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Luxury Steeped in History: The Spas of Prague

By: Bryan Durocher
Posted: August 26, 2009, from the September 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Five minutes from the Charles Bridge and hidden in the quiet cobblestone streets beneath Prague Castle, the Mandarin Oriental, Prague was once a Dominican monastery. It has been successfully converted into a high-end, modern hotel with first-class comforts and amenities, yet at the same time retains its historic heritage and charm. In fact, many guests enjoy an hour-long tour of the hotel with the staff pointing out artifacts and elements of the original historic building. The beautiful, gated, arched entry sets the Gothic tone, while the cheerful palette of the interior keeps the overall ambience light and bright. There are intimate meeting and dining areas, large windows that open to a beautiful courtyard, and rooms that are incredibly spacious by European standards.

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Prague was situated in the basement, and when I heard that, I worried it would carry all of the negatives of a subterranean setting. I was wrong. In fact, it was one of the most extraordinary facilities I have ever seen.

The private spa elevator deposits guests at the end of a long hallway, where each side is lined with Czech antiquities and artifacts providing a rich flavor of the city’s culture and heritage. At the end of the hallway, inside the spa, all dank associations to basements are banished. The reception area is open, bright, high-ceilinged and spacious.

And there is a most extraordinary feature. During the restoration of the hotel, ancient remnants of a Gothic church were discovered beneath the site—the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. This church was built sometime in the early 1300s and was destroyed in the early 15th century during the Hussite wars. The findings were left intact and the spa was built around them. Today the spa’s foyer features a glass floor that allows visitors an unobstructed view of the remains that were uncovered.

Within the spa’s interior, one side is a peaceful relaxation area, blocked off by beautiful screens and designed for pre- and post-treatment lingering. The screen strategy preserves the basic structure of the space while utilizing valuable square footage, and guests waiting for services are encouraged to help themselves to a variety of waters and teas before retiring into private changing rooms for women and men.