In the 19th century the Bohemian Spa Karlovy Vary was the place to be. The polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said it was one of the only three cities in the world he would like to live in. Karlovy Vary was the pinnacle of fashion, and the Old Town today is a testament to the appeal of this old world, enriched by neo-Renaissance and Baroque promenades, columns and hotels, and of course, thermal springs. It is still the most respected spa site in the Czech Republic, a destination for luxury R&R located at the northern end of Slawkowski Les, a beautiful area of high forest-covered areas.
1. Colonnade Mill
There is no better place to start from this symbolic landmark, a respectable walking path with a two-lane cabin, surrounded by 124 pages in the heart of the Old City. Here the spa orchestra holds free concerts throughout the year, and five of Karlovy Vary’s 13 hot springs pop up along the pillars. Each spring is marked on a board detailing the water temperatures and mineral content, and the best thing is that you can bring your own glass to sample the water while walking. It is completely free and open at any hour of the day. And if you do not have a glass do not worry because spa cups are sold everywhere in the old town.
2. Spa treatments
Karlovy Vary is full of day spas, hotels and wellness centers, and you are sure to find the spa that suits your needs and budget. Most visitors opt for treatment courses that last a week or more. People come to Karlovy Vary because of the healing properties of the water since the 14th century, and the story goes that the holy Roman emperor Charles IV was the first to be treated here after finding a spring bubbling in the ground while hunting. As you can understand, the list of treatments available is endless, but the most popular include hydrotherapy, mineral water drinking remedies and lots of fresh air.
3. Strange Museum
Karlovy Vary was a center of excellence for a number of professions, but none of them was more prestigious than glassmaking. In 1893 a strange Ludwig set up his glass workshop here, which remains a reference point for the craft to this day. At one point in the early 1900s the supply of crystals was handed over to the Austro-Hungarian emperor, the Persian Shah and the King of Great Britain. You can visit a strange museum to get to know the process, from design to glass production, cutting and engraving. And naturally there are large collections ranging from the earliest works to the more recent items of the glass factory.
4. Thermal hotel
This building really does not blend in with the rest of Karlovy Vary, but that’s what makes it cool. It is a 10-storey tower block from the 70s, a Soviet object that stands in contrast to the delicate architecture of the old city. And although it was not popular at first it became accepted as a landmark. First, the Thermal Hotel offers the only public outdoor pool located in the town center. In early July, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival takes place here – this is the leading film event in the region and celebrated its half century in 2015. Recent festival guests include Harvey Keitel, Helen Mirren, Michelle Gondry and Judy Dench.
5. Diana Tower Observation
Reaching this sight at the summit of Friendship Hill depends on how scared you feel. If you have the energy you can do the climbing on forest trails, and the most convenient time to do so is in the spring, early summer and fall. The second option is to hop on the scenic funicular, which leaves Karlovy Vary every 15 minutes and takes three minutes to reach the summit. The Diana Tower is from 1914 and offers views that last 70 kilometers on a clear day, free of charge (except in January). Accompanies the tower restaurant and mini zoo, and you can also explore the charming forest up here.
6. Vrídelní Kolonáda
Vrídlo is the best known of all the hot springs of Karlovy Vary. At 72 degrees Celsius it is also the hottest, and erupts from the ground at such a pressure that it reaches a height of 12 meters, kicking out 2000 liters every minute. This geyser is located inside the Vrídelní Kolonáda, a functionalist building from the 1970s, along with four other springs, all of which can be sampled for free. For new immigrants the water can be quite strange, so do not worry about taking more than a sip! Take an underground tour of the spa’s indoor activities and see how the town’s famous argon crystals are formed.
7. Jan Bachar Museum
Karlovy Vary is the hometown of another famous bohemian artist. Joseph Bachar was a pharmacist from the early 19th century who developed his own medical tunics, and after being successful his son Johann set up the business and began producing one beverage, in Cherubka, on a larger scale. Today the Bechrovka is the national liqueur of the Czech Republic. In the Jan Bachar Museum you will see the distillery and the original objects, and you will discover how to cook and store Bacarovka. Entrance to the museum includes a tasting session, but please note: this thing can take some getting used to! Take a souvenir bottle from the museum store.
