In the western historical region of Bohemia in Czechia, lies a small spa town called Karlovy Vary. Also known as Karlsbad, the population of this prominent resort is around 48.500 people. The official language is Czech and the official currency is Chezch Koruna (≈0.039 €). Karlovy Vary has the typical European influenced climate with warm and dry summers and cold winters. The warmest months are July and August, while January is the coldest with the possibility of snow. Perhaps the best time to visit would be from June to August when the weather is warm and sunny. Hence, that way visitors can enjoy all outdoor activities and avoid potential storms and rain that typically occur during autumn and winter. Karlovy Vary is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe with numbers of visitors increasing each year more and more.
If you’re planning to visit Karlovy Vary, our guide below will provide you with all the necessary information to help you organize your trip.
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Getting to Karlovy Vary
Equally to the rest of the country, Karlovy Vary has excellent traffic connections that enable easy entry to the town.
Karlovy Vary Airport (KLV) is the fourth largest airport in the country serving the region of Bohemia. It is situated 6 km southeast of the centre and can be reached by the city’s bus line 8.
However, this airport mainly operates with flights to/from Russia and still has poor connections with the rest of Europe.
Karlovy Vary bus station is located only 1 km from the city centre. There are two bus stops – Trznice and Terminal. If you wish to explore the heart of the city, then get off in Trznice. However, if you want to see other notable sights located only 400 m around the city, then exit on the latter stop.
There are two train stations in the city, Dolní Nádraží (lower station) and Horní Nádraží (upper station). The first one is right next to the bus station and the second is situated north of the centre, across the Ohře River. You can catch a local bus line 12 or 13 to reach the stations. From Prague’s main station Praha Hlavni Nadrazi and Praha Holesovice railway station, you can catch a train and get to Karlovy Vary in around 3 hours. Trains depart only a few times a day so be sure to book tickets in advance.
Karlovy Vary is connected to Prague with the D6 highway that goes all the way to Cheb, near the border of Germany. Another alternative is to take the motorway E48 that goes from the western part of Prague directly to Karlovy Vary.
NOTE: International Driving License is required if your driving license isn’t written in English.
Be aware that all vehicles entering and exiting Karlovy Vary have to pay highway/motorway tolls. The price for a windscreen toll vignette is around 310 CZK for 10 days, 440 CZK for 1 month and 1500 CZK for 1 year. If you wish to avoid this, it is best to book a car online.
Getting around Karlovy Vary
Since Karlovy Vary is an internationally famous spa town, it is bound to have a good transportation system around the town.
Transport Company Karlovy Vary (DPKV) is a company that operates public transportation in this town. A more interactive way to get around the city is using their funicular railway Diana that passes through spa woods or the Imperial funicular, the oldest one in Europe. The first route starts from the Grandhotel Pupp and ends at the observation tower Diana, otherwise known as lanovka. The second goes from Theatre Square to the Imperial Hotel.
NOTE: Karlovy Vary Region Card is a card designed precisely for tourists. You can either purchase the card for 2, 4 or 7 days. When acquired, you have unlimited access to public transport, including buses and imperial funicular railway. On top of that, it enables you to visit up to 40 sights for free, while for others you get a 50% discount. In order to find out more information, check out their official site.
There are numerous taxis located all over Karlovy Vary, so there is an abundance of choices. The average cost of a taxi ride from Prague Václav Havel Airport to Karlovy Vary is around 2.500,00 CZK (≈103,00 €) and lasts up to 2 hours. In order to easily recognise them, taxis in Karlovy Vary are black or white in colour and always have a sticker of their company name on the side.
Before getting behind the wheel in the Czech Republic, you must be aware of a few rules. The use of seat belts is compulsory for front and rear seats, the headlights must be always on and you must have zero percentage of alcohol in your blood. Otherwise, you might get fined between 25,000 and 50,000 CZK. However, if you wish to take a more comfortable ride, you can always rent a car or book a private transfer.
