Wintertime Getaways for Families
Three mountain retreats to please Mom, Dad & the kids
Here are three tips for family-friendly mountain retreats in the Czech Republic. At each location find skiing, wellness options and additional outdoor (and indoor) fun.
For more choices, read last year’s article on Family-Friendly Wintertime Trips.
A Wellness Weekend at Špindlerův Mlýn (Plus a Visit to an Ice Palace)
Located in the heart of the Krkonoš Mountains, Špindlerův Mlýn is a mountain resort town that has a bit of everything – from skiing, shopping and hiking to wellness facilities and upscale restaurants. The downtown of Špindlerův Mlýn is situated at the conjunction of the Labe River and Dolsky creek, which makes a pleasant and picturesque atmosphere for riverside walks. During the winter, expect to be greeted by Krakonoš, a legendary Czech mountain figure, dressed in his green hunting cloak, feathered hat and with his owl companion. (Kind of like a Czech-style Hagrid.)
What to Do
Although Špindlerův Mlýn, with its Sv. Petr and Medevin ski areals, and the nearby Harrachov resort are known for excellent ski facilities, there are plenty of other options in the town to please non-skiers. In Špindlerův Mlýn, there is an aquapark as well as an extensive network of trails for walking, hiking and biking. The downtown has a small Lego museum/kids’ play area where children can play for an hour or so while parents have a coffee. Ride the six-person chair lift at Sv. Petr to see the Ledarium, an exhibition of ice sculptures that is on display all winter. This year’s Ice Palace theme is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Entry is free.
If skiing isn’t your style, take a taxi up to Špindlerův Bouda and then spend the rest of the day walking back on tourist paths to the town. Stop to admire carved wooden structures of wildlife native to the Krkonoš Mountains. To warm up, duck into a cozy mountain lodge for hearty Czech soups, beer or warm drinks. Finish your day with pool and sauna time and then enjoy a pleasant evening meal. It’s between a 7 – 10 km walk (depending on the trail) from Špindlerův Bouda back to downtown.
Where to Stay
Accommodations at Špindlerův Mlýn range from budget-style pensions to hotels with wellness facilities. For a wellness treat, book a room at Hotel Bedřiška, which offers a new wellness facility with an indoor pool, a Jacuzzi, a Finnish sauna and a steam sauna. At the hotel, there is also one of the town’s best-rated restaurants Orange Le Moon. Other hotels with wellness options include Hotel Olympie and Harmonie Club Hotel. Or stay at the top of the mountain in Špindlerův Bouda.
Where to Eat
For a great steak, try Bacchus Steakhouse & Café or Orange Le Moon for seafood, meat and pasta dishes. Both restaurants have kids’ menus.
General Information & Last Minute Deals: www.spindleruv-mlyn.com
Tourist Information in English: www.mestospindleruvmlyn.cz
Cross-Country Skiing & the Jizerská 50 (17 – 19.2)
Cross-country skiing is one of the most popular winter activities in the Czech Republic. Although there are Czechs who strap on their skis in Prague’s Hvezda park after a heavy snowfall, if you want to try cross-country skiing with the pros, you need to take a weekend trip to the Jezera Mountains.
The Jizerska 50 is the largest and most-known cross-country race in the country. The race is included in the Worldloppet cross-country marathon events. This February marks the 50th anniversary of the 50 km race. Race weekend brings thousands of competitors and spectators to the region to enjoy everything from the main event to special races for children and an Old Timers race. The children’s races range in length from 300 m to 3 km. The races start and finish in the mountain town of Bedřichov. The main event is run along a track known as the Jizerská magistrála. There is an opening ceremony with skiers in old-fashioned clothes and fireworks at the start and finish of the Old Timer’s race.
