Karlovy Vary

34°
34° - January
37° - February
44° - March
53° - April
64° - May
69° - June
72° - July
72° - August
62° - September
53° - October
40° - November
34° - December
Dec avg
$120
Avg Hotel
$967
Est. Airfare

Best Known For

Description

Karlovy Vary actually translates as Charles's Bath, so it's not surprising that the city in the western Czech Republic is famous for its hot springs. It's been a popular vacation destination for hundreds of years with 200 spa houses by the late 1500s. Visitors flock to this Bohemian city to both lavish in the Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture and partake in the healing powers of the mineral-rich water. Museums feature stunning art and the churches and other buildings are so beautiful and historic that they're practically museums of their own. A short train or bus ride from Prague, Karlovy Vary makes visiting for locals and international guests easy and inexpensive. Once you arrive, you can camp amongst the pristine landscape or, for a slightly more lavish vacation experience, you can stay at hotels that range from affordable to extravagant.
Photo Credit: CzechTourism

Enchanting Day Trip to the Jewel of Bohemia

09/26/13
Karlovy Vary, situated in the north west of the Czech Republic, is a small town rich with history. Last April I took the relatively short coach journey from the country’s capital Prague, to visit this much talked about town. Upon my arrival I was not disappointed.
Legend has it the town was established by the Czech King Charles IV, which from its idyllic appearance you would find that hard to contest. Nestled in a deep forested valley, the picturesque town, with its baroque architecture and meandering canal, lives up to its nickname as the jewel of western Bohemia. The reason it has become the second most visited municipality in the country is credited to its natural hot springs and healing spa treatments.

Walking around the historical core, through the public squares and charming back lanes, you’ll being to notice a number of street venders conveniently situated alongside many of the thirteen natural hot springs. These merchants sell, almost exclusively, one particular product; porcelain drinking cups. These ornate cups have an unfamiliar drinking spout stemming from the cup’s handle, rather like a miniature teapot. The many tourists to Karlovy Vary purchase these vessels and flutter between the thirteen springs tasting the varying temperatures each spring offers. Despite these souvenir cups being reasonably priced I was travelling on a budget, so I simply recycled the empty plastic water bottle I had with me to sample the spring water.

These hot springs are said to have medicinal qualities, something many of the Czechs seem to firmly believe. However, after trying three or four of these springs I’d had my fill to be honest. The exceptionally warm, sulphuric taste of the water is an acquired palate, one which wasn’t quite quenching my thirst as easily the chilled Staropramen lager on offer in neighbouring bars. Nevertheless, tasting these legendary hot springs is certainly something you must try if visiting.

After following the canal’s route through the old town it led me to a scene many film fans might recognise, the Grandhotel Pupp. This façade of this hotel has featured in many films, most notably the 2006 remake of the James Bond film, Casino Royale. With a basic single room at the hotel costing from £200, even in the low season, the hotel’s entrance and front piazza were as most as I could hope to see.

Just behind the hotel is the beginning of the mountain trails, leading up to the Diana outlook tower perched on the crest of the valley. This is also where to location catch the funicular up the hillside. The Diana tower is free to go up (except in January) and offers unrivalled three hundred and sixty degree vistas over the entire valley. Being an enthusiastic walker and, as previously mentioned, on a tight budget I opted to walk the valley trail up to the tower.

The trail starts off beautiful, offering a great vantage point over the rooftops and boasting some great photo opportunities. However the trail quickly veers from this viewpoint, taking a more direct route straight through the shrouded hillside towards the tower. The trail can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace taking around forty minutes to reach the tower. However, constrained by my pre-booked coach back to Prague I didn’t have the time to spare. This led to my rather naïve decision to take a shortcut off the recommended trail route, straight up what must have been at least a sixty degree gradient for one hundred metres or so. Sure enough I arrived at the tower in good time, albeit bright red and dripping in sweat (with only my exceptionally warm spring water I collected earlier to hydrate me!). It’s safe to say I had no hesitation in paying the minimal fee to get the three minute funicular back down the hillside.

My Czech colleagues recommended one activity I must enjoy when in Karlovy Vary, a swim in the naturally heated outdoor pool, which is where I finished my day. Hotel Thermal, in the heart of the old town, has a rooftop swimming pool on the valley’s hillside, offering great views over the rest of the valley. It is claimed the composition of the water is one-third local hot spring water and two-thirds drinking water, with temperatures naturally heated to around twenty-six degrees Celsius. The pool is open to hotel guest and also the general public for the equivalent fee of £6. Swimming outdoors in a Bohemia valley during early April wasn’t what I pictured when I set out for the Czech Republic, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise and a perfect way to end my day in the beautiful setting of Karlovy Vary.


Summary

Food & Drink... Good selection of local food (I recommend the traditional dish of Svíčková), although prices are quite high in the historic core there are plenty of cheaper options in the newer town centre. Plenty of authentic Czech bars serving native beers.

Transport... Accessible from Prague by train or coach. The coach is the cheaper, but slower, option costing only £5 each way through the Student Agency coach company, leaving from Prague city centre. They have scheduled returns throughout the day.

Essentials... Don’t forget your swimming trunks!

Accommodation... Ranges from the luxurious hotels in the historic core, complete with all their accompanying spa treatments, to the more modest backpacking hostels in the newer town starting at around £15 per night.

Worth a wander... The ‘Russian church’ is definitely worth trying to find. The Orthodox Church of St. Peter and Paul, found on King George Street in the more affluent residential area of the historic town, has an extravagant Russian-styled exterior which is very impressive.
Greg

Vridelni Kolonada

A geyser and springs you will want to see! This geyser shoots out 2,000 liters of water every minute! You'll also get to try different types of water and may even get to swim in a spring.
Cost: Varies
Visit Website

Church of St. Mary Magdalene

This church is located in the heart of the city. You can experience the beautiful architecture of this old building and learn about the history. They also have orchestra shows that are raved about!
Cost: Varies .
Visit Website

Jan Becher Museum

Tour the cellars and watch a video about how they make Becherovka, a traditional Czech liqueur. This drink is said to have healing power. You'll get to taste a few types at the end of the museum as well!
Cost: 100 CZK
Visit Website

Planning Tip

Karlovy Vary is easily accessible by train or bus from Prague (PRG). Fares range from $8 to $20 and take between 2 and 4 hours.

Language

Czech

Currency

[CZK] Czech Republic

Airports

Karlovy Vary Airport [KLV]