Worth a Trip: Cieplice Śląskie-Zdrój
Immediately to the south of Jelenia Góra, Cieplice (cheh-plee-tseh) is the oldest spa in the region, and a very restful place to squander an afternoon. Purportedly discovered by the same King Bolesław who named 'Deer Mountain' (Jelenia Góra), the sulphurous hot springs have been appreciated for a millennium, and the first spa house here was established as early as the late 13th century. The supposedly curative properties of the springs, which come out of the ground at a scalding 90°C, became truly popular in the late 18th century, paving the way for the building of the resort and spa town.
The lovely, wooded Spa Park makes up much of Cieplice Śląskie-Zdrój's core. Founded in the 18th century and later re-landscaped in the English style, it holds an embarrassment of handsome fin-de-siècle pavilions and buildings, including the domed Spa Theatre (Teatr Zdrojowy) and the wooden open-air Concert Shell (Muszla Koncertowa).
Nearby, at the western end of pedestrian Plac Piastowski is the early 18th-century Church of St John the Baptist, which contains an altarpiece painted by famed baroque artist Michael Willmann. Should you wish to sample the local waters, the statue-topped automatic pump in a small square near St John’s dispenses free water from Cieplice's springs into whatever container you provide.
In the imposing red-brick monastic buildings adjoining the church, you'll find the diverting Natural History Museum. Its display of birds and butterflies from all over the world is built on the collection of the prominent Schaffgotsch family, local nobles who established the museum in 1876. Giant insects in the flowerbeds around the entrance provide great photo ops.
Cieplice Śląskie-Zdrój lies 11km south of Jelenia Góra’s centre, and can be reached by suburban bus 17 (3zł, 15 minutes) from a stop near the bus station on ul Podwale. If you’re staying closer to the train station, catch bus 9 from there instead. Buy your bus ticket from a street-side kiosk, then validate on board.