Written by marif on 21 Dec, 2004
The tightly packed terraced Art-Nouveau buildings along the Tepla River promenade were neglected and left to crumble when the country was ruled by the Communists. Reconstructed or restored to their original glory, they are once more indicative of the old Austro-Hungarian imperial towns. What you…Read More
The tightly packed terraced Art-Nouveau buildings along the Tepla River promenade were neglected and left to crumble when the country was ruled by the Communists. Reconstructed or restored to their original glory, they are once more indicative of the old Austro-Hungarian imperial towns. What you see today is the complete facelift the city was given since 1990.
Below street level, a small and well-kept park and rose garden called Dvorakovy Sady links the huge Thermal Sanatorium to the Sadova Colonnade. There's nothing to see inside the ugly glass-and-steel giant structure of the Thermal Sanatorium but it's worth climbing to its upper terrace from where the view of the town amidst steep forested hills is spectacular. You can wander anywhere in the park among hordes of German and Russian tourists who besiege the city during long summer days. The white iron-decorated structure south of the park is the Sadova Colonnade, a daily summer venue of live band music. However, it's not the music that attracts the crowds but the hot spring water. Walk over the bridge to the shopping arcade nearby to buy a 'lazensky poharek', a teapot-shaped long-spouted cup that visitors use to sip the hot stuff. You can drink as much as you like but beware - the water may be too hot, and its taste may not be to your liking.
Continue about 100 metres further south along the west side of the river until you come across the neoclassical Mlynska Colonnade, also called Zitek's Colonnade after its designer. It is a covered 132 metres long walkway housing five hot springs, each labelled with the water temperature and the minerals present. You can fill up your cup from any spring and then parade around, cup in hand, like everyone else is doing. Before proceeding along the bend of the river, take a look at the huge bottle of Becherovka on display at the left corner of Lazenska street.
After 30 metres or so, you reach Trziste, a small square lined with numerous shops selling souvenirs and pieces of fine Bohemian crystal. Don't miss the restored Plague Column and the splendid architecture of the buildings behind it. Nearby, the Trzni Colonnade, built at the foot of the reconstructed Zamecka Tower is a lovely Chinese-style wooden gazebo dating back to 1883.
From Trziste Square, the majestic Baroque twin-belfry church you see on the east side of the river is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. Built in 1736, it is the work of K.I. Dienzenhofer who also designed the majestic Church of St. Nicholas on Prague's Malostranske namesti. The huge glass structure in front of the church is the 1974 Vridelni Colonnade. Ugly, misplaced and obtrusive, it is one of few buildings the town inherited from the days of Communism. Have a look inside to see one thermal spring shooting out 72 degrees hot water to a height of 12 metres. Inside, there are several other hot springs where you can refill your cup. Numerous tiny souvenir shops and the Kur-Info Tourist Office are also housed inside the Colonnade.
Continue south along a further stretch of the lovely promenade that lines the river. Along Stara Louka on the west side, several chic restaurants, splendid cafes, pastry shops and top-class hotels housed within recently restored buildings add to the architectural beauty and the lively atmosphere of the area. But no other building is more impressive than the City Theatre (Divadlo Vitezslava Nezvala) on the east side along Nova Louka. Look towards its Art-Nouveau main facade from the opposite bridge (which doubles as an open-air restaurant in summer) and admire its architecture, meticulously restored to its former splendour. Even if you're not attending a concert, ask to be allowed inside and admire its splendid interior beauty and works of art.
If you continue straight ahead, you'll reach the Karlovy Vary Museum at Nova Louka 23. There's not much to see inside but its souvenir shop is worth visiting just to have a look at the numerous unusual items on display, some of which you'll not find elsewhere. In front of the museum, the huge elegant building you see on the other side of the river houses two luxury hotels, the Grandhotel Pupp and its twin sister the Parkhotel Pupp. Even if your budget is tight, you should at least take a coffee from the hotel's elegant Cafe Pupp (entrance from Mirove namesti) or for a splurge, dine inside one of the hotel's luxurious restaurants. (See my former entry: Grandhotel Pupp.) You can even have a look at the extravagant shops and fashion boutiques housed on the ground floor of Parkhotel Pupp.
