Karlovy Vary is the most famous spa resort in the Czech Republic, situated in the western part of Bohemia historical region, in the unique setting where three rivers join together – the Ohře, Teplá and Rolava. Here, among the picturesque mountain scenery 12 springs with curative mineral water come to the surface.
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Video: Karlovy Vary
In Karlovy Vary, 131 treatment facilities use the wealth of nature for balneological and spa treatments. The chemical composition of the water is almost everywhere identical, but each spring has a different level of carbon dioxide and a temperature varying between 30° and 72°C. That is why the healing springs have different effects on the body, which allows using their health benefits for a variety of ailments.
Karlovy Vary has a population of 49,046 (according to 2017 data), of which about 7% are immigrants. This fabulous city has an elusive and unique atmosphere. The buildings are uniform in architectural style, yet each is unique in its own way. They are situated on different slopes and compete with each other for the right to be called the most magnificent one. Karlovy Vary is surrounded by protected forests and the most beautiful mountain peaks. The valleys of the Teplá and Ohře Rivers spread out among the rocks. In the surrounding villages there are preserved ancient cathedrals, medieval fortresses and castles. It is not surprising that here at one time were famous guests: Peter the Great, Prince P.A. Vyazemsky, Nikolai Gogol, Wolfgang Goethe, Frederic Chopin, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Johann Sebastian Bach, representatives of royal families.
View of the city from Friendship Peak
These places have been inhabited since prehistoric times. The founder of the spa town of Karlovy Vary is considered to be the most famous Czech king and at the same time Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV.
His Majesty loved to hunt and each time in a new place. One day, chasing an animal, he and his entourage were in this blessed land, whose beauty struck him. The dog kept on chasing the game and suddenly hit the pond, shrieking furiously. The hunters thought it was from fright. But in fact she was… burnt, because the spring that came out of the ground was hot. Everyone, of course, was surprised by this miracle. But what was most striking was the almost instantaneous relief in his legs that the king felt. He rinsed his feet with the hot spring’s water and the pain that had been bothering him for so many years receded.
The nature of Karlovy Vary
After the miraculous healing, Charles IV ordered the building of fortifications and the foundation of a natural sanatorium for the members of the royal family.
A poem “Ode to the Hot Spring” written by Bohuslav Hasinstein, the Czech poet, in 1500, has been preserved to this day. In 1522 Doctor V. Payen wrote a treatise on treatment by the local waters, which was disputed by many of his contemporaries, but attracted great interest.
In 1604 the Gothic town of Karlovy Vary (then called in German as Karlsbad) was destroyed by fire. In the course of the Thirty Years War against the Swedes, many magnificent fortresses in the region were barbarously burned and plundered. The resort did not develop.
At the end of the XVII century the unique settlement, which became a real health resort in the open air, got a second breath. In 1711 the Russian Emperor Peter the Great came here, who, by the way, had the idea to build an Orthodox cathedral here. The demand for healing waters was becoming huge, there was even a ban on its export outside the city. At the beginning of the XVIII century the first balneary was built, as well as the Hot Spring Colonnade, then the Imperial Spa and the theater. In 1759 many of the buildings were damaged by another fire.
The last third of the 19th century is regarded as the golden period of development of the spa. European and Russian aristocracy came to Karlovy Vary. Immense investments were made in the construction and development of the settlement. Old buildings were replaced by new ones, which were united by a coherent concept. A great influence on the appearance of the town was exerted by the Viennese style of architecture. Karlovy Vary became the favourite recreation place of the world’s elite.
Vřídlo Hot Spring. Photo from 1896
Both then and today, the local mineral waters are used mainly for ingestion. However, water from some springs – such as Vřídlo – is more suitable for balneotherapeutic procedures, which are widely used in local spas. For example, carbon dioxide, radon, oxygen baths, etc. It is also used to gargle the throat, wash the stomach and intestines.
Note the fact that in the second half of the XIX century in Karlovy Vary spread its missionary activity of the Russian Orthodox Church, as evidenced by the unique documents found here. Namely the letters which were exchanged between the Russian priests and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, the outstanding people of Russian culture and even the members of the imperial family and the Austro-Hungarian government.
In the heart of Karlovy Vary there is a small but very beautiful park known as the Dvořák Gardens. It was named in 1974 in honor of Antonín Dvořák, the famous Czech composer of the 19th century. The park was founded at the end of the century before last by the famous gardener Jan Haman, who reconstructed the then existing Vintra garden. Both citizens and tourists love this place. They play tennis, go rollerblading, and have picnics here. At the entrance to the park visitors are met… by artists who offer to paint your portrait. Many people agree to paint their portraits as a keepsake.
