spa city in western Bohemia, Czech Republic

Karlovy Vary (also known as Karlsbad, its German name or Carlsbad, its English name) is a historic spa town in West Bohemia, in the western Czech Republic. It's famous for its mineral springs and its gorgeous Belle Epoque architecture.

Karlovy Vary

Understand edit

Karlovy Vary, meaning "Charles' Bath", was named after Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, who founded the city in 1370. It is famous for its hot springs and its colorful and whimsical architecture. For these reasons, it was a popular tourist destination starting in the 18th century with guests including Tsar Peter the Great, Emperor Franz Josef I, Beethoven, Goethe, Wagner, Brahms, Leo Tolstoy, and Karl Marx. Tourism ground to a halt during World War I and the city never fully regained its former glory. After World War II, the largely German-speaking city was cleared of its inhabitants and replaced with Czech settlers. Czech remains the major language today but the signs of German culture and heritage are still very evident. The three spa towns in West Bohemia – Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně – are known as the West Bohemian Spa Triangle, and all three are part of the "Great Spa Towns of Europe" UNESCO world heritage site shared with eight other cities around the continent.

The town, along with Prague, was the filming location of many scenes identified as being in Montenegro in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale.

Watch edit

  • Last Holiday. Last Holiday is a 2006 film starring Queen Latifah, who portrays Georgia Byrd, a New Orleans department store employee. Believing that she is dying, Georgia quits her job and decides to blow her savings. She flies off to Karlovy Vary for Christmas and stays at the Grandhotel Pupp, enjoying the luxurious hotel's presidential suite, gourmet restaurant, and spa. She treats herself to a new designer wardrobe in a fashionable boutique. While in town, Georgia tries snowboarding and BASE jumping.    

Get in edit

By bus edit

Student Agency operates hourly buses from Prague's Florenc and Dejvicka stations 05:00-20:00. The trip takes 2 hours and costs 155 for adults. FlixBus also offers near hourly service, for roughly €10.

Other bus companies also run services from Prague's Florenc station but they are more expensive and not as comfortable as Student Agency's buses. offers daily transport between Karlovy Vary and Cesky Krumlov, among other places.

By train edit

Karlovy Vary train station
Interior of Karlovy Vary lower station

Karlovy Vary is well connected to the regional and long-distance train network. The vast majority of trains in Karlovy Vary Region are modern and very comfortable. Also, some of the railways are quite scenic. When planning your journey, use journey planner IDOS. For more details see Rail travel in the Czech Republic.

  • Prague: 3 hr 10 min, long-distance Rx trains on line  R5  leave Prague Main Train Station every 2 hours, 7 times a day, trains on this route are slower than buses, however, you can experience the diverse character of the Czech Republic: industrial areas in North Bohemia and scenic sections like Lovosice - Ústí nad Labem or Kadaň - Karlovy Vary. SuperAction ticket costs from 159 Kč, Ordinary ticket costs 331 Kč.
  • Nuremberg: 2 hr 40 min, 1 change, regional RE trains on line  R29  depart from Nuremberg Main Train Station every 2 hours, in Cheb you have to change to long-distance Rx train on line  R5 , 5 times a day. First Minute Europe ticket costs from 235 Kč, Basic international fare ticket costs 981 Kč.
  • Dresden: 3h30min, 1 change, long-distance EC trains on line  Ex3  leave Dresden Main Train Station every 2 hours, in Ústí nad Labem you have to change to long-distance Rx train on line  R5 , 6 times a day. Includes scenic sections like Dresden - Ústí nad Labem or Kadaň - Karlovy Vary. First Minute Europe ticket costs from 235 Kč, Basic international fare ticket costs 746 Kč.

Also, regional trains operate on railway lines nr. 140 (Klášterec n/O - Karlovy Vary - Cheb), 141 (Merklín - Karlovy Vary), 142 (Johanngeorgenstadt - Karlovy Vary) and 149 (Mariánské Lázně - Karlovy Vary). Railway routes to Johanngeorgenstadt and Mariánské Lázně are pretty scenic as line 142 leads through Ore Mountains and line 149 through Slavkov Forest.

All long-distance and most regional trains arrive at 1 Karlovy Vary Station (north of the city centre, bus stop Horní nádraží  1  13 ).  , which offers modern facilities. Although, all trains from Mariánské Lázně and some other regional trains terminate at 2 Karlovy Vary Lower Station (Bus stop Dolní nádraží - Terminál  18  or Dolní nádraží  3  6  18  23 ). This station is on the western edge of the city centre next to the intercity bus station.

