30 ideas for things to do and see in Karlovy Vary
What to do in Karlovy Vary for the idle tourist? It’s a small town, its audience consists of European old timers and the level of service reverberates with the Soviet legacy… It’s hard to decide whether you ever want to visit this spa. I can say with certainty that you should visit Karlovy Vary. It doesn’t matter if you want to visit Karlovy Vary for 1 day from Prague or if you want to buy a ticket to a local spa. Here are 30 entertaining ideas of what to do in Karlovy Vary.
- Top 30 Places to See in Karlovy Vary
- Karlovy Vary sights on the map
What to do in Karlovy Vary – 30 ready-made ideas
If you wish, you can use my ready-made itineraries around the city and surroundings – for 1 day or for 2-3 days. In addition, for travelers with children, I have an article What to see in Karlovy Vary with a child.
Or below is my personal Top 30, what to see and do in Karlovy Vary. Based on these ideas, you can make your personal plan and itinerary to walk around the city.
1. Visit the Karlovy Vary Film Festival
Since 1946, Karlovy Vary has hosted an international film festival every summer. It certainly does not rival the Hollywood Oscars or the Cannes Film Festival, but it is a great event for the city. In 2020, the event takes place from July 3 to 11.
The ceremony will take place in one of the best hotels in Karlovy Vary – Hotel Thermal, which is also a spa hotel, providing a full range of spa services.
2. Buy a traditional ceramic cup
The Karlovy Vary mugs with long noses are made for drinking the mineral water from the thermal springs in the right way. The mug’s shape retains heat and the narrow spout helps calculate the dosage.
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You can buy mugs in street souvenir stalls, and each one will have its own unique pattern. The cost varies by size – the smallest will cost ~100 CZK.
3. Drink from a spa mug of mineral water
The resort is famous for its hot springs, the water from which has a rich and unique composition of salts and trace minerals. It was thanks to the springs found by Charles IV that an entire town was founded there.
The emperor himself loved to drink the curative water. At that time it was not scientifically proven, but everyone who drank it felt the improvement of health. It was tested by the time!
4. Seeing a Geyser
Geyser is the most famous spring of the resort. Hot stream with a temperature of 72°C rises up right in the middle of the city.
Most spa hotels in Karlovy Vary take their treatments and therapeutic relaxation baths directly from the geyser.
5. Take a walk through the Mill Colonnade
The splendid structure of the Mill Colonnade reminds one of the architecture of the Roman Empire and it is not accidental, because it was built in the Renaissance style.
The Mill Colonnade hides as many as five Carlsbad springs – Libushe, Rusalka, Mill and Rock, as well as the spring of St. Prince Wenceslas.
6. Find the oldest building in town
With your back to the Mill Colonnade, look across the Teplá River for a cute little house clutched by the jaws of its taller brethren.
This miracle was built back in 1709. And it is the oldest building that has survived in the city since that time.
7. Look at the lace patterns of the Market Colonnade.
The incredibly light and airy architecture of the Market Colonnade catches your eye at once. It takes its name from the market place that used to stand here in the olden days by the walls of the castle of Charles IV.
At this colonnade we can find three thermal springs; above one of them there is a wonderful panel depicting the hunting of Charles IV, during which he discovered the hot springs in this region.
8. To get to the Castle Tower of Charles IV.
In the photo above you can see that right above the Market Colonnade towers the Castle Tower, which is all that is left of the burnt-out ancient wall of the Gothic fortress.
Nowadays you can climb the tower, or on the contrary go down into its ancient cellars.
9. Visit the castle colonnade.
On the same hill next to the tower there is the Castle Spring in the Colonnade, which is rich in high carbon dioxide content.
The water from the spring also flows into Zametsky Lazne, where Alla Pugacheva is rumored to have undergone therapeutic procedures.
10. Drink water from the snake spring
According to the legend, there used to be snakes all over Dvorak Gardens. Nobody really knows what attracted them here, but when in 2001 there suddenly appeared a spring, it was immediately nicknamed “Snake Spring”.
This is the coldest mineral spring in Karlovy Vary – only 30°C. The decision was made to attribute it to the Sidereal Spring. It was decided to locate it at the Sadová Colonnade.
