Situated at the confluence of the Eger and Teplá rivers in a magnificent forested valley, the elegant spa town of Karlovy Vary will make you believe you are living in a dream, a fairy tale or a movie.
This enchanting town boasts more than 80 natural thermal springs, whose healing properties have been known since ancient times. Today, Karlovy Vary is part of the so-called wellness triangle, along with Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně, and is indisputably the most important spa town in the Czech Republic.
But not everyone comes here for the cures. An increasing number of tourists are attracted here by the numerous relaxation and wellness packages offered by hotels with thermal pools, as well as by the architectural and scenic beauty of the area. Treat yourself to a VIP stay!
The curative properties of the Karlovy Vary waters have been known for over 650 years. It is therefore not surprising that the fate of this town is inextricably linked to the prodigious virtues and abundance of thermal springs in the area.
Once used only for curative purposes, today they are also exploited by the wellness sector to offer services, treatments and packages designed for tourists who come here in search of relaxation and well-being. You will find a wide range of heated pools with whirlpools, leg courses and hot jets, as well as beauty centres offering beauty treatments and relaxing massages.
There are around 80 natural thermal springs, 13 of which have drinking water. The city’s richest and hottest thermal spring known as Vridlo (gushing) springs within a modern colonnade. As early as the 16th century, people began to surround the geysers and springs with structures ranging from a simple wooden colonnade to a classicist colonnade or even a baroque building.
Don’t be fooled by the simple name ‘gusher’: the pressure that the water from this spring can reach is so strong that it can be pushed up to a height of 12 metres. The temperature is also record-breaking: in fact, the waters of the gush exceed 70 degrees!
The water from the underground colonnade is supplied to hotels to fill their swimming pools, as well as being used for spa treatments. The underground colonnade can be visited on a fascinating tour that will introduce you to an unknown world and reveal the secrets of how modern spas work.
Karlovy Vary has always distinguished itself as a luxury destination, and the area’s hotel tradition could only meet the high standards demanded by its exclusive clientele. Visitors who have stayed in the town over the years include Casanova, Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Kafka and Alphonse Mucha.
Among the spa hotels in Karlovy Vary, the most famous is undoubtedly the Grand Hotel Pupp, which has become a symbol of the city. Luxurious, opulent, chic, any adjective used to describe it must always highlight the opulence of its surroundings as well as the very high quality of service. A hotel for VIPs, real or fictional, like the film stars who come here for the annual festival or the iconic James Bond (key scenes from the film Casino Royale were filmed here).
Today, alongside the luxury spa hotels, it is possible to find accommodation to suit all wallets and social classes.
Karlovy Vary is also called the town of colonnades: you will find five of them in the heart of the town, not far from each other, and their function is to protect the comfort of patients during spa treatment.
The largest and probably the most sumptuous is the Mill Colonnade, erected between 1871 and 1881. More than a hundred Corinthian columns surround five thermal springs, with temperatures ranging from 53 to 65 degrees; a sixth spring is located opposite the beginning of the colonnade. Buy the traditional Karlsbad glass at one of the stalls and sip the healing water, or simply stroll along the colonnade admiring the twelve statues adorning it, each representing a month of the year.
Five hundred metres above the thermal forests is Diana’s Tower, an observation tower that can be easily reached by funicular railway or by scenic walking paths. From here you can enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of the city.
In Karlovy Vary you can visit two museums dedicated to local products that have become world famous.
The Jan Becker Museum will tell you about the 100-year history of Beckerovka, the famous Czech herbal liqueur. Of course, you can also take part in a tasting session and buy a bottle or more to take home.
Discover the secrets of working with fine Bohemian crystal in the Moser Glass Museum. You can enter the glassworks of this prestigious brand and witness the spectacle of a shapeless mass that the skilful hands of master glassmakers transform into a luxury object. Here too, if you wish, and if you can afford it, you will have the opportunity to buy your own souvenirs: needless to say, they will be greatly appreciated by those who receive them.
Those with a sweet tooth should definitely try the typical Karlovy Vary waffles, the traditional sweet, perhaps to nibble on while strolling along a colonnade.
Certainly the easiest way to visit Karlovy Vary is with a day trip from Prague. Considering the distance, if you are in the Czech capital for a long weekend and want to relax at the spa, you can also dedicate a day to Karlovy Vary.
Important events of international appeal are organised in Karlovy Vary every year. The most famous is undoubtedly the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, which has already celebrated its 50th edition and is one of the most important film events in the Czech Republic.
The Karlovy Vary JazzFest, which attracts famous Czech and international musicians to the town, is also held for several decades, as is the Autumn Porcelain Celebrations organised by the prestigious Thun company, which will give you the opportunity to buy their luxurious porcelain at a discount and attend events for adults and children.
Karlovy Vary is about 120 km from Prague and can be easily reached by car in less than two hours or by direct bus in about two hours.
A slower train journey, however, takes more than three hours and may require one change or more.
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