorts. It attracted the likes of Britain’s King Edward VII, Goethe and Chopin who came here to unwind and take the spa waters. Today Bohemia’s star spa town has largely lost the limelight to Karlovy Vary, a rather more glitzy affair with its international film festival and well-heeled Russian residents.
Nevertheless, Mariánské Lázně still attracts plenty of travellers who come to admire the lovely parks, elegant, historic buildings and mountain views. A walk along the promenades and the lush grounds near Grandhotel Pacifik, followed by lunch, ice cream or famous Marianske Lazne wafers (yes, spa wafers!) makes for a perfect day out. But there’s more to do if you have the time and energy to look a little further.
Take to the spa waters
Over forty mineral springs can be found within the town, each with a diverse chemical composition. You can choose from a full range of wellness products, spa houses and hotels and enjoy a number of relaxation and curative packages, all under medical supervision. Physiotherapy and rehabilitation are famed for their quality while the wellness packages are often complemented by beauty therapies.
Aside from extended spa and wellness holidays, the best way to experience the town’s spa waters is to buy a drinking cup with a spout – available at the Colonnades – and sip the curative waters yourself. Bear in mind that the waters from the Ambrose, Rudolph and Caroline springs, though harmless, all have a diuretic effect. The springs are all cold water and generally easy to stomach. Most of the springs are open to the public and free of charge.
Admire the architecture
A walk around town is a great opportunity to take in Marianske Lazne’s abundance of architectural styles so get your camera ready for new classicism, new renaissance, art nouveau plus a wide variety of religious buildings. The Colonnades have always been at the centre of spa life in Marianske Lazne, the main ones being the Main Colonnade (don’t miss the neighbouring Cross and Caroline Spring colonnades) and the Ferdinand Spring Colonnade.
In 1992 the town was officially designated as a conservation area by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) so there will be plenty of unspoilt beauty to enjoy too while the architecture blends magnificently with the lovely, lush parks bordering the spas.
Amble in the parks
Marianske Lazne is often described as a city within a park and its maze of spa parks make for ideal places to breathe in the refreshingly clean air. The parks’ elegance and rich variety of tree species have been much admired since their design over 150 years ago by landscape architect, Vaclav Skalnik.
The Deer Park, near Hotel Krakonos is worth a look too where, at the end of the park a fenced meadow is home to fallow and roe deer which you can often observe close up. Parks overlooking the town include: Miniaturpark giving you the chance to admire beautifully crafted replicas of many famous buildings in the Czech Republic; and the Geological Park, a verdant forest park brimming with local mineral waters.
Marvel at the Singing Fountain
Head for the square in front of the town’s Main Colonnade and a fantastic water spectacle awaits you, often accompanied by classical music performances. The Singing Fountain is particularly beautiful after dark when the waters are all lit up and the music is in full flow.
Celebrate musical masters
If you’re visiting in August, you may well catch the popular Chopin Festival, a long-running and prestigious event attracting cultural crowds to Marianske Lazne. Enjoy an entire week of chamber music and symphony orchestras and spectate or take part in a varied cultural and social programme, which includes a piano competition for young talent. You will also find plenty of works by other famous composers during the festival. The Chopin House (Memorial Museum) hosts a permanent exhibition covering the life and works of the master himself, and detailing his connection with the town when he used to visit.
Marianske Lazne is the traditional seat of the Westbohemian Symphonic Orchestra. The orchestra focuses on both symphony music and operas. During the spa season (opens mid-May) regular promenade concerts are held for the spa guests, adding exquisite cultural style to your spa vacation.
Muse in the museum
The Municipal Museum sits in the spa centre’s oldest house. Built in 1818, this is where Johann Wolfgang Goethe stayed during one of his visits to Marianske Lazne. The museum showcases the rooms used by Goethe along with original artefacts. Other exhibits demonstrate Marianske Lazne’s importance for its mineral springs and spa.