Mariánské Lázně (Marienbad) is an elegant Neo-Classical and Art Noveau spa town (though less well-known than Karlovy Vary) with a wide spectrum of natural therapeutic resources and excellent climatic conditions, set among an amazing natural mountain panorama. The city is situated about 150km from Prague.
The largest and probably most architecturally beautiful building in Mariánské Lázně is the so-called New Spa, built according to a project by Josef Schaffer. This architect from Mariánské Lázně also designed the important cultural centre, the Casino House, built in the style of the Italian neo-Renaissance. The neo-classicist colonnade dating back to 1889 is rightly regarded as a jewel among colonnades.
The most endearing of the spa towns in Bohemia, Marienbad (Mariánské Lázně) is relatively new to spas: It was only constructed in the early nineteenth century by the Teplá monastery abbot. Some eight miles (twelve kilometres) eastwards, Václav Skalník crafted the landscape of the gardens. In just several decades, this remote area in Bohemia’s forest was a wonderful mix of pavilions and parks, gathered around forty therapeutic springs.
The prestigious German author, Goethe, was a famous early tourist in the 1820s. Russian author, Nikolai Gogol, wrote some of his book ‘Dead Souls’ while residing here and, in 1848, Wagner wrote Lohengrin at Mariánské Lázně. Bettering these artistic stamps of appreciation was royalty, with Emperor Franz Josef from Austria and King Edward the seventh of England being celebrated and frequent visitors. Today, Marienbad is particularly popular with visitors from Germany.
The often pompous and stately buildings have been renovated after years of gradual decay. The mixture is superior to the individual parts of all the Czech spas, and this is possibly the most alluring and harmonious.
The major road, Hlavní, that spans the town’s length is a virtually uninterrupted series of coffeehouses, decadent turn-of-the-century apartments and hotels. Here, as well, you will discover a tiny museum (called Dion E Chopin) inspired by another renowned tourist, Fredéric Chopin (the Polish composer who lived from 1810 to 1849). He visited in 1836 to chase the young lady who became his fiancée. He never married her, though, due to his declining health. Throughout the 3rd week in August, this spa holds a festival in memory of Chopin. These constructions, lots of which have balconies, face out on the Slavkov hills and spa gardens. These buildings are showy and splashy and extremely ornate, although, somehow, they maintain their humility. On Ruská, behind Hlavní, is the previous Anglican church, presently a hall for exhibitions, and the Orthodox, Russian, 1902 church. It is worth visiting this Russian church to witness the elaborate iconostasis made from porcelain and usually deemed the biggest individual chunk of porcelain on the planet.
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One of the few places in central Europe not to claim Mozart as one of its sons, Mariánské Lázně has instead chosen to honour Polish composer Frédéric François Chopin with a yearly festival. During his lifetime, Chopin loved to visit Mariánské Lázně, and the town has never forgotten his loyalty. The Chopin Festival usually runs for eight to 10 days near the end of August. Musicians and directors worldwide gather to take part in and listen to lively concerts and recitals. Several local art galleries also hold special exhibits featuring new and established artists from all over the world. All in all, it is a dream come true for lovers of music and the arts. Tickets range from 180 CZK to 500 CZK.
Each June, Mariánské Lázně hosts a classical music festival that features many of the Czech Republic’s finest musicians, as well as those from around the world. While it may not be as large an event as the Chopin Festival, it is a slightly more laid back way to enjoy the melodies of new and established classical musicians. For more details or ticket reservations, contact the Tourist Information Center.
It is easy to get a little homesick while travelling on a day that means a lot to you, but nothing to the people of the country that you’re visiting. That is why American tourists will love Mariánské Lázně’s Fourth of July celebration. It includes everything from home, including a parade and other flag-waving special events commemorating the town’s liberation by U.S. soldiers during World War II. Even if you aren’t American and have no connection to the Fourth of July, the spectacle and excitement of the day will leave you cheering and waving your flag just as hard as everyone else.
For those who dream of being the next Rory McIlroy, Mariánské Lázně’s golf course is a must-see attraction. Not only is it one of the Czech Republic’s best golf courses, but it also hosted the early years of the Czech Open international golf tournament during the 1990s. The golf course in Mariánské Lázně has been able to boast the right to use the title Royal Golf Club since 2003 based on the decision by the British Queen Elizabeth II. So rent some clubs, grab a beer, and hit the green!
Most hotels and resorts offer spa treatments. One of the best baths is located at Danubius Health Spa Nove Lazne. Those Roman-style baths, saunas and spa pools are worth a visit even for walk-in visitors. Address: Reitenbergerova 53. Open: 7am-7pm.
Tourist Information Center
The Mariánské Lázně Tourist Information Center is located on the main strip at Hlavní 47, 353 01. Unfortunately, it is not very helpful; there are no free maps and not much in the way of useful advice either. Still, it can be a good place to stop for basic questions and buy tickets for local events. The office is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. For information and tips about what’s going on, visit www.marianskelazne.cz.
Mariánské Lázně is laid out around Hlavní Třída, which contains a plethora of hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, and stores. Lázeňská Kolonáda, a long, covered block beginning at the northern end of Hlavní Třída, contains six of the resort’s eight major springs.
There are frequent express trains from Prague’s main station to Mariánské Lázně via Plzeň. The trip takes nearly three hours, and tickets cost 240 CZK. For a less direct but slightly shorter and less expensive trip, take the train from Prague to Cheb (30 min, 45 CZK) to Karlovy Vary (80 min, 60 CZK).
The Mariánské Lázně train station is located at Nádražní náměstí 292, a good 30-minute walk from the main spa area. If you do not want to walk, take bus no. 5 into town. Tickets cost 12 CZK and are bought from the driver, who will only accept coins, so make sure you have some on hand.
The bus from Prague to Mariánské Lázně costs about 180 CZK and takes about 3 hours, often requiring a change in Plzeň. The Mariánské Lázně bus station is adjacent to the train station on Nádražní náměstí, so it is best to take bus no. 5 into town.
When driving from Prague, the best route is to take Highway E50 through Plzeň to Stříbro, which is about 22 kilometres (13.7 miles) past Plzeň, and head northwest on Highway 21. The clearly marked route can take up to two hours.
Tip: Visit Chodovar Brewery for world-class spas and beer. Located at Planá, just 20 minutes by bus from Marianske Lazne, it’s a perfect day trip. Spa beer treatments start from 660 CZK, and other treatments, including massages, hot stones and even a private beer bath for two, are also on the menu.