It is certainly worth visiting the Diana Tower in Karlovy Vary. It is located on Friendship Peak, at an altitude of 562 meters above sea level, and it is deservedly considered to be the best viewing point. There are hiking paths leading to it. It is impossible to get lost, the road is signposted. You can take a funicular from the Pupp Hotel. You can climb the tower by 150 steps or use the elevator. From here you have stunning views of the city.
Blue Morpho in an exotic butterfly garden
There is also an exotic butterfly garden. On an area of about 100 square meters flutter about 300 specimens of amazingly bright colors from around the world. The biggest ones reach up to 20 cm! Photos with exotic beauties are amazing, so do not forget to bring your camera! However, in January and until mid-February, the tower is not working.
Karlovy Vary in winter
The church of St. Mary Magdalene will be of interest to architectural enthusiasts. It is located 100 meters from the Hot Spring Colonnade. The church was built on the site of the old Gothic church and cemetery. Burials were moved to the burial crypt, in the underground. The building has been a National Cultural Monument of the Czech Republic since 2010.
The Holy Trinity Column
Another interesting monument in Karlovy Vary is the Holy Trinity Column, popularly known as the “Plague Column”. It was built in the Middle Ages and it was not accidental. At the time, there was a plague raging in Europe, which miraculously bypassed Carlsbad. The people saw in it a great favor of higher powers, in gratitude for which this monument was erected. The dominant feature of the composition is the throne of God. Also depicted are the Father and the Son, crowning the Virgin Mary.
Peter and Paul Church in Karlovy Vary
Russian noblemen who often came to the spa were long collecting funds to build an Orthodox church. A house church in Mariánské Lázně Street was established. From 1893 to 1898 the Orthodox Church of Saints Peter and Paul was built. The prototype was the church in Ostankino near Moscow. The funds were collected by the Serbian and Russian spa guests. The church is richly decorated with stucco and paintings. Here are icons (the author – artist Tyurin), oak iconostasis. The building is crowned with gilded domes. At the stairs to Sadovaya street a bronze bas-relief of Peter the Great by the artist Karlos Hiller can be seen.
Karlovy Vary is famous especially for its healing waters. The architectural design of the places where the springs come to the surface deserves special attention. They blend in wonderfully with their surroundings and maintain the inimitable spirit of the town.
Mlýnská Colonnade in Karlovy Vary The Karlovy Vary Waterfront
The Mill Colonnade in Mlýnské Vary was built on the site of the city mill. Its construction was supervised by the famous Prague architect Josef Zitek (who designed the Prague National Theatre). Originally there had been a plan to build a three-story building, but the funds were insufficient. As a result, only the first floor was built. The building didn’t fit in the architecture of the city and the locals didn’t like it. They called the building a bowling alley and a row of carrots. In 1893, the building was modified and completed, and another spring was added. To do this, they had to remove part of the rock of St. Bernard.
Today, the colonnade is a rectangle 13 meters wide and 132 meters long. Two rows of columns (124 of them) support the roof. On the upper terrace, the balustrade is decorated with 12 sculptures signifying the months of the year. In the colonnade there is an orchestra pit and five springs are brought out in marble vases. Behind the building, part of the rock and a sculpture of St. Bernard are preserved.
The Market Colonnade was originally conceived as a temporary building. It was designed by the Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer, who created a total of more than twenty buildings in the city. The carpentry work was supervised by Estereicher, a carpenter from Vienna. The building was completed to the Market Spring in 1904-1905 and it still delights the visitors today with its skillfully carved workmanship.
Vřídlo Geyser in the Geyser Colonnade
The Geyser Colonnade is located near Theater Square. The construction of the first hall was initiated by Dr. David Becher, who advised his patients to drink water directly from the spring. At first it was a wooden pergola, then a cast-iron structure. The modern colonnade building was built in 1975. Inside there is a geyser spring about 12 meters high.
Access to the springs is free.
Climate and weather
Karlovy Vary is hidden in the mountains. Thanks to a favorable location the climate at the resort is mild, moderately continental. It practically never snows in winter. The temperature rarely drops below zero.
Spring comes in the middle of April. During the day and night there are big temperature fluctuations, so at this time of the year, fans of evening walks should definitely stock up on warm clothes. The rains are frequent. The period from mid-April is considered the most romantic and beautiful time of vacation at the resort. The city is filled with flowers and fresh greenery.
Karlovy Vary in Summer Karlovy Vary in Winter
Summers in Karlovy Vary are mild, with maximum temperatures reaching 28 degrees in July. The average summer temperatures range from 20-22 degrees Celsius and the humidity is high.
September is the velvet season. The forests are colored in fantastic colors. It gets dark early at the end of the month. There are heavy rains. The first frosts are possible in October. The average temperature in November is 6 degrees.
The season in Karlovy Vary is never interrupted, because the spa clinics, balneo clinics, bureaus of some springs, not to mention the numerous sanatoriums, boarding houses and hotels, are open all year round. Slightly fewer tourists can be seen from November to March, the exception being Christmas holidays.
