When Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, used to go hunting in the woods near the Harsh Mountains, he and his entourage discovered hot springs there. It was the 14th century and the ruler decided to establish a spa in the remote countryside – Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary).
Thanks to the hot springs, the spa in the West of Bohemia gained fame far beyond the country’s borders. In the 18th century, rich aristocrats and important people from around the world travelled to Karlovy Vary to enjoy the healing powers of the local hot springs. One of the most famous patients of the time was the Russian Czar Peter the Great.
The spa attracted people like a magnet. Beethoven, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, Paganini, Mozart, Chopin and Freud used to come to the spa for the healing hot springs and, most importantly, for the city’s unmatched atmosphere which the spa has kept until today. Join its group of visitors, including Jude Law, Antonio Banderas, John Malkovich and John Travolta.
You can feel the romantic nature of this west-Bohemian spa-town virtually everywhere. As a couple, you can go for a wellness massage, oxygen therapy or swimming in one of the spa pools. There are dozens of hotels and guesthouses, spa and wellness centres in the city.
After treatment, take a stroll across the colonnade and taste the water of the local hot springs. There are 15 thermal springs spread across seven colonnades, with the main colonnade featuring five.
The hot spring water tastes best from a special spa cup – a typical Czech product, dating back to the 16th century. As per their name, the local springs are hot (the water of the main spring is 72 ˚C), which makes it difficult to drink the water from a regular cup. Therefore, a special cup with a handle and a “nozzle” was invented to prevent people from burning themselves.
Moments spent with your loved ones usually involve flowers. So, how about roses which last decades, such as the Karlovy Vary Rose? It is a flower exported even beyond Europe – a rose covered in wax and dipped in the hot spring water. After about a week, flowers covered with Aragonite are pulled out of special tubs, resembling dripstones in colour.
Travelling with Children
If you bring your children to Karlovy Vary, you will have a slightly different experience, getting to know the spa-town and its hot springs not only from the colonnade, but also from down below and up above.
Every minute, about 200 litres of mineral water spring to the surface from the main geyser up to 12 metres height, which is unique in the whole of continental Europe. The closest similar geyser is in Iceland. It is possible to explore underground passages taking visitors close to the geyser.
Then, straight from the underworld, you can head to the local heights. Look at the city from the oldest view point with an original wooden gazebo from the 19th century. Not a fan of hiking? No problem. There is a cable car.
Travelling with Friends and Co-Workers
Explore Karlovy Vary while running, for example, during the traditional spa half marathon. If you prefer a slower pace, there are ten golf courses in and around Karlovy Vary. Bring your business partners and perhaps close some exceptional deals there.
Not a golfer? Then, you can take your business partners for a tour of the Moser glass factory. This luxurious crystal glass with a tradition of over 150 years, is sought after all over the world.
In the evening, you can go to one of the numerous local clubs, restaurants and wine bars. This spa-town offers entertainment until dawn.
It is not clear exactly when Karlovy Vary was established. The first settlement around the geyser was recorded in around 1350. In 1370, Charles IV awarded the city the privileges of a free Royal city. However, construction and the spa boom hit the city about 200 years later. Unfortunately, not for long. In the 17th century, the spa had to overcome the Thirty Years’ War and many a natural disaster, most commonly floods. At the beginning of the 18th century, the city started to prosper again. Rich aristocrats were then visiting Karlovy Vary, spending their money. The first public spa house (called Mlýnské lázně) and the Baroque church of St Mary Magdalene were built during that time.
Important visitors also built houses around the city, as proven by a bronze plaquette featuring the Russian Czar Peter the Great in profile helping masons during the construction of the “U páva” building in 1711.
Even though there are many Baroque buildings around the city, it was Secession which shaped the city the most. You can see examples of the style on several colonnades, the Imperial Spa and the local theatre.
You cannot mention Karlovy Vary without mentioning its Film Festival. The first year of one of the oldest film festivals in the world was hosted in Mariánské Lázně in 1946. A year later, it was moved to Karlovy Vary. Every year, about 150 films from around the world are screened at the festival.
In recent years, celebrities such as Robert Redford, Robert de Niro, Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Mel Gibson, Miloš Forman, Jean Reno and Roman Polanski have visited the festival. During the festival at the beginning of summer, cinematography lovers from virtually all around the world come to Karlovy Vary. The prize of the festival is a Crystal Globe.
