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Get out of Town: A Trip to Karlovy Vary

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Karlovy Vary, Hotel Thermal Pool in foreground

Outside of Karlovy Vary’s film festival there’s plenty to see, even on a wet weekend like I spent there a week ago.


Karlovy Vary has been a spa town since its founding in 1370 by Emperor Charles IV. Over the years many grand colonnades have been built and strolling along them, taking the waters from the many hot spring fountains, is a popular pastime. All the springs have the same mineral content, the only difference is the temperature at which it emerges from the ground. The temperature of each spring is shown on a plaque next to the fountain.

The most recent of the colonnades is home to the Vřidlo spring, a geyser that gushes 162℉ water up to 37 feet high. It’s hot & humid in the room that contains the spring and you can get pretty wet if you stand too close. There’s a balcony to observe from as well. A short video I shot of it is below.

Candy is dandy

You won’t be able to avoid the spa wafers everyone seems to be tucking into. Get them plain or various flavours, with fruit or chocolate fillings.

Liquor is quicker

Sometimes referred to as Karlovy Vary’s ’15th spring’ is Becherovka, a herbal liquor, made from a closely guarded recipe. Production recently moved to a modern facility on the edge of the town but the original site is a visitor centre and museum. There’s not an awful lot to learn, or see, on the tour but it concludes with a taste of 3 of the company’s products – on our visit it was regular Becherovka, Lemond, a sweet citrus version, and Cordial, again quite sweet and made with red wine.

The name’s Bond

Grand Hotel Pupp, pretty much at the end of the street with all the hotels on it, is a wedding-cake of a hotel, a five-star luxury place favoured by the rich & famous who come for the film festival. It’s also where a number of scenes in Casino Royale were filmed.

Come for the view

Next to Pupp is a funicular railway. Every 15 minutes the funicular will take you up to the Diana Observation Tower. Take the stairs or the lift to the top and you’ve got a view from high above the town. There’s also a hunting lodge style restaurant up there if you’re game (pun intended).

Take a dip

The pool at Hotel Thermal is a worth a visit, if just for the Communist era aspect of it all. It’s an outdoor pool on a hillside above the town. On sunnier days you can sunbathe on poolside loungers.

Medieval day trip

If you’re feeling a little too pampered in Karlovy Vary, a quick trip to Loket Castle should give you some perspective. This medieval castle’s dungeons have been turned into a gruesome exhibition of the kinds of torture that were carried out here over the centuries. A far cry from a treatment in the hotel spa.

Czech Republic

image credit: Jim Linwood, via Creative Commons on Flickr

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