Last month I went on an epic road trip around Europe. After a year and a half of not being able to leave the country, it felt so good to be on the road again. I added to my itinerary places that had been on my bucket list for ages, along with new destinations that I didn’t know much about. I avoided big cities and capitals and stuck to smaller towns and villages. I didn’t want this road trip to be rushed, so I took time to experience the places I visited at a slow pace. One of the things I really wanted to do in this trip, was go to the spa in the Czech Republic. The events of the last year and a half have contributed to my constant fatigue, loss of concentration, and impatience. I just needed to relax. I heard about the Mariánské Lázně spa experience during a few webinars I joined during the pandemic, so I knew it would be the perfect place for me to go.
Being born in Romania, in my childhood years my grandparents used to take me to the “baths” every year, which usually involved one to two weeks in a lovely mountain resort, where they would enjoy wellness treatments using the spring waters. I was too young to understand what the treatments actually were, but I remember that the trips were amazing. As I grew up, I always wanted to bring those feelings back. And this road trip was the perfect opportunity.
The Spa in the Czech Republic
Whilst going to the spa in England means spending a day pampering yourself around a pool, jacuzzi and getting a relaxing massage, the spa in the Czech Republic is different and has a long tradition of being the place where people go to treat different illnesses, using natural elements such as water, mud, or gas, or to enjoy rejuvenation wellness relaxation packages.
The spa towns in Bohemia have a long history, being frequented for hundreds of years by people, including royalty, searching for the healing mineral waters. King Edward VII often came to the spa in Mariánské Lázně and he influenced the town quite a lot. Other famous guests of Mariánské Lázně included Goethe, Frédéric Chopin, Sigmund Freud, Emperor Ferdinand I, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain and Alfred Nobel.
Going to the spa in the Czech Republic means booking a week or two in a hotel with specialised medical personnel and facilities, where you will receive a personalised treatment plan based on your needs. Usually, at the beginning of the stay you will be seen by a doctor who will do a check-up and prescribe the best procedures to improve your health.
The spa towns in the Czech Republic are gorgeous, built in beautiful mountain locations, surrounded by nature. This year, Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně were awarded the title of Unesco World Heritage Site. And no wonder, they are so beautiful and untouched by modern architecture.
Ensana Nové Lázně Hotel in Mariánské Lázně
Nové Lázně is the flagship hotel of Ensana, built in 1828 in a gorgeous Neo-Baroque architectural style. Part of the “Royal Spas of Europe”, Nové Lázně is not just a luxurious five star hotel, it also has a long history of hosting to many famous people. King Edward VII came to Mariánské Lázně nine times. He stayed at Nové Lázně and followed medical procedures which helped him to lose weight. His cabin is gorgeous, and it still has the original chair which was made for him to use in the spa.
Ensana has 7 hotels in Mariánské Lázně with many more around the country and other countries, such as Slovakia, Romania, Hungary. There is also one in the UK, in Bath. In Mariánské Lázně their treatments are focused on the use of natural gas, mineral water and peat mud.
I arrived in Mariánské Lázně early on a Friday afternoon. I parked the car, grabbed my laptop bag and walked along the red carpet up the stairs, leading on to reception. I was welcomed by the largest of smiles. After I checked in, the porter helped me with my luggage from the car to my room. And what a room!
My room, or should I say apartment, located on the second floor of the hotel, had a gorgeous view over the park, which is directly outside the front of the hotel. It was so nice to wake up in the morning, open the balcony and step outside for a breath of fresh air. Both the living room and the bedroom had original tiles from 1896 on the walls. Alena, the lovely lady who showed me the town, told me that initially the hotel didn’t have that many rooms as it was used mostly as a treatment centre. As the demand for the spa services grew, Ensana opened more hotels with their own medical centres in town and transformed some of the old treatment areas into rooms. This is why some of the rooms still have those original bath tiles on the walls.
