Mariánské Lázně – known as Marienbad in German – is one of the most beautiful European spa towns, frequented by royalty, emperors, musical and literary greats alike. Discover the best things to do in Marianske Lazne in our extensive guide below.
Why Visit Marianske Lazne
Taking the waters or other spa treatments are the main reasons many visit Mariánské Lázně – but there are many more reasons to explore this Bohemian spa town. The town is full of grand 19th century hotels, colonnades and parks, and enchanting forest walks lead you to sweeping views over the town and countryside. In 2021 it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with several other Great Spa Towns of Europe.
The town is better known to central Europeans than Brits and other English-speaking visitors. It remains one of the most popular spas in Europe, and if you haven’t visited one before, Marianske Lazne is a great introduction.
Best things to do in Marianske Lazne
1. Taking The Waters
Many visitors to Marianske Lazne spa come for treatments, which can range from drinking some of the spring waters to massage and courses of gas injections. Too much of some of the spring waters can have a laxative effect (such as the Ferdinand Spring below) so a programme is prescribed to patients.
As so many visitors are there for health purposes, the nightlife is best described as sedate.
2. Stay At One Of The Traditional Marianske Lazne Hotels
One of the joys of staying at one of the best spas in Europe is that you can treat your lergy in luxury. As befits a town that has hosted royalty and some of the most famous people in the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
There is a great range of Mariánské Lázně hotels and accommodation, ranging from guest houses for budget travellers to some of the best European spa hotels you could hope to find. Top of the range is the 5-star Nové Lázně, a palatial Neo-Renaissance pile with a full-blown health resort, including a sumptuous Roman-style bath with marble columns and 40 treatment rooms, some still furnished in late 19th century style.
Nové Lázně is part of the Ensana Hotels group, which also run the Grandhotel Pacifik a few minutes’ walk away at the top of the main street, Mirove namesti. Architecturally it’s one of the most beautiful hotels in Marienbad spa, with a gorgeous Art Nouveau façade.
3. Main Colonnade
The curved Main Colonnade in Mariánské Lázně is the symbol of the town, a classic piece of spa architecture in Art Nouveau and Baroque style built in 1888-89. It’s 180 metres long, and the ceiling is decorated beautifully with frescoes on the theme of man striving to learn to fly. It’s also the venue for concerts during the tourist season.
4. Singing Fountain
You can hear the music from the Singing Fountain on the other side of the valley of this famous spa. Every two hours the fountain is lit up for a five-minute show with a colourful light show, with the Main Colonnade as the backdrop. Seeing the evening performance is one of the most popular things to do in Marianske Lazne, before heading back for an ice cream and coffee.
5. Relax in One of Marianske Lazne’s Parks
The parks of Mariánské Lázně are made for long, gentle strolls, with plenty of benches where you can rest a while. The park between the Main and Karolina Colonnades is especially beautiful, with flower beds running the length of the park. Just up the hill, Goethovo náměstí is a lovely open green space surrounded by grand old hotels. A statue of Goethe sits near the top of the square, and from there you’ll find another fine view of the town.
6. Admire The Spa Architecture
The architecture of this Czech spa town is outstanding. Most of the town was built in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and there’s a considerable range of styles. We stayed in the Grand Hotel Bohemia, with a grand Art Nouveau concoction of curved balconies and turrets, and there are many more examples of Art Nouveau around the town, including the superb Pension Elektra which has original signage.
This contrasts with the Neoclassical Cross Spring at the end of the Main Colonnade, and the Karolina Kolonada at the opposite end of the promenade.
7. Mecsery Lookout
Observation decks are part of the European spa town landscape, and walk destinations for convalescing and recovering patients. The Mecsery Lookout (Vyhlidka Mecseryho) offers one of the best views of Marianske Lazne, a path through the woods behind the Royal Hotel leading to a wooden shelter with a superb view of the grand hotels around the town surrounded by forest.
8. Climb The Hamelika Lookout Tower
The Hamelika lookout is another purpose-built viewpoint over the town – in this case a stone tower that resembles part of a medieval castle. It was built by Friedrich Zickler in 1876, and offers another great view of the town’s hotels, and also the countryside and hills beyond. You can reach it by a path off Dusikova, just behind the Nové Lázně Hotel.