11. To buy a painting in the Dvořák Gardens
Also near the Colonnade are the flowering Dvorak Gardens with benches to rest on. It is there that local artists flaunt their art.
It’s hard to walk past a painting with views of Prague or other atmospheric Czech cities – it’s a great souvenir to remember a trip by!
12. Have a relaxing day at the spa
What used to be considered a spa program has now been renamed a modern day spa. The city offers all types of massage, mud and paraffin wraps, relaxing aroma baths and other services.
You can get the full range of curative and relaxing procedures in any spa hotel in Karlovy Vary, or in local spas. The best known of them is Lázně 5.
13. Swim in a thermal pool
You can also buy a one-time pass for a swim in the thermal pool in the spa Hotel Laszno 5. You do not need to buy a whole course of procedures, go to the doctor or have a medical book.
It is very comfortable to swim in the thermal water from the springs in Karlovy Vary, if you have time.
14. Buy Karlovy Vary salt.
You can take home with you a preserved piece of Karlovy Vary – salt from the springs. It will not replace the original mineral water from the ground, but it will undoubtedly retain many of its beneficial properties.
You can buy it in any pharmacy. According to the instructions Carlsbad salt can be both diluted in water for drinking or pour it for relaxation in the bath.
15. Buying Becherovka at home
And one more medicinal remedy, which is impossible not to take as a souvenir, is the famous Becherovka liquor. The tart alcoholic tincture, developed by a local herbalist, has long proven itself as an effective remedy for various ailments.
Even if you take a direct flight on “Pobeda” and have only hand luggage with you, you can still take small souvenir bottles of 10 ml.
16. Jan Becher Museum
Becherovka is undoubtedly a trademark of Karlovy Vary. There is a whole museum devoted to it, which is also the first workshop for the production of the tincture.
The Becherovka Museum is located not far from the bus station Terminal and the bus stop Třnice, so it is very convenient to visit it when you arrive in town.
17. Watching Bohemian glass being blown
Another amazing museum-factory Moser, where you can see live how the glassblowers work, creating those beautiful products of Bohemian glass, which are so popular around the world.
You can also buy any glassware, goblets, chandeliers, or vases produced at the Moser factory. No flow approach, each glass is handmade!
18. Eat in a game restaurant
Game dishes are very popular in Karlovy Vary. Probably from the fact that the city itself was built thanks to the hunting of Charles IV in these parts. On the local menu, you can easily come across a deer’s back with porcini mushrooms or a marinated pheasant fillet.
In our experience, I can recommend restaurants Diana or Karl IV, where there is a good choice of game, but we liked the Old Slavic restaurant best.
19. To try the Karlovy Vary wafers.
For dessert you can try the traditional wafers called “zaplatki”. They are very crispy and have their own pleasant flavor.
You can buy them both in street stalls, where waffles are cooked and served immediately hot, and in stores in sets in boxes – convenient to take home for souvenirs.
20. Go to the theater
The Karlovy Vary Municipal Theater was built in the 19th century. At that time Bohemia (i.e. Bohemia) was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The rulers of the Habsburg dynasty built up the towns of their empire according to their taste. The best Viennese architects and sculptors were invited to build the theater, and Gustav Klimt himself painted the walls and ceilings.
The theater’s repertoire is very diverse – from operas to contemporary productions. It is better to get acquainted with the current productions in the theater itself, tickets can be bought there at the ticket office – online everything is in Czech, so it is very inconvenient. In the theater itself the Russian-speaking employees work, so you can ask them all the questions you are interested in.
21. To listen to an organ concert in the church of St. Mary Magdalene
One of the oldest Catholic churches in Karlovy Vary invites you to a concert of organ music. The church is located in the center of the town right next to the Hot Spring Colonnade, so it should be easy to find.
The concert schedule for upcoming dates is posted on the doors of the church. And don’t forget the Sunday masses, which are absolutely free.
22. Pray in the Orthodox Cathedral of Peter and Paul
Peter and Paul Church was built at the behest of the royal Romanov family. At that time the spa treatment in Karlovy Vary was so popular among the Russian nobility that people from the Russian Empire could be found in the town.
