Sometimes the throngs of tourists clomping over the golden-tinged cobblestones of Prague can jar the senses. But in a secluded corner of the Mala Strana, an ancient section of the city awash with red-roofed houses, on the left bank of the Vlatava River, stands a tranquil refuge: Mandarin Oriental Prague. Primarily composed from the bones of a former 14th century Dominican monastery, the hotel, which draws from seven centuries of architecture, reigns as an eclectic nod to the past. In re-imagining the space, the builders highlighted architectural details—like vaulted ceilings, exposed beams, and columns—to preserve the history of three, centuries-old buildings, all used in the hotel’s construction. Rooms are distinctively assembled, an homage to centuries gone by.
Perhaps the best example of this marriage of history and design happens at the spa—a sanctum of solace. Separated from the main hotel by an underground passageway, which boasts walls filled with found artifacts from the construction, the spa lies within the remains of a Renaissance chapel. Within, it exudes—without exaggeration—a spiritual ambiance so dense that the aura can almost be heard. It’s as if all that energy from bygone times had been stored in a sacred vessel, perhaps a pyx, which then was opened during construction to allow years of prayers, songs, healings, and whispers to be released and dispersed to do good acts in the guise of this modern wellness center.
The spa exudes a spiritual ambiance so dense that the aura can almost be heard.
And because the hotel resembles a Russian nesting doll ever-presenting a new discovery, the spa offers a pièce de résistance like no other—a glass floor that showcases the ruins of yet another treasure—an ancient Gothic Church nestled below. Walking across the floor above the sanctuary and its relics, from check-in desk to treatment room, feeds the imagination. The captivating see-through floor not only showcases history as it exposes the bygone spiritual community preserved below, but it also serves as metaphor for our own wellness journey. Beneath all our layers (says the floor as we must say to ourselves), we have a rich core that must be nourished.
At the Spa at Mandarin Oriental Prague, delve into a collection of therapies uniquely created to evoke ancient times and classic Czech style, while utilizing modern techniques and resources. Consider the Essence of Prague Symphony, a two-and-a-half-hour massage treatment for two set to classical music. Or, revel in the Linden Embrace, two hours of bliss inspired by the Czech Republic’s national tree—the linden, revered for its heart-shaped leaves, a symbol of love. You’ll enjoy a linden scrub, followed by a massage done with hot, linden-filled poultices. Celebrating the holistic traditions of Prague’s hinterlands and the many be-flowered meadows, the two-hour Bohemian Meadow turns to the healing powers of indigenous flowers and herbs and local curative traditions for a transformative massage meant to pivot the mind, body, and spirit.
A Few Prague Pointers
Climb the hill to Villa Richter and view the rooftops of Prague from its vineyards. Stay awhile and sample some wines.
Have a traditional Czech meal at the typical Lvi Dvur, an old hunting lodge famous for its game dishes. Castle views are a bonus.
If you have time for only one museum in Prague, make it the Lobkowicz Museum within the Prague Castle complex. The audio tour is especially well done, and provides easily digested information about Czech history from ancient to modern.
Take a tour in a vintage open air car. Great fun and a super introduction for first-time visitors to Prague. Cost for one hour is around $80.
Go to the opera or the symphony. This is the quintessential way to experience Prague’s musical heritage. There are always worthwhile performances across town. Try the Rudolfinum Concert Hall or the Czech Philharmonic.
Walk through Petrin Park. Because it ascends a hill, most tourists don’t bother meandering up its trails. Alternatively, take the funicular for stellar views of the river and city.
Try some beer. Prague is famous for it. Various organizations offer beer-tasting tours.
Becca Hensley is Editor at Large for Insider's Guide to Spas. Based in Austin, she writes regularly about travel and spas. She believes a good story draws you in like laughter in a crowded room, and challenges you to do it justice. Her work appears regularly in Austin Monthly, Travel Channel, Toronto Star and National Geographic Traveler.