By plane edit

  • 3 Karlovy Vary Airport (KLV  IATA). This airport only serves a very few scheduled international connections and due to its closeness to Prague it has no domestic services.    

If you're arriving from a place not connected to KLV, it will likely make more sense to fly into Prague (PRG IATA). Other airports in reasonable geographic proximity include Nuremberg (NUE IATA), Leipzig/Halle (LEJ IATA) and Dresden (DRS IATA). Out of all of these, Prague offers the most comprehensive selection of destinations, and is the hub of Czech flag carrier Czech Airlines. In 2021 Czech Airlines went bankrupt and downsized, so there's a good chance that Czech Airlines won't be the best option for getting into the Czech Republic.

Get around edit

The town can comfortably be covered on foot, but a car or motorcycle is useful for exploring the surrounding areas.

Bus travel is very cheap. A week ticket for 220 Kč also gives you a trip on the Diana funicular. A ticket can be useful if you need to make trips up and down the river for whatever reason.

See edit

Mill colonnade has six springs
  • 1 Mill Colonade (Mlýnská kolonáda). Popular gathering place. Bands play here in the summer.
  • Hot Springs. There are 12 hot springs; you can get a list and descriptions at the Infocentrum.
    • 2 Rock Spring (Skalní Pramen). Spurts 1.3 litres of water per minute.
    • 3 Hot Springs Colonade (Vřídelní kolonáda). Daily 06:00–19:00. Spring that spurts 2000 litres of water per minute in a 14-m jet. The modernist hall was designed by Jaroslav Otruba and replaced an earlier traditional colonnade, derelict after the war. It has a number of small fountains for visitors to take the waters, plus exhibition spaces, a cafe and tours of the underground. Free.  
  • 4 Lázně III. Beautiful spa building.  
  • 5 Lázně I (Bus number 2 from the centre, or walk to the top of the town). 09:00–18:00. Beautiful spa building that housed Franz Josef's baths (he did not visit however) and also used for the casino setting in Casino Royale. The building is being restored after a period of closure to become a cultural centre. There is a small exhibition which also gives you a quick peek around the main entrance halls and stairways. €1 or 50 Kč.  
  • 6 Diana Lookout Tower (Rozhledna Diana). You can take the funicular railway or take a beautiful walk through the forest to get here. The funicular costs 100 Kč to the top station, or 150 Kč for a round trip ticket. There is a café and hunting lodge-style restaurant serving Czech cuisine as well as a small zoo. Animals including piglets and peacocks roam adjacent to the building. Free.
  • 7 Karl Marx Monument. Very close to the Russian embassy and the Orthodox Church and at the start of some woodland walks.
  • 8 Church of St. Peter & St. Paul. Built in 1897. Five golden domes and colourful exterior were modelled on the Byzantine Church of the Holy Trinity near Moscow. The interior of the church is decorated with paintings and icons, gifts of wealthy Russian aristocrats. One of the decorations is a relief representing Russian Tsar Peter the Great.    
  • 9 Church of St. Lucas. Anglican church.  
  • 10 Karlovy Vary Museum, Nova Louka 23. W–Su 09:00–12:00 & 13:00–17:00. Local history. Adult 30 Kč; child 15 Kč.  
  • 11 Jan Becher Museum, Masaryka 57. Daily 09:00–17:00. Dedicated to the local inventor of Becherovka. Adult 100 Kč; child 50 Kč.
  • 12 Street art. If you're walking between old town and the upper train station, don't miss the fantastic murals while taking the underpass below the big bridge roundabout crossing the Teplá.
  • 13 Home of Becherovka Tour, T. G. Masaryka 282/57. Tuesday-Sunday 9:00 – 17:00. A local liquor that is produced in Karlovy Vary, there are a variety of tours available.

Do edit

Spa edit

  • 1 Castle Spa (Zámecké lázně). Daily 07:30-19:30. Modern spa center. €20 for 1 hour, €80 for 4 hours including massage.
  • 2 Elizabeth Baths (Spa 5), Smetanovy sady 1145/1 (main entrance is in the flower gardens), +420 353 222 536-7, . Daily 09:00-21:00. Somewhat old-school publicly accessible state owned spa and baths, with Communist-era baths downstairs, and early twentieth-century therapeutic rooms. Cheap and worth a visit just for the retro feel. 85-900 Kč.

Festivals edit

Sports edit

Buy edit

Eat edit

"Spa wafers" (Czech: lázeňské oplatky)

Karlovy Vary is famous for its spa wafers. They come in various flavors and are best when warm. The wafers are sold at street stands in Karlovy Vary, and can also be purchased at grocery stores throughout the Czech Republic.

