Mariánské Lázně

Natalie O'Hara on the famed spa town

Expats.cz

Written by Expats.cz
Published on 04.09.2007 12:55 (updated on 04.09.2007)

Written by Natalie O’Hara
for Expats.cz

If Prague´s smoky pubs and polluted highways have lost their appeal then there are few better places to recoup than Mariánské Lázně.  Founded as a spa town in the 19th century, Mariánské is a two-hour drive (or three-hour bus ride) from Prague, and makes an ideal weekend getaway. The town is the second largest and probably the most attractive of the ‘triangle´ spas – Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně. Surrounded by mountains, Mariánské Lázně is characterised by its extravagant neoclassical hotels and churches, painted the colour of honey, and a string of parks and gardens running between them. As well as offering spa and beauty treatments, Mariánské is an ideal base for hiking, cycling and winter sports, and also plays host to a number of music festivals during the summer.

History

Mariánské Lázně (or Marienbad) was founded in the early 19th century by a local physician and the abbot of nearby Tepla Monastery, who saw that spas were growing in popularity and were keen to tap the natural resources of the valley. In what is now the city centre there are more than 40 mineral springs, with temperatures ranging between 7 and 10 °C and which are believed to be especially effective at healing kidney and urinary tract disorders.

Throughout the 19th century the town became increasingly popular and was soon attracting the great names of the day. Visitors included writers such as Ibsen, Kafka, Kipling, Tolstoy, Twain and Goethe, musicians such as Chopin, Wagner, Dvořák, and scientists such as Edison and Nobel. However, Mariánské´s biggest fan was the British king Edward VII, who visited the spas nine times and wrote, “I have seen the whole of India, Ceylon and all the spas of Europe, but nowhere else have I been so touched by the beautiful poetry of Nature.”

Travel

PRIVATE PROPERTIES

Apartment for rent, 1+KK - Studio, 59m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 1+KK - Studio, 59m2

Radičova, Praha 6 - Břevnov

Apartment for rent, 1+1 - Studio, 32m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 1+1 - Studio, 32m2

Jungmannova, Praha 1 - Nové Město

Apartment for rent, 5 bedrooms +, 266m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 5 bedrooms +, 266m2

Na Pankráci, Praha 4 - Nusle

Motorists can take the E-57 due East to Plzeň and highway 21 North to Mariánské Lázně; the journey should take around 2 hours. However, bear in mind that parking is not permitted in the town centre and cars must be parked in one of the car parks just outside the centre, which can be expensive. The city can also be reached by bus and train, and although the station is 3km from the centre, the number 5 trolley into town regularly picks pedestrians up from the bus and train stations.

Activities

Spa treatments are available to all at the Roman Baths (14:00 – 18:00), which offers a pool, Jacuzzis, saunas and steam rooms, with prices at around 250 CZK. Sessions can get busy so it is best to book in advance.

For those of a more active bent, sportsmen and women are well provided for. Near to the town centre are two ski lifts and a cableway, as well as miles of countryside ideal for cross-country skiing and a local cross-country skiing centre called Golf. A number of trekking and cycling routes run through the nearby countryside, and route maps are available from the tourist office and most hotels. There is also a golf course (as well as mini-golf), numerous swimming pools, and several stables, information about which can be found at the Horse Riding Society (U Krakonoše 53).

Mariánské Lázně is also a good base for exploring other areas of Western Bohemia, such as the spa towns Karlovy Vary (43 km away) and Františkovy Lázně (36 km away), or, closer to home, the breathtaking countryside around Kladská (8 km), not to be missed after snowfall.

On the downside, due to the city´s typical clientele, middle-aged Germans, Mariánské Lázně´s nightlife largely consists of dinner-dances and card games, and travellers in search of excitement may prefer to head for nearby Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně´s livelier but less attractive neighbour.

Accommodation

With a bit of coaxing, information on hotels and help with booking can be obtained from the taciturn staff at the Tourist Office (open daily, 10am-12 and 1pm-6), in Dům Chopin, Hlavní 47. If you plan to stay at one of the large, pricey hotels in the town-centre, most are run by the Hungarian company Danubius Hotels and can be booked online at www.marienbad.cz. However, expect to pay no less than 100 per night in high season. 

Those who have a car and would rather stay outside the city could do a lot worse than Hotel Garni in Kladská (880-1060 CZK per night for a double room). Originally a 19th century hunting lodge, the hotel is surrounded by miles of pine forests, lakes and open parkland. For those on a budget, private rooms in town can be booked by travelling to Úšovice or Palackého Street, where most are located, or through the Tourist office. There are also two reasonably priced campsites, Autocamping Luxor in Velká Hled’sebe and Stanowitz in the village of Stanovište.

Eating Out

Restaurants in Mariánské Lázně are both plentiful and varied, with Italian, French and Chinese cuisine all on offer. As usual in the Czech Republic, however, it is the restaurants serving local food that are most appealing to the stomach and the wallet.  Moravská Restaurace, off Hlavní třída in the town centre, serves excellent food at a reasonable price, and the service is good. You would be hard pressed to find better garlic soup, and their Palačinky (sweet pancakes) are delicious. The hamlet of Kladská has its own small restaurant, U Tetřívka, located in a traditional log cabin. Although on the expensive side, their game is wonderful, as is the atmosphere. Combine lunch with a stroll around the nearby lake and you will consider the journey up (15 minutes in the car or 30 by bus) well worth it. Game is also a speciality of Kobila, located on Dusíková, and modelled on a ski-lodge. Their roast boar with summer berries and roast duck are especially good. For those with less carnivorous tastes, choices are limited, and vegetarians may have to try one of the town´s many Chinese restaurants (such as China Town, Hlavní 7/279) or settle for the perpetual fall back option, fried cheese.