9. Discover A Czech Beach At Marianske Lazne Lido
If you’re wondering what to do in Marianske Lazne with kids, here’s a plan. A beach is always a great place to take them, and right where you’d least expect it, in the middle of the Bohemian forest, there’s a sandy beach with a lake, playground and boats to hire. The Lido (shown on the map as Koupaliště Lido) is around two miles (3 km) south-west of the town centre, and can be reached on bus number?. It’s a 5-10 minute walk off třida Vitězstvi, either along Na Vyhlidce or on parallel paths through the woods. There’s also a small bar serving the local Chodovar beer and snacks.
10. Royal Statues
Marianske Lazne has also enjoyed royal – indeed Imperial – patronage, and this part of its history is commemorated by the statues of Franz Josef I, the last Habsburg Emperor of Austria-Hungary (which included much of Central Europe) and his contemporary King Edward VII of England. The latter thought it the best spa in Europe, visiting nine times in his later years. He famously met with Emperor Franz Josef I during his stay in the town in 1904. Yet within a decade – four years after Edward’s death – these two formidable powers found themselves opposing each other in World War I.
11. Follow In The Footsteps Of Goethe, Chopin, Kafka And Other Composers And Writers
The fame of Mariánské Lázně grew rapidly within a few years of being declared a spa in 1818. German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited three times between 1820 and 1823, and Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin first visited in 1836. The likes of Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner also visited regularly in the mid-19th century.
Once the town was connected to the Cheb-Prague-Vienna railway in 1872, it opened up even more. The likes of Mark Twain, Ivan Goncharov, Rudyard Kipling and Prague’s finest, Franz Kafka, all patronised the Marianske Lazne spa resort at some point.
12. Ferdinand Colonnade
The Ferdinand Spring (Ferdinanduv pramen) is one of the most popular in Marianske Lazne. It’s a 15-minute walk south of the town, and the splendid Ferdinand Colonnade is set in gorgeous flower gardens. It’s the oldest of all the Marianske Lazne springs, and the water has quite a salty taste – it was hoped to use it for salt with food, but the salt’s laxative effect put paid to that. The water bubbles and fizzes furiously inside a glass chamber, and you can help yourself to some water from the taps around it. Drinking a small cup of the water has no laxative effect.
13. Visit The Roman Catholic Church
The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is one of the most striking buildings in Mariánské Lázně. It dates from the mid-19th century and was built in neo-Byzantine style – it wouldn’t look at all out of place on a hillside in Liguria or on the shore of one of the Italian Lakes. It was closed to visitors during our visit, although we did notice a concert advertised there a few days after our departure.
14. Try The Famous Kolonada Marianske Lazne Spa Wafers
You’ll see Kolonada spa wafers – made in the town – in virtually every supermarket, corner shop and convenience store in the Czech Republic. They also have a shop at Hlavni třida 44, a few metres down the hill from the roundabout. Otherwise most of the Marienbad hotels offer spa wafers – which have a slightly sweet taste – as part of their breakfast buffets.
15. Boheminium Miniature Museum
Another option if you’re visiting this Czech spa with kids is the Boheminium Miniature Museum on a hill above Mariánské Lázně. One option to make it more of an occasion is to take the cable car up to the entrance. Inside, there are 75 1:25 scale models of buildings around the Czech Republic. The landmarks of Prague get surprisingly little representation here (only the Obora Hvezda Summer Palace) – instead there is a mixture of Czech castles including Karlštejn, Český Krumlov and Červena Lhota, palaces, ancient churches, towers and farmhouses. I think this is great – it shows just how many things to see in the Czech Republic there are.
How to Get to Marianske Lazne From Prague
Getting from Prague to Marianske Lazne is straightforward, with regular trains from Praha hlavni nadrazi (Prague Main Train Station) passing through en route to Cheb, 20 minutes away. It’s also only around 40 minutes from Plzeň (Pilsen), through which it passes an hour after leaving Prague.
The Czech Railways site has up-to-date information on departure times.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.
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