Rooftops Colors of the city Street stores Horses taking tourists for a ride in a carriage are a usual thing
Rest and Recreation
The first thing people come to Karlovy Vary to recover from illnesses. Local resorts are used for treatment of gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes mellitus, various metabolic disorders (especially overweight and obesity), gout, periodontal disease, locomotor system diseases (osteochondrosis), diseases of liver, gall bladder, bile-excretory tract and pancreas, as well as neurological diseases. Conducted rehabilitation of cancer patients after operations and chemotherapy.
Walks in the vicinity
However, it is perfectly possible to combine treatment with active recreation, so the most important attraction, apart from visiting numerous restaurants and cafes, is probably hiking and biking in the picturesque surroundings of Karlovy Vary. There are a total of 21 routes with signposts and information boards.
The Svatošské Skály (Svatošské Skály) are 3 km from the town. The Ohře River has broken through a massif of granite here. The result is the bizarre granite pyramids and a deep canyon. In 2007, the site became a National Natural Monument of the Czech Republic. There are two country restaurants and a beautiful suspension bridge. Lovers of outdoor activities can go rock climbing.
Svatošské Cliffs Christmas House Museum Loket Castle
A very popular area of the city, which is called Doubi. You can get here by city bus number 14. In the building of the magnificent castle there is a museum “Christmas House”. Here you can buy Christmas decorations and feel the spirit of this wonderful holiday. In the reserve “Slavkovský les” there are rope rides. History lovers will be interested in visiting the ruins of the Romanesque church of St. Lingart, which dates back to 1200.
Rafting on the Ohře River
A little further (12-15 km) are the towns of Ostrov and Loket. There are old castles, chateaux and parks. The inquisitive tourist will not have enough time to explore all the beauty of these places.
The lovers of outdoor activities can go rafting or canoeing down the Ohře River. If you come to Karlovy Vary for a long time, you can go to Germany (45 km to the border), visit Vienna, Amsterdam.
The basic means of public transport in Karlovy Vary are regular bus lines. All routes intersect at the bus station. The most popular stops are Teatralnaya Square, airport, Doubí (Duby) district. There are two night routes from Teatralnaya Square (there are billboards with the schedule of flights and fares at this stop). The so called sightseeing route 91 is very popular. Tickets can be purchased from the driver or at the ticket office (cheaper).
Buses Funicular Bicycle Taxi
Two funiculars take tourists: from the Pupp Hotel to the Diana Lookout Tower and from Theater Square to the Imperial Hotel.
Private carriers are also available.
Hotels and accommodation
There are several options for accommodation in Karlovy Vary: directly in the hospitals, in hotels and in apartments. The price range is enormous. It depends on the accommodation, spa and therapeutic procedures, boarding house. The cost of living does not depend much on the season; the only difference is the number of guests.
Hotel Imperial in Karlovy Vary
Hotels offer rooms ranging from 47 euros per person per night to 300 (suites, a five-star hotel). There is about the same range of prices in the medical facilities.
If you go to Karlovy Vary a large family or a company, it is better to rent an apartment. You just need to clarify how many people they are designed for, where they are located, the remoteness from bus stops and stores. Consider all the options and book a favorite room in advance, we recommend using the service hotellook.com.
A selection of hotels from hotellook
What to bring as a souvenir
The most famous souvenir from Karlovy Vary is Becherovka, an alcoholic drink infused with 20 herbs. It is jokingly called the “mineral spring No. 13”. The recipe, which remains unchanged since 1807, is kept strictly secret. You can buy the drink in the museum, which is located at the factory, after tasting several kinds. Exported are Original (38% alcohol) and Lemond (20% alcohol). The producer offers KV 14 (39%), a red liquor and Cordial (35%), a lime infusion – these drinks are sold only in the Czech Republic.
The famous waffles are made … right on the streets. They are called zaplatki. You can buy them in beautiful souvenir boxes. A variety of mugs with long spouts are sold in Karlovy Vary at every step.
A perfect gift and souvenir would be products of the Moser factory, true works of art made of glass. These are not only shot glasses, beer mugs, but also wonderful vases, salad bowls, figurines made of colored glass.
Caricatures Paintings with city views Souvenir shops
You can take a bottle of mineral water with you or the famous natural Karlovy Vary salt, which is obtained by evaporation. It consists of 44% sodium sulfate, 36% sodium hydrogen carbonate, 18% sodium chloride and about 2% potassium sulfate. In small amounts this salt contains compounds of iron and fluorine, calcium and lithium, magnesium and bromine.
Cellular and Internet
Some tour operators offer a SIM-card with the purchase of a trip. If you are planning a trip on your own, you can go to the offices of such operators:
- Vodafone (convenient to recharge via ATM around the clock, discounts on weekends);
- Global SIM or Sim Travel (Estonian number, works in many countries around the world, free incoming calls);
- MTT, MTTalk – an option with Internet telephony.