The bed was so comfortable, with big fluffy pillows and luxurious bedsheets.
There was a welcome gift on the table in the living room: a pack of chocolate wafers. These wafers are traditional in the spa towns in the Czech Republic and are best eaten warm. They also make great gifts and souvenirs to take back home.
The Ensana Spa Experience
During my stay at Ensana Nové Lázně I received three different wellness treatments: gas baths, medical massages, and mineral baths. I also took advantage of the Roman bath every evening. By the end of my stay, I noticed how relaxed I felt, and how my skin looked healthier and felt softer than ever. I did not take photos in any of the treatment rooms or the spa areas, so the photos below are from the Royal and Imperial cabins, which anyone can see just by asking at reception. The treatment rooms and the Roman bath are decorated in the same style.
Dry CO2 Gas Bath
The town of Mariánské Lázně got its name from the local natural gas that emerges from the ground. It is called “Marien gas”, it has a volcanic origin and a concentration of 99.7% CO2. The gas is absorbed by the body through the skin, and helps in reducing inflammation, lowering the blood pressure, and improving the function of the kidneys. Gas baths are also prescribed to older women who are struggling with symptoms of the menopause.
I didn’t really know what to expect from this procedure as the name didn’t really give much away. Taking into consideration that gas doesn’t have shape or volume, I couldn’t imagine what a gas bath would look like.
After I entered the treatment room, the nurse invited me to lie on a bed, then she wrapped a big plastic bag around me. She tied it tight around my waist, then filled it with gas until it was shaped like a big bubble. The procedure lasted for around 15-20 minutes.
This was my favourite part of the wellness program. As a traveller, I’ve been suffering from a bad back for years. There are days when it hurts so bad that I can’t even sleep – even if I am not on a trip. Having driven from England to Romania in three days prior to my trip to the Czech Republic, and 4 hours from Brno on the day I checked in to Ensana Nové Lázně, my upper back was in pretty bad shape.
Without even telling her where it hurt, the masseuse knew just by touching my back. She massaged all the muscles that were seized over and over, until the pressure was released. I’m not going to lie, it did hurt. Quite a bit. At the end though, the muscles in my shoulders and neck relaxed and the long-term pain went away. I am actually considering going back for longer, to focus on the treatments on my back.
The most relaxing procedure I experienced at Ensana was the mineral bath. The tub was filled with warm water which had been pumped with small bubbles of air. The feeling of the bubbles on my skin was a bit ticklish at the beginning, but after a few minutes it transformed into an extremely soothing experience. I could have spent the entire day in there. However, the treatment only lasted for 20 minutes. After I got out of the tub, the nurse wrapped me in warm blankets and left me to relax on the bed for another 15 minutes. It was bliss!
The mineral bath is great for relaxation and stress reducing in general, but also for muscle and bone illnesses, physical rehabilitation and some digestive and urinary tract disorders.
The Roman Bath
During my stay at the Nové Lázně hotel, the Roman Bath required booking in advance. The access is free for the hotel guests, but I never had an issue finding a spot at my desired time, which I usually booked each morning. I chose to enjoy the bath in the evening, to relax at the end of each day.
The Roman Bath is a gorgeous relaxing spa, with two main pools in the main hall, a jacuzzi and a vortex pool, a rock pool, a dry sauna and a steam room. There was another sauna as well which I didn’t try, as the access was only permitted without a bathing suit, and I was too shy to drop all my clothes off.
The main pools in the main room were filled with therapeutic warm mineral water, coming directly from the hotel’s own spring. The architecture of this hall is superb, with large marble columns surrounding the pools, ending in arches decorated with roman-inspired white sculptures. The ceiling is painted with repetitive motifs in different forms: peacocks, swans, laurel leaves, and fruits. The predominant colours of the ceiling are red and green, matching with the dark brown columns. The walls of the Roman Bath are covered with beautiful tiles, just like the pools. Above each pool is a skylight which allows natural light to come into the spa.