The city aims to preserve its individuality and beauty, so have in mind that parking a car in the spa centre zone will not be possible. However, there are a few car parks and garages in the city that provide regular parking services.
For bike lovers, Karlovy Vary could be an ideal place to do some exploring. That being said, you can rent a bike from the rental companies in the centre, such as The TVR Cyclocentre. Explore the city’s colourful architecture or visit the scenic spa woods. Lose yourself in the town and discover new sights on the way!
This famous spa town is considered to be perfect for relaxing, peaceful strolls. Even at night, it’s pretty safe to take a walk. Walking tours are offered in the spa woods and around Karlovy Vary, capturing all important spots in the town.
Born on the confluence of the rivers Ohře and Teplá, this unique hot spring town has an abundant offer of historic sights, curative spas and alluring nature.
Karlovy Vary has eight colonnades in total, each one historically rich and filled with thermal hot springs. The roof is decorated with 12 allegorical sculptures, each one representing a different month. On top of these things, there is an area for orchestra that regularly serves shows and concerts. The Mill Colonnade also made an appearance in a James Bond film titled Casino Royale!
Hot Spring or the geyser of Vřídlo is a natural phenomenon that spouts thermal water up to 12 meters, 2000 litres per minute. This hot spring is used for thermal baths today, but since the water is too hot they divided it into five bowls to lower the temperature. The spring is situated inside the Hot Spring Colonnade that was originally built in 1975 but later on converted into a modern glass concrete building.
The centre of attention inside the historical centre is The Market Colonnade or Tržní kolonáda built in the 19th century by Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer. It is a wooden construction built in Swiss style that is home to three mineral springs, one of them is Charles IV Spring, named after the founder of Karlovy Vary.
Museum Moser was made to offer the public insight into their exceptional glass work with the exposition that consists of the old and the present 200 Moser pieces. The glass products are of high-class quality and usually engraved with beautiful designs. You can take a tour to see how glassmakers handcraft every single piece to its perfection, and how they blow and shape the molten glass using specific techniques.
Josef Becher was a pharmacist that used to make and sell bitters (bitter alcoholic beverages) that were basically medical tonics. His son followed his footsteps and created the famous Becherovka. Besides, you can pay a visit to the Jan Becher Museum from 1867. It is a place where you can smell the herbs, spices, see the iconic historical Becherovka bottles and on top of that, you can have a guided tasting of the product!
Diana Lookout Tower is an observation point 562 metres above sea level that was discovered by local cutler Václav Drumm. The best way to climb the tower is to hop on the funicular Diana, once up you have the magical overlook on the spa town and its surrounding landscape. It is said that you have not seen Karlovy Vary if you have not climbed the Diana Tower.
The Orthodox Church of St. Peter and Paul is a gorgeous building built in Byzantine church style. The exterior is breathtaking due to its five gold-plated cupolas. The interior is richly decorated with ornamental figures and murals. The thing that draws everyone’s attention is the wooden iconostasis with oil saints painted on it that was made for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900.
Very close to the Hot Spring Colonnade is the beautiful Baroque church of St. Mary Magdalene.
It used to be a Gothic church but because of many fires, it was practically falling apart so they decided to build a completely new one. As of 2010, it was declared as a National Cultural Monument. The interior is dominated by a stunning Baroque altar from the 18th century, while the original Gothic underground holds the funeral crypt.
In the old town, you can check out many important historical buildings. Karlovy Vary City Theatre, locally known as Divadlo, is a beautiful neo-baroque building with the interior full of paintings of Viennese artists and unique sculptures. In 1886, the theatre officially opened with the production of Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”. By offering a wide selection of classical music, jazz concerts, opera shows and ballet, it is a must-see for any music and culture lover!
Since this is one of the most famous spa towns in Europe, you ought to see Arm Spa Institution, the first spa site. What makes this facility so special is that not only was it the first place providing spa treatments but it is also one of the biggest military spa facilities in Europe. Another important public spa sight is no doubt the Elizabeth Baths. It is a grand Baroque building that resembles a castle. It is also the biggest balneological facility in the town that provides over 60 spa treatments in numerous thermal baths.
