Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad in English, but I like the Czech name better), is famous for its hot springs, with a dozen main springs, about 300 smaller springs and its warm Teplá River, which runs through the center of the city. Karlovy Vary, which translated means “Charles’ Bath” was named after Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, who founded the city in 1370. In the 18th century with visitors including Tsar Peter the Great, Emperor Franz Josef I, Beethoven, Tolstoy, and Marx, it became a popular tourist destination and its easy to see why this was their chosen escape.
The city really feels private nestled between the mountains with few people walking on the sidewalks. Its quiet and the sound of the rolling river itself heals the soul. The air untainted by machines and cars, as the city center is for pedestrians and horse-pulled carriages, is refreshing and makes you want to take deep breaths the whole time.
You will see lots of people walking around drinking out of what looks like a coffee mug with a built in glass straw coming out of the side. Don’t worry they haven’t lost it. They drink spring water directly from the many fountains places throughout the cities because it has natural healing properties.
After drinking all that water, you can get a wafer, either one or multiple in a box. Coming in different flavors to absorb some of the water in your stomach. They look kind of like pancakes, big and round, but taste more like rice cakes.
The main attraction in Karvoly Vary is the “waters” and getting healing treatments from the natural mineral springs. There are specific treatments, thermal baths and/or drinking cures, for several types of diseases and other health issues. There is also the option for relaxation spa treatments. If you want to go all out and get a proper spa package, you’ll need to save up for this trip. If you go on a family vacation with children and don’t want to splurge too much, you can go to the Open Air Thermal Pool and swim in the cool water with a great view of the city day or night and enjoy the crisp mountain air. It can get busy so if you want more relaxation and private time, you may prefer the smaller spas.
Ever seen the movie The Last Holiday with Queen Latifah? A movie where she goes on a holiday to stay in the Gand Hotel Pupp, eat fine meals, get spa treatments and even try some extreme sports. Well, the Grand Hotel Pupp really exists and having a cocktail or glass of wine in the restaurant in the evening is a must. There is often music and the atmosphere itself is entertaining.
Take the “Diana” tram (aka funicular) that goes up the mountain. It’s quite relaxing for those afraid of heights because you stay on the ground rather and following the train tracks rather than be suspended on a wire in a gondola. When you reach the top, you can climb the Diana Lookout Tower to gaze upon the surrounding views of the trees and Karlovy Vary settled between the mountains below. It can be windy up there so hold on to the railings.
Taking a break in the mountain-top restaurant is a must. I can’t recommend more the soup. It’s the most delicious soup I’ve ever had and it comes in a gigantic bread bowl with a lid. It’s perfect for warming up after enduring the wind and can build up your strength if you’ve been partaking in spa treatments. A glass of red wine doesn’t hurt either.
Atop the mountain there is also an animal pen with goats, friendly ponies, and you might even see a few peacocks walking about.
The Czech Republic is well known for its glass art. Glass manufacturer Moser Glass is located in Karlovy Vary. There is a street that is shops only, most of them jewelry stores. This city is home to the most beautiful and unique jewelry I’ve ever seen and makes for superb window shopping. It’s easy for a lady to spend hours peering at the jewels that come in so many different designs that its more akin to art. You can find extensive selections and designs in amber, jade, sapphires, diamonds, rubies and my personal favorite amethyst.
For a smaller mountain town, Karlovy Vary is a true escape. You feel like you’ve arrived a secret place and even though it suffered during the 19th century, it still feels like a town for the rich. It has everything from grand hotels, restaurants, shopping, and of course the spa treatments, but there are also great natural surroundings that can be taken advantage of for a variety of activities. Its a perfect place to travel for a true getaway.
What’s your favorite destination for a relaxing holiday?