All areas of the spa are decorated with beautiful large white Roman statues.
During my stay at Nove Lanske I enjoyed a full board menu. At the beginning of my stay, I was assigned a table which remained mine until I left. I thought this was a very good ideas as I made friends with the guests on other tables. They were staying in Mariánské Lázně for much longer than I was.
I didn’t get to try lunch as my wellness procedures always overlapped, but I did take full advantage of breakfast and dinner.
The Royal Restaurant serves a buffet style menu, with both traditional Czech dishes along with different international cuisines. The food is prepared following healthy practices, and there are plenty of options for all types of diets. The food was different every night, with plenty of exciting dishes.
As many people who come to the spa are following different nutritional plans, the chefs also prepare special requests.
The breakfast selection was quite impressive, with plenty of dishes to choose from, including eggs made to order. On Sunday I noticed a few bottles of champagne next to the pastries section.
Besides the main restaurant, the hotel also has a lovely café and a lobby bar. In the evening, the lobby bar hosts different live music events. One sunny afternoon I went to the Viennese Café to enjoy one of their homemade cakes, alongside a glass of local Bohemian sparkling wine.
The Mineral Springs
There are 100 mineral springs in Mariánské Lázně, some more accessible and more popular than others. 40 of them rise naturally to the surface. You will find the most important springs in the Colonnade in the centre of the town.
Each spring has a different temperature and mineral composition, which means that each is good for something different. The most famous spring in Mariánské Lázně is Křížový pramen, good for digestive issues. Rudolfův pramen is another popular spring which is high in calcium and is good for urinary tract illnesses.
To drink water from the springs like a local, you need a typical spa cup which you can buy from pretty much anywhere in town for as little as 175 Korunas (approx. £6). As the mineral spring water must be drank slowly, these cups are a combination between a mug and a sippy cup, where you sip the water though the handle.
About Mariánské Lázně
Mariánské Lázně, as a spa town, was developed in the 19th century. It features beautiful Belle Epoque and Neo-Baroque architecture and has plenty of parks and forest surrounding it. Being in Mariánské Lázně is a relaxing experience in itself.
The centre of the town is marked by the Colonnade, a Neo-Baroque building completed in 1889. It has intricate cast ironwork and beautiful ceiling frescos which were added later on, when the Colonnade was renovated between 1973 and 1981. They represent the desire of man to fly, and was painted by the Czech contemporary painter Josef Vyleťal. Near the Colonnade there is the pavilion where all the most important springs in town are in one place.
In front of the Colonnade, I found the most entertaining attraction in town: the Zpívající Fountain. Every two hours, the fountain sings and dances to a famous song. The main performance is given at 9pm, when the show also includes lights. Every evening, hundreds of people gather around the fountain at least half an hour before, to see the performance. And to be honest, it is one of the best singing fountains that I have seen on my travels. The repertoire includes classics such as Strauss’s Netopýr as well as popular songs such as Celin Dion’s My heart will go on. Also, each day at a different hour, there is an extra performance, published on the panel adjacent to the fountain.
After the performance, many people remain in the area. They buy a small glass of mead from the little stand in the square, and enjoy the fresh, cool air of the evening.
Mariánské Lázně is located 600 meters above sea level, and there are plenty of trails and places to spend time surrounded by nature. Edward’s Trail, which starts just behind the Nové Lázně Hotel is a 5.7 kilometre long path that leads to the Royal Golf Club. It is the same path that King Edward VII used to take to reach the golf club, crossing stunning landscapes with gorgeous views through the forest.
Another beautiful place, a 10 minute drive away from Mariánské Lázně, is the Kladská Peat Bog in the Slavovský Forest Protected Landscape Area. The educational nature trail is covered with a wooden walkaway and follows the shores of a lake through a thick spruce forest. It is dotted with some informational and interactive boards in three languages: Czech, English, and German.
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Please note that this article has been created in collaboration with CzechTourism.