Karlovy Vary. The German name can be found quite often as well: Karlsbad (Charles' spa). 'Var' means 'simmer', 'Vary' sounds like the plural form. According to legends, the name derives from the discoverer of the springs - King Charles (in German Karl) the IV. There are many spas in Western Bohemia (most of them characterised by the word -lázně in the place name), but Karlovy Vary is the number one by all means.
The town is kocated around 120 km west of →Prague, in West Bohemia at the confluence of Ohře (Eger) river and the smaller Teplá. Parts of the city stretch out across the up to 700 m high mountains.
Around 55,000 people live in Karlovy Vary, which is hard to believe when you walk trough the city centre (i.e. tourist related part) - it looks much less.
Most of the sources concentrate along the small river Teplá, which is flowing from south to the north. Here, all the famous colonnades, places where people can drink the mineral water, some hotels and other tourism related facilities line up. Additionally there are some churches. This stretch is simply elegant - only a few modern buildings disturb the chic centre. Many colonnades and hotels were built during the 19th century and are well preserved.
Karlovy Vary has two train stations. The dolní nádraží (lower station) is for local trains, running to Mariánské Lázně (Maria's spa) and other less famous places. More important is the horní nádraží (upper station) for long-distance distance trains, e.g. to →Prague and →Cheb. The lower station faces the right bank of the Ohře (Eger) river, adjacent to the bus terminal. From there it's less than 5 minutes to the city centre. The upper train station is atop a hill on the other side of the river. From there, it takes around 15 minutes to walk to the centre. The suburbs mainly spread to the east and north-west. However, as a visitor to the mineral sources one won't notice the suburbs at all.
As far as the legends go, king Charles the Fourth discovered the first hot springs in the year 1350 coincidentally while he was hunting. In 1358, he built the first hunting lodge. The real boom didn't start before the 19th century, when Karlovy Vary, at that time better known as 'Karlsbad', started to be a chic spa. Doctors understood that the mineral water coming from deep in the earth has healing powers, and so Karlovy Vary's water became very famous. Hotels and colonnades mushroomed, and many famous people from all over Europe relaxed in Karlovy Vary - from Goethe to Tolstoy, from Bismarck to Marx - everyone was there. It's claim to faim was not just limited to the mineral water. In 1857, Ludvík Moser started to produce high-quality glass in Karlsbad. Today, the glass is known as Bohemian crystal and as famous as the springs themselves.
Even in socialist times Karlovy Vary could preserve its image as an exclusive and popular spot. After 1990, the number of visitors started increasing steadily. There is almost no need at all for advertising the place. Nice restaurants and exchange booths (don't use them! rather stick to your credit car!!!) as well as souvenir shops mushroomed all over the place.
Getting there / transportation
There are several express trains to Karlovy Vary, although 'express' is slightly exaggerated. International connections are limited to some direct trains (mostly night trains with sleeper berths) to →Slovakian cities, e.g. →Košice. It's not very easy to get to Germany by train - most connections are via →Cheb, which is one hour away. If you're heading for places in the south, for example Plzeň or →České Budějovice (Budweis), it would be better to take the bus. The same can be said about →Prague - although only 120 km away, it takes 3 to 4 hours to get there.
There are around 100 hot springs in and around Karlovy Vary, but only 12 are used commercially. Most of the springs were put into so-called colonnades (usually the name for a row of columns, but in Karlovy Vary the name for all buildings around springs). All springs are accessible to the public and the water is free of charge. You can drink it from beakers, for free, or stylish from lázeňský póharek - tiny white and blue china pots, which can be bought as a souvenir or rented for a few crowns. The springs deliver mostly sodium-bicarbonate-sulphuric acidulous waters, the water temperatur ranges between 30 and 72 degrees Celsius. The water includes around 40 different mineral substances. Detailed analyze reports are usually on display near the springs. One important question remains - does it taste good? Not really. As has been proved, drinking cures can be used to ease digestive tract problems, metabolic disorder (incl. diabetes) and circulatory disturbances as well as several problems with the limbs. Additionally, the invigorating mountain air is good for the lungs.
|The baroque Maria Magdalena church|
If you do not believe in drinking tepid salt water, you may stick to the so-called 13th spring - the (in)famous Becherovka (Karlsbader Becher) - an odd-tasting, light herb liquor.
If you are in Karlovary Vary just for one day, simply walk along the small Teplá river and enjoy the parks and colonnades. You can enjoy a view over the valley from the Rozhledna Diana (Diana observation tower), accessible on foot and via ropeway. In the Vřídelní (Sprudel) colonnade you can admire the hottest spring (72 degrees Celsius). Every minute, some 2000 liters come out from a layer 2500 meters deep with a fountain that shoots up 12 meters. The building housing the spring is comparatively new. Inside the hall you can pull a cup of water by yourself from different taps with different temperatures. Among the most impressive colonnades, the Tržní (market) colonnade and the Mlýnská (miller) colonnade should be mentioned - both are quite old and charming.