Aristocrats were no less devout than ordinary peasants, so they lacked church services during a long vacation. So it was decided to collect from the world by the thread and build an Orthodox church here.
23. See the wax figures in the Gothic cathedral
The Anglican Church in pseudo-Gothic style was built in the 19th century in a quiet corner of Karlovy Vary. In my opinion it is one of the most beautiful churches in the city.
However, there is not much of the true interior, because today the halls of the cathedral are filled with wax figures of pop stars, politicians and historical figures. If you have a lot of time in Karlovy Vary and you have seen everything you can, you can also have a look at the dolls. But the cathedral from outside is much more interesting.
24. The Holy Trinity Column in Karlovy Vary
Sacred pillars in European cities have played the role of plague columns – an eternal reminder of the terrible disease which took the lives of millions of inhabitants.
In Karlovy Vary, the Holy Trinity was erected in the central square in gratitude for the fact that the plague had passed the city by.
25. Travel by time machine to the Middle Ages
Not some miracle technology, but a regular bus will take you to Loket, the medieval castle 15 km away from Karlovy Vary. I adore this small town for its absolutely incredible spirit and its picturesque beauty.
The castle itself surprisingly preserved the atmosphere of the XIII century. When you walk around its corners you get goosebumps – sometimes you feel you are either on the set of a historical movie or in the fairy tales.
26. Trekking to the Deer Leap
On one of the Karlovy Vary hills is an interesting sculpture of a deer. The Great Emperor Charles IV, revered by the Czechs, lived in Loket and often hunted in the local woods. During his deer hunt, the Bohemian ruler came across hot springs and built a town nearby.
The deer were not caught, because the dog of the royal retinue fell into the hot water and frightened all the surroundings with its high-pitched shrill. So the monument is called “The Deer’s Leap”. It is located on Diana Hill.
27. Take an antique cable car ride
You can get to the top of the hill on the old cable car of the early twentieth century. The funiculars, though decrepit, work reliably from morning to night, taking anyone who wants to get to the top.
Halfway to the top, the funicular has a stop, which just leads to the deer sculpture. But I advise you to get to the top and then walk down to the monument.
28. Climb the Diana Tower
I recommend climbing up to the top of Diana Hill for the tower of the same name. It resembles a lighthouse, and you can get to its observation deck for free!
In my opinion, this is one of the best vantage points in the city – the view from it is gorgeous at 360 degrees.
29. Count the bridges over the Tepla and feed the ducks
A walk along the embankment of the river Teplá, into which waters of thermal springs flow, gives unforgettable impressions. So cozy, harmonious and soulful around … Across a small river thrown numerous bridges. Honestly, I lost count of how many of them there are, but you can take great pictures on each of them!
And more Teploo adore ducks – there are hundreds of them, especially in winter (apparently they come to the warm water from afar). It is not recommended to feed them, but if you really want, you can have some… My children could not resist to see the mallards =)
30. Sending home a postcard
The Karlovy Vary main post office has seen a lot. At the time when Bohemia (“then” Bohemia) was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was the most advanced and equipped with all the innovations of the post office in the entire empire.
Today, the usual services are offered here (by the way, there is also a copier, in case you need one, but there is no printer). I advise you to send yourself or your loved ones a postcard from the local post office with illustrations of Karlovy Vary – a good memory for many years to come.
The main sights of Karlovy Vary on the map
On this map, I have marked the most interesting and significant sights in Karlovy Vary.
You can click on any of the labels to learn more about each of the places.
Top 25 sights in Karlovy Vary
Karlovy Vary is a world famous resort with healing mineral springs. But even apart from them there is a lot to see and visit. In the Czech city tourists are waiting for unique architectural monuments, picturesque surroundings and ancient castles.
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Who should come to Karlovy Vary?
Lovers of antiquity will love Karlovy Vary. You can stroll through the streets of the city looking at the most beautiful churches and houses, go on an excursion to an ancient castle or visit a museum to soak up the history of the city. For a cultural program you can plan a visit to the local art gallery and the state theater.
Those who appreciate peace and quiet and solitude in the lap of nature, a trip here will also be appreciated. There are a lot of picturesque forests in the vicinity of Karlovy Vary. It is worthwhile to visit one of the many viewing platforms, and appreciate the unbelievable views which open from the heights. And you can rest after your tour in the Dvořák or Smetana Gardens.