This town has an extensive offer of fun activities to make your stay in Karlovy Vary even more enjoyable.
Hiking in the Spa woods is an ideal leisure activity for you and your friends! The vast area is a large complex of different trails suitable for everyone. Moreover, there are several lookouts placed around the woods with a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
Since this is one of the most famous spa towns in Europe, the number of high-quality spa facilities is plentiful. To seize this opportunity, the best option is to spend a day in wellness, get a massage or go to a healing spa treatment. Beer spa Beerland offers a very unique and innovative combination of relaxation and Czech beer. Cheers!
Hot Spring Underground is situated under the Hot Spring Colonnade. For those who want to see how the thermal water is being drawn, regulated and distributed definitely check out this place. In the basement, you have the chance to see the process of making souvenirs from spring water.
Golf is one of the most famous sports in Karlovy Vary. Thus, it is among the favourite things to do, especially for tourists. Golf Resort, located only 5 km from the city centre, is one of the oldest golf courses in the country, as well as in Central Europe. Currently, there are 10 golf courses that often serve as the venue for amateur and professional tournaments.
The best place to go skiing is Ski Resort Klínovec, located about 30 km from the centre of Karlovy Vary. It is the most modern and the largest ski resort in the Czech Republic. The resort features multiple schools for both adults and children, along with refreshments and other services. With its 19 slopes, 2 snow parks, snow tubing and snowkiting, Karlovy Vary is truly a sight to behold in the winter!
Do you love to solve puzzles and discover new clues in order to unravel mysteries? Then, úniková hra, or the escape room, is the perfect activity for you! Find the way out of the ghost house, escape prison, play a game of Jumanji or become a wizard at Hogwarts! Will you and your team be able to accomplish your tasks and escape together in time?
In the Old Town of the city lies a small thermal pool used for spring water tasting. Hence why it’s an ideal opportunity to taste the mineral spring water in its pure form! Alongside the fountains, there are many small shops that sell decorative porcelain cups. Since the thermal water is very hot, the cups are preferable over water bottles since they won’t melt. Plus, the cups are Instagram-worthy!
Not only Karlovy Vary has plenty of historical sights and spa facilities, but it also has many cultural festivities all year round!
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is the Czech’s biggest film festival since 1956 and one of the most prestigious events in Europe. Every year in July, it takes place at the Thermal Hotel, attracting A-list celebrities from all over the world. They present around 200 films from around the world, bringing together both the community and professional filmmakers.
Spring porcelain festival is held at the Grandhotel Pupp every year in May. It is a selling market organised by a local porcelain company Thun 1794. This is the perfect opportunity to get your hands on some top quality porcelain products or a decorative Moser glass vase!
Karlovy Vary City Triathlon is the perfect event for sports lovers! The event takes place in August in the city centre and approximately 1,000 people take part in the event. They start at the open swimming pool then proceed cycling through the city centre and finish by running to the Mill Colonnade.
Karlovy Vary Folklore Festival is a festival that aims to keep the tradition alive and bring the community together. They host folk ensembles from around the world that play traditional Czech folk music and entertain the crowd. If you want to learn more about their tradition first hand then come to Karlovy Vary in September to dance on some unique folk melodies.
If you happen to be here during the holiday season then Karlovy Vary Christmas Market is the place to be! Most of the attractions are situated in front of the Mill Colonnade and on the route between Thermal Hotel and Grandhotel Pupp. Visitors can hop from one market stall to another, take part in various cultural events or hop on the Christmas train. Besides, the city has a Christmas House that is open all year round so if you miss the market there is still a chance to enjoy the cosy holiday atmosphere.
After a relaxing spa day, the best way to end your night is to let loose and have some fun. We have chosen a few top places in the city for the best experience.
Becher’s Bar is known as the most stylish bar famous for good parties and lively music. The club’s bar is famous for its unique cocktails, although you also have the choice of ordering delicious Czech wines, spirits and liqueurs. The vast dance floor is ideal for dancing the night away.