Karlovy Vary is a city rich in culture year-round. Visitors can choose from numerous theatre performances and concerts as well as museums.
The Karlovy Vary region is literally a gastronomic delight. The traditional Karlovy Vary spa wafers are a must to taste. These large, round and extremely delicate wafers are mentioned as early as in the 1788 guide book to the city. The local mineral water added to the dough mixture makes them unique to this part of the world and, as such, they have been awarded a protected geographic indication (PGI) by the European Union.
But wait to taste the wafers until after lunch, which should start with the local liqueur, Becherovka, made from Karlovy Vary mineral water, unrefined sugar and a mix of 20 herbs and spices. The exact recipe is kept secret and passed down from generation to generation. Now, it is believed that only two people in the world know the recipe. The Becher family developed the recipe for about a decade and did not start selling the liqueur until 1807.
And the main course? For example, a Karlovy Vary Roll (veal stuffed with eggs and green peas) served with Karlovy Vary dumplings (bread dumplings which, when cut, clearly show the white bread cubes and parsley structure). Wash it down with Mattoni, the local mineral water.
Finish your lunch with a cup of “geyser” coffee – a standard piccolo made with local spring water, a shot of Becherovka and served with whipped cream.
You can discover the completely different world of the SOOS natural reserve after about a half an hour car ride. It is there dry carbon dioxide rises to the surface of the earth and you can watch small scale volcanic activity with your own eyes. The craters are 10 to 80 cm in diameter wide and the visitors take wooden walkways to pass between them. There is about a one‑kilometre‑long path through the reserve taking visitors, for example, to the “Moon-like Landscape” of the bottom of a dried lake.
The carbon dioxide escaping from the craters stays close to the ground so you needn’t worry about the air you are breathing.
Only six kilometres past the natural reserve is the spa town of Frantiskovy Lazne. Its thermal springs’ healing powers have been known since the 15th century, but the settlement around the local hot springs can be traced back to Prehistoric times. However, the town itself was established in 1793 by the Emperor František I as the first peat spa in the world. As did the Emperor himself, Ludwig van Beethoven used to come to the spa for treatment.
23 mineral water springs are used in Frantiskovy Lazne nowadays. Their temperatures vary from 8 to 13 ˚C.
The triad of famous West Bohemian spas is completed by Marianske Lazne. Local springs have been used for healing since the medieval times, but the town did not start to bloom until the beginning of the 19th century. Since then, it has been among the European spa stars. Franz Kafka, Mark Twain, Tomas Alva Edison and King Edward VII of England spent their time there.
There are two main dominants features of the town centre – the colonnade and the modern “singing fountain” formed by a round pool of water 18 metres in diameter with a sculpture of a flower in the middle. There are ten basic sprinkler systems in the fountain with more than 250 individual sprinklers. Computer controlled, the water accompanied by music provides a unique experience. The fountain is located besides a Neo-Baroque colonnade formed by a cast-iron construction from the end of the 19th century.
Do you enjoy sport as a relaxing pastime activity? No problem! The local spa pools, featured in many commercials, are among the nicest in Europe.
Would you rather spent time enjoying the local fresh air? Then by all means, venture over to the Marianky Skiareal. Its slopes are 1,600 metres long and are serviced by a cabin and regular lifts.
Planning to visit the town in summer? Then, go golfing. The local course is one of the oldest in Europe. It was ceremonially opened by King Edward VII of England in 1905 and, in 2003, Queen Elizabeth II granted the club the title of “Royal Golf Club”, making it the only one of its kind in Central Europe.
Transport to/from Karlovy Vary Airport
The bus stop is located directly in front of the terminal building.
Tickets are available for purchase:
Taxi and Transfers to/from Airport
Taxi services are provided upon orders placed over telephones. There is no permanent taxi service at the airport.
There are several short-term and long-term parking options available at Karlovy Vary Airport. Parking is free, the parking lots are not monitored.
Reserve a car in advance to save time and more.
You can check-in for Czech Airlines-operated flights from Karlovy Vary in one of the following ways:
Travelling with carry-on baggage only?
If you travel with carry-on baggage only, have checked-in online and have your boarding pass either printed or saved in your mobile phone, you can proceed directly to your departure gate.
Baggage to check?
If you travel with checked baggage and have checked-in online, please drop your baggage off at the “BAGGAGE DROP-OFF / ECONOMY" assigned desk.