BTW: I visited Karlovy Vary three times or so but mostly without my camera. Thus only one, not very nice picture - more will follow after another visit....
I've never stayed inside the city, therefore no recommendation. One thing is for sure - to stay in Karlovy Vary is more expensive than staying in other cities. One of the reasons is a health resort tax of 15 Kč per night and person. There seems to be no pension or hotel charging less than 350 Kč. Especially during the summer months it's better to book in advance since the city might get crowded.
|36001 Karlovy Vary · Staromlynska 158|
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 19
Rates from: US$141
|The 5-star Wellness Hotel Retro Riverside offers comfort and convenience whether you're on business or holiday in Karlovy Vary. Offering a variety of facilities and services, the hotel provides all you need for a good night's sleep. Service-minded staff will welcome and guide you at the Wellness Hotel Retro Riverside. Guestrooms are designed to provide an optimal level of comfort with welcoming decor and convenient amenities like bathrobes, satellite/cable TV, non smoking rooms, bathtub, complimentary bottled water. To enhance guests' stay, the hotel offers recreational facilities such as indoor pool, spa, water sports (non-motorized), jacuzzi, massage. Convenience and comfort makes Wellness Hotel Retro Riverside the perfect choice for your stay in Karlovy Vary.|
|36001 Karlovy Vary · Trziste 37|
Number of floors: 5
Number of rooms:
Rates from: US$128
|Stop at Hotel Romance Puskin to discover the wonders of Karlovy Vary. The hotel offers a high standard of service and amenities to suit the individual needs of all travelers. Facilities like meeting facilities, car park, tours, restaurant, pets allowed are readily available for you to enjoy. Relax in your comfortable guestroom, featuring complimentary bottled water, satellite/cable TV, desk, coffee/tea maker, hair dryer. Entertain the hotel's recreational facilities, including massage, golf course (within 3 km). Discover all Karlovy Vary has to offer by making Hotel Romance Puskin your base.|
|36464 Karlovy Vary · Cihelny 5|
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 31
Rates from: US$54
|Stop at Art Hotel Royal Golf to discover the wonders of Karlovy Vary. The hotel offers guests a range of services and amenities designed to provide comfort and convenience. Take advantage of the hotel's executive floor, bar/pub, Wi-Fi in public areas, shuttle service, room service. Mini bar, internet access – LAN (complimentary), desk, bathtub, fan can be found in each guestroom. Access to the hotel's massage, golf course (on site), garden will further enhance your satisfying stay. For reliable service and professional staff, Art Hotel Royal Golf caters to your needs.|
|36001 Karlovy Vary · Trziste 387/41|
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 15
Rates from: US$73
|Hotel Heluan is conveniently located in the popular Near Center area. Both business travelers and tourists can enjoy the hotel's facilities and services. To be found at the hotel are safety deposit boxes, pets allowed, elevator, Wi-Fi in public areas, 24hr room service. Relax in your comfortable guestroom, featuring desk, bathtub, hair dryer, internet access – wireless, interconnecting room(s) available. The hotel offers various recreational opportunities. For reliable service and professional staff, Hotel Heluan caters to your needs.|
|36020 Karlovy Vary · Lidicka 12|
Number of floors: 5
Number of rooms: 58
Rates from: US$68
|Ideally located in the prime touristic area of Karlovy Vary City Center, Spa Hotel Marttel promises a relaxing and wonderful visit. Offering a variety of facilities and services, the hotel provides all you need for a good night's sleep. Facilities like coffee shop, smoking area, room service, disabled facilities, airport transfer are readily available for you to enjoy. In room safe, satellite/cable TV, shower, bathrobes, desk can be found in each guestroom. Entertain the hotel's recreational facilities, including jacuzzi, spa, massage, fitness center, sauna. Discover all Karlovy Vary has to offer by making Spa Hotel Marttel your base.|
|36001 Karlovy Vary · Krale Jiriho 40|
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 22
Rates from: US$0
|Set in a prime location of Karlovy Vary, Hotel Jizera puts everything the city has to offer just outside your doorstep. Offering a variety of facilities and services, the hotel provides all you need for a good night's sleep. Meeting facilities, Wi-Fi in public areas, pets allowed, family room, car park are there for guest's enjoyment. Satellite/cable TV, shower, television, internet access – wireless (complimentary), non smoking rooms can be found in each guestroom. The hotel offers various recreational opportunities. A welcoming atmosphere and excellent service are what you can expect during your stay at Hotel Jizera.|
- www.karlovyvary.cz Official website of Karlovy Vary. Well done - and comes in six languages.
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