Club Imperial is a lounge nightclub that regularly hosts live music with the emphasis on jazz-themed nights. Several times a week the club hosts interesting theme nights and performances by contemporary jazz bands.
Foggy Karlovy Vary is a shisha bar that serves a large selection of tobacco flavours, where each week brings a new taste. You can order delicious cocktails and snacks, such as chips and peanuts. Since there is a PS4 with a large variety of games like FIFA and UFC, this bar is a great place to spend time with your friends.
Goethe’s Beer House is the place for you if you want to enjoy delicious Czech beer in a more laid back environment. They have a great selection of typical Czech food and beer to suit everyone’s needs. You can either choose an outdoor seat overlooking the river or go indoors. This restaurant is dedicated to Goethe, which is seen by its combination of classic and modern art inserts of Goethe.
Klub Máčko is a disco club frequently visited by locals. Every Saturday, the bar hosts concert evenings led by local and foreign bands. While you enjoy the music, go grab a quick bite or drink at the bar or play pub games like darts, table football and bar billiards.
Czech cuisine has a lot of similarities with the cuisine of its neighbouring countries. The food has the same roots, but it is served with a Bohemian twist.
Wafers, or oplatky, are a traditional and very popular snack. It comes in a large variety of flavours, such as vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, hazelnut or just plain sugar.
Golonka is one of the most famous dishes of Czech cuisine. The main ingredient is a raw pork knuckle which is marinated in dark beer for 24 hours. Afterwards, it is boiled and seasoned. After roasting it, it is usually served with a handful of vegetables and mustard.
Svíčková is a sirloin steak prepared with carrots, onion, parsley root and celeriac. Afterwards, it is spiced with thyme, black pepper and bay leaf while the dish is blended and boiled with sour cream. The dish is generally served with jam and knedliki, otherwise known as bread dumplings.
Kulajda is a creamy soup made from potatoes, mushrooms and quail eggs with the addition of sour cream. It is served with fresh bread.
Česnečka is a traditional Chezch dish typically served as an appetizer. The main ingredients are garlic, sliced potatoes and spices like cumin, caraway and marjoram. It is commonly served with fried bread cubes.
Where to eat
Restaurant Le Marché Karlovy Vary is a fine dining restaurant located just beside the river Teplá. Guests can choose between a three or six-course meal planned by renowned Chef Jan Krajč. In addition, the menus change every season, tempting you to come all year round.
Dawok is a buffet sushi restaurant famed for great food and pleasant service. At this restaurant, you can find everything from appetizers to desserts. Get to know the charm of Chinese and Japanese cuisine at the best Asian restaurant in town!
Ventura pub – Evropák is an elegant restaurant overlooking the vast forest of the nearby wildlife park. The restaurant offers a wide selection of classical Czech food along with local wines, liquors, rums, spirits and cocktails.
Dobrá Čajovna, or Good Tearoom, is the only vegan restaurant in the town. They serve simple vegetarian and vegan meals along with a great array of tea. Moreover, the menus also include Lacto, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Filled with shopping malls, souvenir shops and various stores, Karlovy Vary shopping streets are a great way to learn of Czech life. There are plenty of speciality stores that offer interesting products. Some of the suggestions are Moser Glasswork Shop, Royal Gold Jewelry and Madonna souvenir shop.
Shopping centre Varyáda Karlovy Vary is the largest shopping centre in the town. The centre has plenty of fashion brands where you can look for the latest cosmetic, jewellery or clothing trends. You can also take a break in one of numerous cafes and restaurants.
The most famous shopping centre is the Atrium. It offers a wide selection of all kinds of clothing, jewellery and accessories of the well-known brands. If looking for groceries shopping, supermarket Albert offers a great selection of fresh products.
Country dialing code: +420
Tourist Info Karlovy Vary: +420 355 321 176
Fire department: 150
Pharmacy: +420 607 079 649