Karlovy Vary Weekend Trip
2024 May 27

One of my colleagues is from Karlovy Vary and told me that it’s a great place to visit. It’s an old school spa town known for its geothermal springs. The water from the springs is fully potable and loaded with minerals. It comes out very warm. I spent the weekend exploring this small town and here’s what I did. I treated this as a normal tourist place to visit. I visited alone, but I think it would be better as a family trip for most people.

I left Prague around 11:30 by bus and arrived around 2:30. The ticket was less than $10 each way. The motor coaches here are significantly nicer than in America. They feature personal entertainment screens, more leg room, and power outlets. Although I cannot figure out how to get the onboard WiFi to work. I suspect there’s a captive portal involved but the usual tricks did not work. It’s whatever.

My Hotel

I arrived in town, and immediately took my stuff to the Spa Hotel Thermal. It’s a very nice hotel offering access to a thermal suite next door with a 180 degree view of Karlovy Vary. The architecture of the hotel does not fit in at all with its surroundings. It’s a brutalist piece of soviet architecture, and that makes it interesting. My room had a great view of the thermal suite and a large window that opened in like a door. There was no balcony but it felt really connected with nature.

The bathroom was weird to say the least. I had 2 areas. A toilet and a separate shower suite. Both of them had a bidet. The shower had no shower curtain. Why? I don’t know. It feels like something that would be mandatory to me. I also can’t say I’m a fan of the bidet wand. I like mine built into the toilet set back home.

The thermal suite is interesting too. Apparently spas are timed here. You get a two hour stay included each night you are at the hotel. I find the time limit oddly stressful although two hours is plenty. There’s 2 pools. One normal pool with some swim lanes that is nicely heated, and a hot tub slightly warmer than body temperature filled up with the spring water. It’s slightly brackish colored. I liked the mineral water a lot, but it’s no blue lagoon for how your skin feels afterwards. The sauna world is quite cool, but it’s coed and requires complete nudity, which is a lot of culture shock for me. I enjoyed the saunas and steam room there a lot.

I’m also convinced that there’s an entire level of the complex that I missed but I cannot figure out how it would be so I guess it would just be offices. The view at the complex is highly recommended. I think it’s a very romantic destination. A lot of couples certainly visit this resort.

The hotel also has its own smaller thermal suite and pool. It’s indoor with no sun view and a weird hot and cold water track to walk through (I did not like this nor do I see the point of it). The hotel gym was definitely small and only included cardio. I paid roughly $460 for 3 nights at this hotel which I think is a fair price. It’s location is very central and there’s a lot to do here.

The Downtown

I really liked walking around the downtown of this town. It’s a typical old school European town. There’s a lot of classy shops and cool cafes. Food is a little more expensive than Prague, but that’s to be expected in a resort town. Definitely be aware of tourist trap restaurants with exceptionally inflated prices. I also have to say I really dislike the whole craft beer trend I’ve seen.

If you walk about halfway down towards the GrandHotel Pupp, you’ll find the old colonnade. This is where thermal spring #1 is located. This is the strongest and most powerful spring in all of Karlovy Vary. It gushes up about 18 to 20 feet up in the air.

In the upstairs portion of the colonnade, you book an underground tour of the complex. This is the coolest thing you can possibly do here. You’ll learn exactly how the spring is tapped and their safety features. As these springs can be very high pressure and excess water is vented to the river. You’ll see a lot of steam and hot water around the river from this. The underground section includes a stone coating chamber. The water has so much dissolved minerals in it that they will precipitate out onto any available surface. The famous Carlsbad roses are made from paper and put into the stream.

I cannot recommend this tour enough. It’s a really interesting bit of infrastructure and a behind the scenes tour, which is always cool.

There’s also a neat museum which describes the history of the town. It’s two floors of interactive exhibits and was very reasonably priced to visit. It covers from the town’s founding in the early 1200s to the various disasters that befell it. The geology of the town. As well as some of the more famous residents and visitors of the town. I personally enjoyed the history of the medical spa treatments. Especially with the quantity of water prescribed by the physicians. The water would also give people intestinal distress from the sheer quantity. It would be like 6 liters of water a day, and this would actually help cause it would flush out the tapeworms and other parasites from the gut.

The other sections of the museum cover the various industries that sprung up around the spa town. There’s a cool but gorey painting of a hawk eating a rabbit. Not sure how I feel about it, but it’s certainly macabre.

I also recommend trying the various public hot springs around town and tasting the water. Don’t drink a huge quantity, but it’s definitely interesting enough to try at least once or twice. I think some of the springs tasted like chicken soup. Each of them has a distinct flavor. Make sure you buy a spa cup too while you’re there for sampling. The spa cups are so cool. It’s sort of like a port sipper with a straw in the handle and very rectangular in shape. The sizes are highly variable and many are printed with a nice pattern and are made locally in the EU.

GrandHotel Pupp

Everyone told me to check out the GrandHotel Pupp. It’s a very famous hotel. The 2007 James Bond movie used it as a shooting location. It’s an example of old school elegance that isn’t seen much anymore. I went to the cafe and had a piece of chocolate cake and some of their famous coffee which were excellent. It’s a very fancy hotel with cool architecture.

I went to the Becher Bar too. It was recommended to me by the bartender at Hemmingway in Prague. It’s famous for being a bar that specializes in Becherovka. However I found the bartenders just insanely cool to talk to. They knew their drinks and prepared so many special menus. They also had some of the world’s best bartenders there preparing their signature cocktails. I liked the Garden of Melons a lot. It was extremely drinkable and evolved over time. I also had the Oslotini which is a riff on the cosmopolitan. I didn’t like that one as much.

The bar food was good but expensive. I had this thing with slices of beef and bread. I enjoyed it, and it was filling.

I also recommend walking down and past the hotel and into the woods. There’s an interesting statue of Goethe there and a couple other springs on the road. It’s a very relaxing walk.

Lookout Tower Diana

There’s a very tall lookout tower that is accessible via the funicular railway. The tower is free to enter and take the elevator up. The view is so worth it. You can see how tame the woods are. I need to make a very important note here. Don’t be lazy and order a rideshare to get there. I did and regretted it. My driver took me halfway up the mountain, and I thought I could walk up. Don’t do that. It’s slippery and dangerous.

But the view is worth it no matter how you get there.

Wrapping Up

There’s a couple more thoughts I have here. Definitely try the sweets from the cafe. Try the local liquor. If you like tourist traps do the Becherovka museum. It’s your standard hail corporate booze museum. The liquor is a bit weird, but a good herbal liquor.

If I were to return, here’s some items I would want to get to next time.

  1. I would try the other spas around town.

  2. Visit Moser glassworks. Maybe take a glassblowing course.

  3. Do more hiking.

  4. Rent a car to explore the surrounding countryside and the various

    mines around it. Apparently the mine that Uranium was discovered in is nearby.

I hope you found this post useful and filled with details on what to do in Karlovy Vary. I know I definitely missed a lot. If you have any comments feel free to email me them.

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Written by Henry J Schmale on 2024 May 27
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