I’m not averse to a little bit of luxury, so I was thrilled to recently discover the picturesque little Czech Republic Spa town Marienbad, or Marianske Lazne as it’s known in Czech, nestled in amongst the pine forests of what was once Bohemia, near the German border.
In the 19th Century, Marienbad was the choice holiday destination of royalty and celebrities, but today even a plebeian like myself can take advantage of its healing spring waters with one of the cheap short breaks on offer.
Getting to Marienbad
I traveled to Marienbad via Prague, which also gave me an opportunity to check out the beautiful capital. There are a number of options from the UK – you can fly straight from several of the major cities with British Airways, EasyJet, or WizzAir, or from the US, fly direct from New York’s JFK airport to Prague with Delta Airlines, or direct from LA with Lufthansa. Marienbad is only 170 km from Prague and I discovered that, handily, trains depart every two hours from Prague’s main station to the spa town.
Art Nouveau in Marienbad
Upon arriving in Marienbad, I was tempted to just take myself off to the nearest spa and immerse myself in decadent treatments, but I figured that I’d best earn that reward by soaking up some of the sights to be found amongst the elegant Neo-Classical and Art Nouveau architecture of the town.
First stop was the Spa Colonnade – the main promenade of the Spa. The Colonnade’s ornate high arches are built out of beautiful cast-iron and evoke images of men in top hats and ladies in hoop skirts taking leisurely walks in the shade of the Colonnade, in between invigorating dips in the Spa’s carbon dioxide spring waters. Just outside is the Singing Fountain, which I could have sat looking at for hours, soaking up the peaceful atmosphere, but the urge to explore was too great – and there were too many elaborately manicured parks dotted around town to ignore.
My personal favorite was the Park Boheminium, which hosts a collection of miniatures of significant buildings and landmarks from the town. It reminded me of Madurodam, Holland’s miniature town, where nearly the whole of the Netherlands can be found in miniature, from the ports and beaches to Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
History of Marienbad
After a pleasant few hours giggling at the miniatures, I decided it was time for some culture, and stopped into the Chopin Memorial Museum, which was created in honor of the renowned composer, who spent a large amount of time in Marienbad.
He wasn’t the only celebrity of the age to spend time in Marienbad, though – during the town’s golden age in the late 19th century, it was frequented by the great and good (or not so good), including King Edward VII, Russian Czar Nicholas II, Emperor Franz Joseph I and cultural luminaries such as Goethe, Kafka, and Ibsen.
They all came to sample the town’s famed healing waters, and my final mission in Marienbad was to do the same myself. There are a number of different spa packages to choose from, and they’re undoubtedly among the best spas in the Czech Republic, if not Europe.
Danubius Health Spa Resort
I decided upon the Danubius Health Spa Resort Nové Lázn?, where they blend 200-year-old traditional spa treatments with modern therapies, including saunas, massages, mud packs, mineral baths, dry carbon baths and more.
The Roman Baths are original and ideal for living out your Senatorial fantasies – and you can even take a treatment in King Edward’s elaborately decorated personal bath cabin, freshening up before hitting the resort’s casino at night. I indulged with a dip and a steam at the Roman Baths, followed by a glorious massage to ease my aching muscles, and left the next day wishing I had longer to spend in this little gem of a town.
The official currency of the Czech Republic is the Czech crown (koruna), abbreviated K?. 1 GBP buys you just under 30 K?, a Euro gets you 24 K? and the USD exchange rates currently give you 18 K? for one dollar.
This is a guest post by Dan Aldulescu on behalf of Danubius Hotels.