Many Czechs, both young and old, know how to cross-country ski. Cross-country ski equipment is easy to use (according to Czechs) and inexpensive to rent. Rent your skis and shoes before heading to the mountains for a better selection. In Prague, try Happy Sport rental stores. If you’re skiing for the first time, get some basic instructions on how technique and choose a relatively flat spot to start.
What to do:
In addition to cross-country skiing, take a side trip to Jizerka, the quaint town nestled at the top of the Jizera Mountains. As one of the highest villages in the country, the town has only a few scattered cabins and settlement buildings. Don’t be surprised to see lots of snow. Warm up with drinks in the Panský dům or visit the town’s historical museum. For another historical experience, visit the Prezidentská chata, which dates back to 1928 and has been used as vacation property for the Presidential Office. Have a warm meal and check out the numerous cross-country trails that lead to and from the cottage. During milder weather, ask about horseback riding options.
If you’re tired of the mountains, head down to Liberec, where culture, science and more skiing options await. Don’t miss the city’s iconic TV Tower in the clouds with its Hotel Ještěd ranked by CNN in 2016 as one of 12 “most unusual” hotels in the world. Jested ski areal offers both cross-country and downhill skiing. See last year’s story for more tips on Liberec with kids.
Where to stay:
If you have cross-country skiing on your agenda, book a room at the Prezidentská chata or Šámalova chata, another family-friendly lodge near Bedřichov with historic roots. The Bedřichov area has an abundance of mountain lodges and smaller family-style pensions. See the regional website for more choices.
For a more urban experience, stay in Liberec at Hotel Jested or Hotel Babylon (with wellness).
Where to eat:
For hearty Czech fare like svíčková, řízek a guláš, try one of the historic mountain lodges like the Prezidentská chata or Šámalova chata. Reserve a table at Prezidentská chata on weekends and holidays.
Lipno Marina & Ski Resort (Opening Season Event on Saturday, 17.12)
Once again, the Lipno Ski Resort located in the Sumava Mountains comes recommended as one of the most popular family ski resorts in the Czech Republic. It is also one of the few Czech resorts that is already currently open for skiing. Lipno offers extensive children’s ski and snowboard facilities with group and private ski and snowboard lessons taught in Czech, English and Dutch at the Lipno Ski School. This weekend marks the official season opening with plenty of activities for children. See the weekend program.
What to Do
When you’re worn out from skiing, Lipno offers plenty of non-skiing options. Enjoy the Treetop Walkway with its breathtaking view of the Lipno Lake – in good weather you can see the Alps. Once you have walked through the tree top canopy, slide down a metal slide to the bottom for an extra thrill. Head to Aquaworld to relax in the whirlpool while your children slide and play under a water mushroom. After the pool, let your children burn off any extra energy in the Hopsarium, a two-story climbing area with a trampoline and inflatable obstacles. After dinner, join other families in Fox Park for informal night sledding.
Bring or rent ice skates to skate on the frozen Lipno Dam, where the longest natural track in the world is maintained when conditions permit. The trails around the Lipno Dam also offer 40-km of cross-country ski paths, a perfect option for those who don’t like downhill skiing but still want to get some exercise.
Where to Stay
Landal Marina Lipno offers apartments with kitchens on Lipno Lake (including a reduced-price entrance to the Aquaworld). The slope-side pension Slunecna Louka offers family apartments (no kitchen, but breakfast in the restaurant). Another option is Amenity Resort which has its own 20-meter salt pool and sports center (squash, tennis and fitness). A bit further afield is the Wellness Hotel Fymburk, which has a nice pool and steam room as well as a restaurant with a kids’ play room.
Where to Eat
For a delicious post-ski lunch or dinner, ski right up to the pizzeria Slunecna Louka, a family-run restaurant and pension located on the right of the resort’s front side. If you don’t mind a short drive, try Amenity Resort’s Blue Restaurant. Hotel Admiral also has a restaurant located close to Lipno’s Aquapark. There is a grocery store by the slopes for supplies if you’ve booked an apartment with a kitchen.
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