  • Cafe Pizzeria Venetia, Zahradni 43, +420 353 729 221. Looks out on the Tepla River. Pizza: 120 Kč.
  • Jean De Carro. Spacious. Dishes are of a low quality, despite being high priced.
  • Parlament, Zeyerova 5. closed on Sun. Outdoor tables. Good food.
  • Steakhouse Sklipek, Zeyerova 1, +420 353 229 197. Huge steaks. Steaks: 180 Kč.

Mid-range edit

  • 1 Goethe's Beer House, Stara Louka 2150/22, +420 737 307 906, . daily 11:00–23:00. Touristy establishment serving a variety of draught beers, decent Czech meals with lots of meat and salads. Outdoor seating by the river. Service is not the friendliest but quite fast. From 165 Kč (mains).

Drink edit

Jan Becher invented the liquor that bears his name (Becherovka) in Karlovy Vary. However, it is an acquired taste.

Some establishments on the river charge twice the price of places 20 m or more off the main drag, so shop around for a place to drink.

  • Cafe Elephant, Stara Louka 30. Coffee and cake. Coffee: 45 Kč.
  • Pizza Mamma Mia, Bulharska 9. In spite of the name, serves soda fountain type drinks and interesting smoothies. Juice & smoothies: 20-37 Kč.

Sleep edit

Budget edit

Mid-range edit

  • 2 Hotel Cordoba, Zahradni 37, . From 1,800 Kč.
  • 3 Hotel Garni Palatin, Lázeňská 10. Very nice place to stay, it is ideal if you take a mineral water drinking course, because the range from this hotel to the closest spring is roughly 20 m. The hotel is modern furnished, and despite being given only 3 stars looks like a typical four stars hotel. The only disadvantage is absence of a restaurant (breakfast is possible though).
  • 4 Hotel Kavalrie, T. G. Masaryka 43 (above a cafe, near bus and train stations), +420 353 229 613. Single: 950 Kč; double: 1,225 Kč.
  • 5 [formerly dead link] Pension Rainbow, Šeříkova 92 (approx. 15 min. walk from centre.), +420 353 560 366, . Family-run guesthouse offering accommodation in conveniently furnished rooms, each including a bathroom and a TV-SAT set, in quiet environment. from 690 Kč.
  • 6 Pension Fan, U Trati 57/5, +420 774 289 153, . Opened in May 2004, is a two-storey building in the district Bohatice. Friendly atmosphere, lot of programmes available: cycling with or without a cycling guide, golf, golf-school, wellness and relax programmes.
  • 7 Pension Romania, Zahradní 948/49. Spacious rooms. From 735 Kč.
  • 8 Sanatorium Astoria, Vřídelní 92 (Opposite the Mill Colonnade). Single: €40; double: €80.

Splurge edit

  • 9 Grandhotel Pupp, Mirove namesti 2, +420 353 109 631, fax: +420 353 224 032, . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. Has been a symbol of Karlovy Vary and Czech Republic for three centuries. It is a place of comfort and first-rate service. It was a major location for the 2006 movie Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah. It also appears in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale as Hotel Splendide in Montenegro. From €130.    
  • Hotel Carlsbad Plaza (in the vicinity of the spa facility Lázně I). Deluxe hotel opened in December 2005. €133 and up.
  • 10 Hotel Thermal. The biggest hotel in the centre of the city was used by USSR's political elite for recovery. It is still state-owned and hosts the annual film festival. Its modern Balneo Wellness Center offers a wide range of spa and wellness services. The centre offers over 50 medical and wellness treatments and services: various massages, hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, and Nordic Walking for hotels guestscand for non-residental clients. It has an indoor pool (15x5m), Whirlpool, Kneipp's path, dry Finnish sauna, steam bath, infra cabine and cardio zone. The Wellness Center is open M-F 13:00-20:30, Sa 10:00-20:30, Su 09:00-20:30 (last admittance 20:00 every day). Single: From 2,350 Kc; Double: From 4,320 Kc.  
  • Hyalit Aparthotel, Stari Luka 62. 5 stylish apartments. From 1,900 Kč.
  • Hotel Bristol Palace, Zámecký vrch 918/34. Hotel set in an aristocratic manor dating back to the 19th century.
  • 11 Hotel Imperial. One of the most luxurious and important hotels in the city, from beginning of the 20th century.  

Connect edit

As of Sep 2021, Karlovy Vary has 4G from O2 and T-Mobile, and 5G from Vodafone. Wifi is widely available in public places.

Go next edit

Routes through Karlovy Vary
Cheb  SW   NE  Ústí nad LabemPrague

This city travel guide to Karlovy Vary is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.