Karlovy Vary is the second most visited spot in the Czech Republic and is hailed as the ‘Jewel of the West Bohemian Spa Triangle’. With its colonnades and whirlpool baths in thermal water surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, it is one of the most alluring European spa cities. But, there’s plenty more to do than just kick back and relax in the mineral-packed springs.
The history of spa treatments in Karlovy Vary reaches back to the 14th century, when the first documented customer, Emperor Charles IV, used the hot spring waters for healing his wounds. Today, not only patients are welcomed to enjoy the benefits of the wellness infrastructure, but oodles of men, women, families and couples focusing on relaxation, detoxification, and anti-stress treatment, head into town to take a dip.
Two centuries ago it was used as a medication, today Becherovka, a herbal bitters, is found in almost every pub, restaurant, and bar of Karlovy Vary. Creator of this delicious liqueur, Josef Becher, started the manufacture in Karlovy Vary. Today visitors can get to know Becherovka better in the Jan Becher Museum, located in the historic building where this beverage was produced for 150 years.
Karlovy Vary wafers are a very popular snack with a history going back to the beginnings of the 19th century, when cooks prepared them for the spa guests. Originally served with just sugar powder, over time new flavors, spices and techniques emerged. In the mid-19th century, the first bakeries specializing in the spa wafers were opened and ever since have enjoyed huge popularity in the town.
Visit the glass factory
Moser is a high-quality glass brand produced in Karlovy Vary. The success of the company reflects in the opening of the Moser Visitor Centre, with a Glass Museum where visitors can see the exhibition of the oldest and current Moser collections with over 200 pieces. Documentaries about glass and guided tours are available in a variety of different languages. Guests also have a chance to learn about the production of glass, see how the molten glass turns into unique vessels, and witness the work of master glassblowers.
Arguably the most famous aspect of Karlovy Vary is the 13 hot mineral springs that pop up naturally within its confines. The water is said to have amazing curing powers, reducing problems related to metabolism, normalizing the sugar levels in the blood, reducing cholesterol and other fats, as well as resting the mind. In Hotel Termal, the largest hotel of the city, guests can use the huge outdoor swimming pool that opens to a stunning view over the entire city.
With over 200 years of history behind it, The Postal Court Restaurant used to serve as a stall for the postal horses, quickly transforming into a cultural, social, and political center of the town. Today it is a restaurant offering Czech cuisine and international meals with a romantic interior and exterior. In the Labitzky hall of the Court guests can view the impressing frescoes painted by Josef Kramolín, a Czech Baroque artist, while in the other rooms visitors will find a dance pavilion with a covered terrace and a beautiful garden pavilion.
Before World War I horse racing played an important role in the social life of Karlovy Vary. For these events, women wore their fanciest dresses and sophisticated hats, while men indulged in betting competitions. In 1939, the facilities were taken away and used for military purposes, until after the fall of communism when it was returned to its former glory. Today guests of the Hipodrom Holubek can see the famous horse riding competitions again.
Take a look at the city from the Diana Observation Tower
Since 1914 the Diana Observation Tower, located in the great spa forests, has offered a wonderful panorama of the city and its surroundings. Guests can get there either by taking the spa trails or by using the funicular. The nearby restaurant offers refreshments, and there is also a mini zoo, a butterfly house, and a terrace in the woods to explore. Many tourists continue their trip from there taking a stroll on the forest tracks that differ in length and difficulty.
Republica Coffee is one of the best cafés in Karlovy Vary, offering sweet and savory snacks and a fresh coffee brewed from beans selected from all around the world. It has a friendly and youthful atmosphere, and an interior arranged in a minimalist style, with red brick walls, simple furniture, and comfortable armchairs. It is located in the city center, just a few minutes away from the Becherovka Museum.
Vřídlo is a geyser of hot mineral water that issues at 72 Celsius degrees that is referred to as a symbol of the city. It is a unique natural phenomenon with the flow of 2,000 liters of water daily and, due to the high water pressure, a total height of 12 meters. In the first half of the 17th century, a communal bath was organized around the geyser, and later a baroque spa was built. This was replaced in the 19th century by the colonnade seen today, where you can appreciate the beautiful architecture, with gorgeous fountains surrounded by flowers and walking paths.