Day 1 – Hot Springs and Colonnades
Spend your first day in Karlovy Vary wandering among the pretty streets of the city, following the hot spring route, and discovering the many beautiful colonnades built close by. Don’t forget to try the mineral water for yourself; it’s supposed to have beneficial healing properties.
1. Hot Springs of Karlovy Vary
Karlovy Vary is most famous for its incredible hot springs that are dotted all over the city. The piping hot mineral water is what has attracted people to Karlovy Vary from all over the world. The strongest, most popular hot spring (Vridlo), sits within the ‘Hot Spring Colonnade’.
The 12-meter high fountain produces mineral water at a temp of 73 degrees! Because of this, the water has to be cooled slightly for people to drink and separated into five bowls.
The first thing to do is to buy one of the typical Karlovy Vary mugs from one of the many shops on the street. Afterward, use this to try the water of the hot springs. The water has a very strong iron taste, as it comes from so far below the surface of the ground. However, the taste is worth it for its unique medicinal properties!
2. St Mary Magdalene Church
St Mary Magdalene is not your regular church. It’s a breathtaking baroque church, with a beautiful white facade, clock faces, and two striking green-domed towers. It’s iconic to Karlovy Vary, overlooking the city at all times, and located close to the main hot spring.
3. Mill Colonnade
This impressive structure is one of the absolute must-sees of Karlovy Vary. Stone columns (124 of them!) have stood here for over 100 years! Originally, it was created as a cover for locals to enjoy the hot springs in bad weather. The symmetry of the colonnades itself is incredibly picturesque!
4. Stara Louka
Stara Louka is the main street along the river bank where you can wander along the grand pastel-colored townhouses sandwiched between the river bank and the dense forest behind. The best thing of all is that this street is completely traffic-free!
5. Grand Hotel Pupp, Karlovy Vary
The Grand Hotel Pupp is so much more than a hotel, it’s an emblem of Karlovy Vary! Every wall of its 228 rooms is rich in history and beauty. The hotel has been around since the 1700s, with everyone from Beethoven to Morgan Freeman having stayed here.
The fascinating history of the hotel has made it the setting for famous movies. For example, the James Bond film ‘Casino Royale’, and ‘The Last Holiday’. Not only that, but it’s thought to be the inspiration behind Wes Anderson’s ‘‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’. Visit the hotel’s cafe for a drink, and take the opportunity to breathe in the luxury, and cinematic prestige; an absolute top thing to do in Karlovy Vary!
6. Diana Observation Tower
Soar above the clouds at the Diana Observation Tower! This is a stunning lookout that is located to the south of the city center. The journey to reach the tower is equally as impressive as the views and tower itself! Take the 100+-year-old funicular from the Grand Hotel Pupp to the top of the hill, to reach the tower that sits 562 meters above sea level. Because of its height, visitors can see the entire city below, as well as stunning valleys, rivers, forests, and mountains.
Day 2 – Castles and Panoramic Lookouts
Your second day is all about the beautiful outskirts of Karlovy Vary. Start your day slow, exploring districts full of grand villas and breathtaking churches. Use your afternoon to head out of town to discover a magical castle.
7. Westend Residential District
Westend is the oldest residential neighborhood in Karlovy Vary. Here you’ll discover luxurious villas that were built to fulfill the needs of the rich visitors to the spa town. To do so, each grand house reflects the style of a different country.
The idea was to give visitors the feeling that they were traveling throughout Europe. For example, there are villas built in old English style (Villa Chopin), in the French style (the famous Savoy Westend hotel), Dutch-style (Villa Charlotte), and Italian style (Villa Koretz and Villa Shakespeare). There are even copies of popular German castles!
Because guests were visiting from all over the world, different religious places of worship were also built in the area. For example, the breathtaking Orthodox Church of Peter and Paul.
8. Orthodox Church of St Peter and Paul
The incredible, dramatic architecture of the Orthodox Church of St Peter and Paul is an amazing sight to behold. The church was built in the late 1800s on the west side of the glamorous Westend Residential District. Inspired by the Temple of the Holy Trinity in Ostankino, near Moscow. This is clear to see when viewing the classic Russian architecture and themes, particularly the sky blue roof and 5 stunning gold domes.
9. Goethe’s Tower, Karlovy Vary
Goethe’s lookout tower is a fairy-tale come to life! The pseudo-gothic ‘castle’ was built in the late 1800s and is the oldest observation point in the city. Climb the 165 stairs to reach the top, where you will be rewarded with incredible panoramic views over mountains, forests, and the beautiful pastel colors of Karlovy Vary below.
If you have time, visit the picturesque town Loket, located 14km from Karlovy Vary. People mostly visit for the 13th century Loket castle, which sits above the town. The word ‘Loket’ means ‘elbow’ in Czech, as the fairytale castle was built in the elbow of the river. Because of Loket’s location on a bend of the Ohře river, it has the unique outlook of the river on 3 sides of the town.
How to Get to & Around Karlovy Vary
Karlovy Vary is under 2 hours driving distance from Prague, where most international flights come in. The quickest way is by car and bus, with frequent buses leaving Prague throughout the day and taking just over 2 hours. The train is slightly slower (taking over 3 hours) with a few direct departures a day.
Once in Karlovy Vary, all the main sights are within walking distance of each other. This is definitely the best way to see the town. If venturing further afield, think about hiring a car for the perfect Czech road trip!
Where to Stay in Karlovy Vary
There are numerous hotels with spa’s to pick from in Karlovy Vary. Pick one of our favorites below or see all hotels.
Karlovy Vary Best Places to Eat
Karlovy Vary is famous for its wafer. These are thin, sweet biscuits that used to be served to spa guests visiting the town. The secret ingredient, of course, is the famous thermal water. Outside of the wafer biscuits, these are the best places to eat in Karlovy Vary:
- Spunt & Knoflik Company
- La Hospoda
- Ristorante-Pizzeria Palermo