“We’re really delighted”: Czech spas make World Heritage list

Františkovy Lázně

 Three Czech spa towns have just been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Mariánské Lázně, Františkovy Lázně and Karlovy Vary achieved the prestigious designation as part of a group that also includes spas in six other European states. 

On Saturday the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, meeting in China for its annual session reviewing sites around the globe, announced that a group of 11 spa towns had received a coveted spot on its list.

It is open to landmarks or areas that boast cultural, historical, scientific or some other type of significance.

The World Heritage Committee said the group captured “the most fashionable, dynamic and international spa towns among the many hundreds that contributed to the European spa phenomenon”.

The towns, which had been campaigning for inclusion under the joint banner Great Spas of Europe, include three from the very west of the Czech Republic: Mariánské Lázně, Františkovy Lázně and Karlovy Vary.

Karlovy Vary | Photo: Libor Kukal,  Radio Prague International

Andrea Pfeffer Ferklová is the mayor of Karlovy Vary, which is also known by the name Carlsbad.

“We’re really delighted that we’ve succeeded in making the list as famous European spa towns. More work lies ahead, but it’s important now to thank all those who have played a role in this. Because it was a long process, lasting more than 10 years. We’ve got work ahead of us, but now we’re going to celebrate.”

Ms. Pfeffer Ferklová explains why the whole process took longer than a decade.

“Seven countries and 11 towns were involved. The nomination process took a long time as we tried to reach agreement among ourselves. Each of the towns is completely different, so we had to agree on conditions that we could all manage in order to take part in the nomination together.”

Martin Kalina is the mayor of Mariánské Lázně. He says the leaders of the 11 towns are keen to deliver an authentic, traditional spa experience.

Mariánské Lázně | Photo: Kateřina Ayzpurvit,  Radio Prague International

“We prepared for this systematically for 10 years, so I think the preparation is pretty good. Probably the most important thing – and this was part of our nomination process – is the fact that we very much don’t want to support one-day tourism. The spa experience is all about long-term stays. For somebody to really appreciate what spas deliver they need to spend at least a fortnight at one – and we firmly hope this will happen.”

The Czech minister of culture, Lubomír Zaorálek, said that the project was a unique example of international cooperation involving ministries, institutions and experts in seven European countries.

The joint nomination for the World Heritage List had been backed by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, ICOMOS, which deals with the protection of cultural heritage around the globe.

In its expert opinion, ICOMOS highlighted two factors: the exceptional architecture of these European spa towns and the phenomenon of spa stays, including treatments and balneological procedures.

Author: Ian Willoughby
run audio


  • Czech Spas

    Wellness and health spas have a long tradition in the Czech Republic. Join us on a trip to some of the most famous getaways.