Hidden Gems: Mariánské Lázně and Loket Castle

I have never written a post about somewhere I only spent 20 minutes, but  I guess there is a first time for everything. I wanted to write this post to introduce you to two places that  left a big impression on me during our last trip to Prague: Mariánské Lázně and Loket Castle.

Mariánské Lázně

Marienske-Lazne, also known as Marienbad, is a small town in Eastern Czech Republic, famous for its medicinal hot springs and spa hotels. The natural springs in the town made it a popular destination for visitors since the late 1800s. It’s located in the South of the Slavkovsky les, the Czech national forest, and close to the German border.

We stopped at Mariánské Lázně here on the way to its bigger cousin, Karlovy Vary. It was a late December afternoon when we arrived, and the town was covered in about a foot of snow.

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We learnt that, in days gone by, Mariánské Lázně was a favourite with many celebrities, such as Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Frédéric Chopin, Thomas Edison, Richard Wagner, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, the Russian Czar Nicholas II. The town had a declining period after World War II when, under communist rule, it was closed to foreign visitors. Since the independence of Czech Republic, much effort has gone into restoring the town and its buildings to their former glory.

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The main part of the town is a Victorian colonnade, where you can taste the famous spa waters.

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The whole town was decorated for Christmas, including a massive outdoor Christmas tree.

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The town’s famous singing fountain was closed as it was winter, but it decorated so that it looked like it was still running.

Why I loved it:

Mariánské Lázně would be considered a pretty town any time of the year, but with a blanket of snow and Christmas decorations, it felt like we had walked into a picture postcard. We did not see much of Mariánské Lázně on this visit, but we’d seen enough to know that we had to come back. And if we needed any further convincing, this snow covered forest road leading out of Mariánské Lázně was it.

Loket Castle

Our next stop was Loket Castle, about 25 miles north of Mariánské Lázně, and about 7 miles from Karlovy Vary. It’s a 12th-century Gothic style castle built on a rock in the town of Loket, Karlovarský kraj, Czech Republic. The castle and town is surrounded on three sides by the Ohře river.

Access to the town is via a bridge crossing the Ohre river, which had beautiful Christmas decorations.

It is possible to visit the Castle, but it was closed when we arrived. So instead we took a quick walk around the town surrounding the castle.

Castle Door (Unfortunately closed when we arrived)
View of the town below the castle

The cobbled streets, the narrow alleyways and the soft lighting made it look like a filmset. In fact, the town square at the foot of the locket castle was used as a filming location in the 2006 movie Casino Royale, where was used as the Montenegro Village where James Bond and Vesper Lynd meet Mathis. According to this article, the cafes and bars of the town we see in the movie was constructed especially for the filming.

Town Square used for filming Casino Royal

Why I loved it:

It’s a fairy tale castle surrounded by a river. Need I say more?

Have you ever been anywhere, where you only spent a short time, but it left a big impression? Leave a comments below and let me know.

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