The second option is to buy a SIM card from local mobile operators: T-Mobile, Vodafone and others. Incoming calls are free. They also offer mobile Internet services. All hotels have free Wi-Fi.
How to get there
There is an international airport in Karlovy Vary 4.5 km from the spa town. There are direct flights from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Samara and Tyumen. You can also take a train from Moscow, from the Belorussky railway station. The train arrives at the upper train station.
Karlovy Vary – the pearl of the Czech Republic
The way from Prague by bus takes about two hours. Buses leave daily, from the bus station (metro station Florence). Flights are every half an hour to an hour. The last one is at 21-30. The cost of the ticket is around 170 Czech crowns. The most inexpensive carrier is Student Agency, the transport is recognizable because of the bright yellow color. It is worth taking care of tickets in advance. It is a very popular destination and you’ll find lots of people interested in the morning flight.
From the main railway station of the Czech capital you can take a train, but the road will take 3.5 hours. The ticket price is almost twice as much.
Private carrier will cost 90 euros for a tourist. The road to Karlovy Vary takes less than two hours. Renting a car is an extremely convenient option for travelers. Will cost 30-40 euros per day (not including fuel costs).
The cost of treatment in Karlovy Vary
Rest and sanatorium treatment in Karlovy Vary attracts to the Czech Republic not only high efficiency, but also relatively low prices.
The major specialisation of the resort is diseases of digestive tract. The basic methods of recovery are drinking mineral water and diet therapy, and only a doctor decides on the amount, time of intake and the number of spring which the patient takes the water from.
If you are planning treatment in the Czech Republic at the Karlovy Vary resort, when choosing a location, pay attention not only to the qualifications of doctors, but also to prices. Planning your budget in advance will help you give your body and soul to recovery and forget about the material issues.
Prices at Spa hotels in Karlovy Vary
The best way to “improve your health” is to combine medical procedures with a stay in comfortable rooms, which are provided with good nutrition and care. We have chosen for you the options at an optimal combination of price and quality.
- The small Pavlov Sanatorium 4* is situated only 140 m from the famous Sadova Colonnade with drinking springs on the bank of the river Teplá and guarantees a high level of medical attention to each guest for 50 € per day.
- Humboldt Park Hotel & Spa 4*, which offers guests a program of 20 treatments per week, as well as laboratory tests. For 64 € per day, the Humboldt Park Hotel & Spa also offers a free pool with whirlpool and sauna to restore strength and peace of mind.
- Richmond 4* is located in a quiet and secluded place. It is surrounded by a thick forest, so the guests enjoy fresh air. The pride of the sanatorium is spa doctor Jana Karaskova, who has been protecting her patients’ health for 15 years. Price – from 73 € per day.
Prices for treatment in Karlovy Vary
The resort offers its guests not only accommodation options. You can choose a hotel or an apartment on your own, and turn to the therapeutic centers for a course of treatment at a price that suits you. We have chosen for you two large centers, which offer a variety of medical and relaxing programs.
The Castle Baths complex is situated in the epicenter of spa life and was built at the beginning of the 20th century. The name of the center translates as “The Palace Baths”. Today, it is a modern complex, which has preserved the best traditions of spa treatment. It offers two therapeutic areas with obligatory medical examination.
A week of conservative recovery includes:
- medical examination;
- 5 sessions of 3 hours (1 main treatment + 2 additional);
- 1 session for 1 hour (1 additional procedure).
The cost of such a course – from 182 €.
Short treatment programme:
- medical examination;
- 3 sessions of 3 hours (1 main + 2 additional procedures).
The price starts from 109 €.
Medical and Rehabilitation complex “Alžbetiny lázně” has been helping its guests with different diseases for 110 years. Today it has 60 therapeutic procedures, which use the main treasure of the region – the healing mineral water of Karlovy Vary. Besides that, there is a complex of pools and Wellness-centre, where you can improve your body shape.
Approximate cost of recovery at Alžbětiny Lázně:
- Initial medical examination – 47 €;
- Drinking cure – 16 €;
- Intestinal flushing with mineral water – 22 €;
- laboratory examination – from 15 €.
- Classic (classic massage, pearl bath, pool) – 35 €;
- Relaxation (herbal bath, salt cave, partial aroma massage) – 36 €;
- Relaxation (swimming pool, salt cave, infrasauna, classic massage, herbal bath) – 54 €.
As you can see, the cost of treatment in Karlovy Vary basically depends on the level of the establishment. The resort offers recreation at a suitable price for any purse. Which option you choose is up to you. The main thing that remains unchanged is the healing thermal water from the springs, the high level of professionalism of the doctors and the sincere desire to help each patient.