A Bohemian rhapsody; the timeless appeal of Prague


On Prague's historic Charles Bridge, the crowds are heavy. At times, its nigh on impossible to get near the imposing Baroque statues of saints that the picturesque bridge is known for. Its the same in the Old Town Square, where tourists with selfie sticks mingle in front of the famous 600-year-old Astronomical Clock, waiting for it to chime the hour and display its moving figures. 

One of Europe’s most scenic capitals, and one of the only ones that remained largely undamaged during the Second World War, Prague’s atmospheric, cobbled streets are always full of admiring hordes snapping away at its medieval spires, verdigris cupolas and Modernist masterpieces.

Just 23km away from the city, the forest retreat of Chateau Mcely in Bohemia couldn’t be a bigger contrast.

With five hectares of grounds teeming with plants unique to the area, the chateau’s owners decided to tap into the region’s age-old apothecary traditions by revisiting ancient recipes once used for remedies, growing flowers and herbs on the estate to create organic oils and balms for the Mcely Boutique beauty range.

But you don’t need to leave Prague itself to discover it. Used exclusively at the Mandarin Oriental Prague in the heart of Mala Strana (or Little Quarter), the hotel is a quiet refuge itself.

It’s part of a bigger trend for spas to celebrate local beauty heritage, and while there’s a wide range of Asian-based treatments — such as the group’s signature Oriental Essence Massage — its selection of Czech-inspired treatments all incorporate the locally-sourced Mcely Boutique products.

Unlike many of the larger properties owned by the hotel group, the Czech version is compact and as beautifully serene as the 14th century monastery it is carved out of. Tucked away off a hidden courtyard, you are ushered into a gleaming white lobby, which immediately sets the tone of restrained sophistication. This elegant feel is echoed in the hotel’s 99 rooms and suites spread across what were once five Renaissance houses.

The spa itself is housed in a former Renaissance chapel, a hushed oasis that’s joined to the main hotel by an underground tunnel. Today, the glass floor of the candlelit entrance — once the nave — allows guests to view the remnants of the old Gothic church.

It’s not only the spa products which are influenced by regional heritage. Linden Embrace, inspired by the Czech Republic’s national tree, the Linden, begins with a Bohemian tea ceremony where linden blossom tea is served in local, vintage porcelain cups.

Exfoliation with sea salt and yarrow oil is followed by a body massage with daisy oil and warm herbal poultices before a scalp massage with essence of rose de-stresses even the most uptight urban traveller. A face cleanse, using pampering rosemary butter, completes the indulgent 90 minutes.

Throughout the hotel, the unfussy minimalist feel designed to showcase the vaulted ceilings, original parquet floors and stone arches includes local touches to add personality. You’ll find, for example, a collection of colourful modern art canvases dotted around, sourced from up-and-coming Central European artists, while one of its suites features décor by Moser, the Czech luxury crystal brand.

Fresh orchids, velvety-soft down pillows and huge marble bathrooms ramp up the luxe factor, while splashes of burnt orange, claret and navy offset the calming whites.

Revived and rejuvenated, you needn’t wander far to discover the city’s Jewish heritage either. The Prague Jewish Museum is one of the world’s finest and includes a moving Holocaust memorial dedicated to the 80,000 Czech Jews who perished during the Nazi occupation, while the Old-New Synagogue is the oldest still in use in Europe, where stories tell that the body of the legendary Golem still lies concealed somewhere in its attic.

True or myth? Contemplate it for yourself back at the hotel over a glass of wine from Moravia, the country’s main wine-producing region, for one final taste of Czech heritage that’s very easy to swallow.

GETTING THERE: Get three nights for the price of two at the Mandarin Oriental ( if booked through Kirker Holidays (, from £749 per person including flights, a private walking tour and breakfast. For stays until March 31, 2017. 

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