The westernmost region of the Czech Republic has for centuries been best known across the world for its spa towns. In the visitor books at spa hotels you can find the names of such celebrities as Russian Tsar Peter the Great, Empress Marie Theresa, the French Empress Marie Louisa, Emperor Franz Josef I, Bach, Goethe, Casanova, Schiller, Beethoven and many others. You’ll be reminded of some of these figures on strolls in the immediate surroundings of the spa towns, where a dense network of walks awaits, passing summer houses, viewing towers and small restaurants along the way. Other reasons to visit the West Bohemian spas could be the Baroque landscape around the Premonstratensian monastery at Teplá, a plethora of castles, remarkable pieces of industrial heritage, in particular Krásno Mining Museum , and enthralling nature reserves including the youngest volcano in the country. The West Bohemian Spa Triangle – Carlsbad, Marienbad and Františkovy Lázně are currently candidates to be added to UNESCO list of world cultural heritage sites. Inclusion on this prestigious list could become a reality thanks to these towns’ original spa architecture and the naturally occurring materials they use in their cures; mineral-rich springs in Carlsbad and Marienbad and ample supplies of mineral-rich mud in Františkovy Lázně. A whole range of illnesses, from digestive complaints to neurological illnesses, metabolic, motor skeletal and gynaecological ailments, are treated here.
If spas with their colonnades, parks and natural springs are not your thing, head for the town of Cheb or the castle at Bečov nad Teplou, where you’ll find the reliquary of St Maurus, one of the most precious cultural sites in the country. Other places worth seeing are the Premonstratensian monastery at Teplá and Kynžvart Chateau housing Prince Metternich’s collection of curios from around the world. This region of wooded hills, extinct volcanoes and rock formations has also kept its wealth of natural beauty well preserved. This can best be seen on a stroll through the Slavkovský Forest, on the slopes and ridges of the Krušné Mountains, in the valley of the River Ohře and on a tour of the Soos Nature Reserve, which reminds visitors of a prehistoric landscape complete with prehistoric-looking lizards.
Highlighted from region:
Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary)
This is one of the best known spa towns in the world, founded in the 14th century by Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Thermal and cold springs with curative properties are used for drinking cures, baths and other procedures. The town also hosts an annual international film festival and tours of the Moser glassworks and Jan Becher Museum (dedicated to the Becherovka liqueur) are also popular. Production of the Becherovka herb liqueur was begun in Karlovy Vary in 1807. The museum traces the history of production of this well known tipple, and the tour concludes with a tasting session.
This spa town is named after Austrian Emperor, Franz I. It boasts a chessboard layout and a large number of neo-Classical and Empire buildings.
Marienbad (Mariánské lázně)
This is a spa town with more than a hundred mineral-rich springs. Several colonnades display distinctive architectural features, the most impressive being the neo-Baroque cast-iron colonnade dating from the late 19th century. Another popular day-trip destination is the Boheminium Miniature Park.
This town founded in the early 16th century on a rich vein of silver ore became well known thanks to a silver coin called a tolar, which eventually lent its name to the American dollar. At the turn of the 19th century the Curies isolated radium from Jáchymov uranite. Mildly radioactive water is used to treat patients at the local spas, which include the Agricola Aquacentrum.
The Reliquary of St Maurus
This unique piece of artwork, the most precious treasure in the Czech Republic after the crown jewels, is displayed at the castle in Bečov nad Teplou. It is one of the best preserved castles in the Czech lands.
This town boasts a conservation zone and an early Gothic castle on a rocky promontory above the River Ohře, later given a Renaissance makeover. Here you can view a glass, porcelain and book binding exhibition, and in the prison cells there is a multimedia exhibition of medieval instruments of torture and execution.
This grand neo-Classical mansion, which once belonged to the well known Austrian politician and chancellor K. V. Metternich, houses a unique collection of 4,000 curios from across the globe. The chateau is surrounded by an English park dotted with small follies.
The Špalíček and other tourist attractions in Cheb
The cultural and economic centre of West Bohemia is the town of Cheb. Few other towns can boast such fine sights as Cheb Castle with its Black Tower and the symbol of the town – the Špalíček alongside all the other well preserved townhouses, which create a special atmosphere on Cheb’s main square.