Cultural sites and museums
The Neoclassical building, which now houses the Picture Gallery, was built in 1912. Works of famous Czech sculptors and artists are presented there.
Temporary exhibitions of works of foreign art and thematic exhibitions as well as theatrical performances and conferences with the participation of famous writers are held in the gallery.
Jan Becher Museum
Many people associate the spa town of Karlovy Vary not only with its healing springs, but also with Becherovka liquor. This liquor was created back in 1809 by Jan Becher and contributed a lot to the popularization of the city.
Jan Becher Museum is located in the building of a pharmacy, where this liquor first appeared in the window. There you can see a collection of labels and bottles that have changed over time, while the guide tells the history of Becherovka and how it was bottled. At the end of the tour you can taste the drink and buy souvenirs.
St. Luke’s Anglican Church
Made in the pseudo-Gothic style, the church has risen on Castle Hill since 1877. It was built on the site of an old Anglican church and its architecture is not typical of Karlovy Vary.
The walls of pink shades combined with a graceful dome, massive columns and a tower with a gallery – this is how the church appears to the tourists.
The imposing neo-Renaissance and late Art Nouveau building of the town theater is situated on the bank of the river Teplá. It offers plays for all ages and tastes from the classics to the present. There are also operas, ballets, operettas and concerts of symphony orchestra.
Moser Glass Museum
In 1857 a glass factory was built in Karlsbad, the founder and manager of which was the merchant L. Moser. Products that were produced here were considered elite due to the high quality of glass and handmade.
The Moser Museum is located not far from the plant. It contains exhibits of various subjects: objects, documents and photographs related to Moser itself, as well as products manufactured by the plant.
Peter and Paul Church
The Orthodox Church of Peter and Paul, done in white and blue colors, looks solemn and reminiscent of Moscow cathedrals of the XVII century. It features a carved porch, bell tower, covered gallery and turrets with gilded crosses. The church’s interior is decorated with stained-glass windows depicting saints and an antique oak iconostasis.
House at the Golden Key
The house “At the Golden Key” has its own history. There used to be a boarding house, where different famous people stayed, for example, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Today the house belongs to the city’s local history museum. The first floor is used for temporary exhibitions, and on the second floor there are paintings of Austrian artist W. Gauss.
Natural beauties and parks
The Dvořák Gardens are a lovely little square in the center of the city, named after the famous Czech composer Antonín Dvořák.
Not only tourists but also locals love to spend time in the park. There is a garden colonnade, monuments to Dvořák himself and the poet Bezruč, a national monument of the country in the form of a pedestal with a thermometer, a small lake and a sculpture of a mermaid.
This park also bears the name of the musician – Berdzich Smetana. He was a famous Czech pianist, composer and conductor, as well as the founder of the Czech school of composition. At the entrance to the garden is a flowerbed, the flowers on which show the current date each day.
As you walk through the park, you can see a fountain with a sculpture of a girl holding a jug. On the territory of Smetana Gardens there is a wellness complex, and there are also various entertainment events.
Peter’s Peak is a hill on which there is one of the most famous viewing platforms of the city, bearing the name “Deer’s Leap”. Not far from it there is a rock with a sculpture of a chamois.
It is a symbol of Karlovy Vary and is used as a picture on postcards, posters, magnets and other souvenirs of the town. The view from the viewing platform is breathtaking.
Karlovy Vary springs
The springs of mineral water are what the spa town of Karlovy Vary is primarily associated with. The locality was rich in medicinal water even before people invented it.
In addition to its curative effects, it replenishes the lack of mineral substances in the body. There are in total 13 active springs in the town and their water flows into five colonnades from which it is possible to drink for free.
The observation deck is situated on the Eternal Youth Hill. The idea for its construction was that of Princess Stephanie, wife of Austrian Crown Prince Rudolf. The tower offers breathtaking views of Karlovy Vary and surroundings. But it is not easy to reach it – you have to take a long walk through the woods. However, it is worth the time and effort.
Grand Hotel Pupp
This luxurious luxury hotel is located on the bank of the river Tepla and attracts rich tourists. Famous people who come to the resort stay here.