8. Church of St. Mary Magdalene
Right next to Vrídelní Kolonáda is this magnificent church that dates back to 1737, and is one of the most valued pieces of the country’s highest baroque heritage. You can peek inside during the summer months, and you will get to see a spectacular altarpiece, a gothic statue of the Madonna and Baroque statues. In the crypt you can haggle over the elaborate baroque foundations of the church and another altar hewn from the argon formed around the thermal springs of Karlovy Vary. Church has excellent acoustics, so try to grab a seat at one of the regular concerts held here.
9. Grandhotel Pupp
On a hillside with a spectacular view of Karlovy Vary is this luxurious 228-room hotel with a history that goes back more than 300 years. It gets its name from Johan Georg Pop, a local confectioner who came to own the building in marriage. During a century of prosperity its descendants expanded the hotel, and in the early 20th century the building had a neo-baroque design that can be seen today. Grandhotel Pupp is the latest word in abundance in Karlovy Vary, which welcomes the rich and famous from around the world, and was also a filming location for the 2006 Bond film Casino Royale.
10. Stará Louka
In the city known for its luxurious walking trails, Stará Louka stands out as the preferred promenade. This is one of the most filmed scenes in the city; A street of ancient and beautiful urban houses on the north bank of the Tefela River is framed by the evergreen loess hills of Slavkowski. Along the street you will come across boutiques, cafes and restaurants. It is the perfect place for friends and families to take a leisurely stroll on the weekend, and stop by a riverside terrace for a coffee. On the opposite bank is Nova Luca, where you can see the magnificent Nazval Theater.
11. Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
With its five golden domes, do not miss this impressive Orthodox church, modeled on the Byzantine Church of the Holy Trinity in Moscow. It dates to 1897 and is unmistakable evidence of Karlovy Vary’s strong Russian influence, which continues to this day. The interior of the church is decorated with valuable paintings, murals and other decorations. The central part here is a relief depicting the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great. Many of these works were done under the auspices of wealthy Russian patients who sought treatment for Karlovy Vary.
12. Gymnastics in the hills
Connecting with Karlovy Vary are more than 180 miles of color-coded trails for hiking and biking that meander through the hills around the city. Along the way you will always find something interesting to see, as these trails have been used for centuries and during this time various lodges, lookouts and resting places have been established. The Charles IV lookout for example is a neo-Gothic tower from 1877 that rises 514 meters above sea level, while the deer jump also offers a beautiful panoramic view and can be identified by a mountain goat statue perched on a large rock nearby. To the platform.
13. Postal Court
Hidden in the hills just south of town, the Postal Court was originally a stable for mail horses, but because of its location has become a staging post for tourists traveling and riding in the landscape around Karlovy Vary. After a while a restaurant was established here, and the place eventually gained great importance as a place to rub shoulders with the rich visitors and citizens of the spa. Inside this neoclassical building there are a variety of ceremonial halls, and in a French-style complex you will see two magnificent pavilions. The dance pavilion, with its covered terrace, is prominent.
14. Colonnade in the market
A complex white and carved wooden building, the column pillar of the market was intended to be only a temporary structure, but stood the test of 100 years. It was built by Planner and Helmer, Viennese architects responsible for many of Karlovy Vary’s spa buildings, and has a magnificent column arcade at the front. In the Market Colonnade there are two springs: the Market Spring and Charles IV Spring, which emerge at 62 and 64 degrees Celsius respectively. Inside the columns is a relief depicting the famous and mythological discovery of Karlovy Vary by Charles IV in the 13th century.
True to its reputation as one of the region’s top destinations for the rich in the early 20th century, Karlovy Vary has welcomed golfers for more than a century and has offered the first courses anywhere in Bohemia. There are now three within minutes of Karlovy Vary, and another seven in the wide area. The oldest is the Karlovy Vary Golf Resort, which is an 18-hole velvet course nestled in the Upper Forest. Another local choice is the Golf and Race Club, where the course actually sits within the Karlovy Vary racing circuit that dates back to the First World War.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
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