Hotel offers its visitors not only comfortable accommodation, but also meals and spa treatment. The interiors of this grand hotel have been seen many times in movies.
The castle is located in the Ore Mountains, so its name in Czech sounds like Horní Hrad. It was built in the 13th century by the ruler Přemysl Ottakar II.
Three centuries later the castle passed into the hands of Schlik, a descendant of a wealthy family, who won it at cards. And in 1771, Hauenstein became royal property – it was sold to Countess Gabriele, who created a romantic image of the castle.
It is the only preserved part of the castle of Charles IV, the Czech king. It is situated in the center of the town next to the Market Colonnade. The castle itself was destroyed in 1604, but the tower was rebuilt and used as a strategic observation point and vantage point. Today, from the Castle Tower you can look around the city and take beautiful pictures, as well as have lunch in a luxurious restaurant.
The snow-white villa in empire style catches the eyes of tourists. It was built in the 19th century for Baron von Lützow, who wanted to use the villa as a family residence. Guests of the resort especially like the column with the sculpture of a cat, which you can walk up and take a closer look. The villa itself is privately owned and closed to the public.
This is an advanced sanatorium, which provides comprehensive treatment at a high level. It consists of several buildings: the main building in neo-Renaissance style and Hoffmann villa.
There are 205 rooms in the main building, as well as 2 restaurants, a cafe and a club, in which the local ensemble performs. The hotel offers visitors a sports center, a movie theater and a concert venue.
Diana Lookout Tower
Located on Friendship Hill. It takes about 30 minutes to walk up the hill along paths and forests or take a working cable car to get to the observation deck in a few minutes.
Old guidebooks said that Diana Tower has the best view of the city. Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Goethe, Kerner, and other celebrities have visited it.
House of Peter I
This unusual house looks as if it is several hundred years old, but in fact the building was built not so long ago according to ancient drawings. According to a legend, Peter the Great himself worked on their design.
Now there is a luxurious hotel “Peter”, as well as a restaurant for 40 people and a casino, where you can spend a good time.
Originally, the postal yard was needed to set up stables for the postal horses there. Over time, however, the building became popular with spa guests and it was decided to open a restaurant where the visiting elite could gather.
Today the Post Yard serves as a venue for cultural and social events. You can stop here to rest after a walk through the city and have a snack in a cozy restaurant.
The Market Colonnade is rightly considered the most beautiful in the city. It is topped with a gable roof, which is supported by thin columns. The openwork lacework decor gives the structure an elegant and airy feel, as well as drawing in sunlight and making the colonnade literally shine.
Inside, you can sit at tables or stroll through the gallery. The colonnade serves as a canopy for 2 mineral springs: Charles IV and Market Spring.
A large building made of glass, built in the 1970s. It was erected over a powerful spring called Geyser, which throws healing water upwards at a great pressure. It is a hot spring, so it is not possible to be in the same room with it for a long time. But it is very interesting to watch from the side of such an unusual natural fountain.
Inside the geyser colonnade there is a spacious hall, where you can look at figures and crockery made of Bohemian glass, as well as a corridor with a lot of souvenir kiosks.
This colonnade is close to the Dvořák Gardens – where the gathering for city tours is scheduled, so it’s just impossible to walk past it. The colonnade is made of cast iron, but looks weightless and airy thanks to the unusual design and decor. There are three springs brought here: the Garden Spring, the Snake Spring, and the Liberty Spring.
The most famous spa colonnade is situated in the center of Karlovy Vary. It serves as a shelter for five springs: Rusalka, Libuše, Mill Spring, Rock Spring and Prince Václav Spring.
The water from the Mill Spring is prescribed for all holidaymakers, so anyone can taste it. If the entrance to the colonnade is open, you can climb to the roof and admire the sculptures dedicated to the months of the year.
Art Nouveau colonnade was built in the early 20th century on a small hill overlooking the city. The author of the project was the architect Johann Friedrich Ohmann. There are two springs here – the Lower and Upper castle springs.
Water from the first spring is prescribed for strengthening bone and cartilage tissue, and minerals from the Upper Spring help with caries and periodontal disease.