The area east of these hotels has fewer attractions since few of the buildings have yet been restored but the park is good for a stroll away from the crowds. In the park along the river promenade, you'll come across numerous busts of famous people who came here from all over Europe for daily doses of hot mineral water from the town's thermal springs. You'll meet Schiller, Liszt, Marx and the monumental bust of Goethe who paid numerous visits to Karlovy Vary.
Better and more pleasant is a stroll amidst the forested hills above the west side of the town. From an alleyway north of Grandhotel Pupp, take the Diana Funicular which rises 166 metres to the Diana Tower. From here, you can follow a network of footpaths that lead towards numerous lookout points from where the panoramic views are excellent. If you follow any trail leading east, you'll reach the colourful gazebo-style hunting lodge of Jeleni Skok (Mountain Goat Pass) while if you walk along the south trail, you'll reach the more impressive Karla IV Lookout Tower, a castle-shaped structure built as a monument to King Charles IV.
Numerous visitors you see walking along the river promenade are here for a medical spa treatment inside one of the town's sanatoria, most of which are just hotels equipped to provide complete therapy services. Most sanatoria are usually fully booked and do not accept day…Read More
Numerous visitors you see walking along the river promenade are here for a medical spa treatment inside one of the town's sanatoria, most of which are just hotels equipped to provide complete therapy services. Most sanatoria are usually fully booked and do not accept day clients. So it's useless to turn up at the door asking for a spa treatment since booking is usually arranged at least a month in advance through a travel agent. A complete treatment with full board may last from one week to three weeks and provides a long list of services which include sauna, massage, hot air baths, steam baths, whirlpool, use of swimming pool and obviously regular doctor's check-ups. You may also be asked to drink daily doses of hot mineral water from one or more particular thermal springs. That's why so many fill and refill their cups regularly and parade around sipping the healing liquid.
A modern spa hotel is usually called a sanatorium but a classic spa complex that provides similar services is usually referred to as a bathhouse (lazne). The biggest bathhouse in Karlovy Vary is the Alzbetiny Lazne V, Smetanovy Sady 1, located within a park north of the town centre. This huge manor-type building and the lovely park leading to it are both impressive. If you want to go back home with the experience of a spa treatment, ask at your hotel to arrange for you a day session here. You stand a good chance of getting in. Another classic bathhouse is the Kaiserbad Lazne I (also called the Emperor's Bathhouse) located in the park east of Parkhotel Pupp. Although this French Renaissance-style building is not fully restored, the atmosphere is one of grandeur and elegance. Day sessions here are out of the question.
One modern sanatorium considered to be the city's first is Zamecke Lazne (Castle Bath), located at the foot of the reconstructed Castle Tower. It offers a wide range of treatments; take a brochure from the lobby and have a look at their long menu from which visitors can choose packages suiting their requirements. The Thermal Sanatorium at Pavlova 11 is without doubt the biggest modern structure in town. However, it does not provide the best facilities and the atmosphere inside is neither hospitable nor welcoming though the view from some of the rooms on the upper floors is excellent.
The reason for coming to Karlovy Vary for a spa treatment is the belief that the mineral hot water of the thermal springs contains essential chemicals beneficial for the treatment of severe chronic problems, mostly related to gastrointestinal disorders. Rain water seeps several metres underground through the porous granite rocks slightly dissolving the minerals present. When about 2 thousand metres below the earth's surface, it is heated by residual volcanic activity and saturated with carbonic acid and other dissolved chemicals. This mineral hot water creates an underground pressure; it is then easily pushed up through cracks in the rocks producing natural thermal springs.
A biotherapy clinic based in San Francisco is making good use of Karlovy Vary's mineral water. By evaporating the water and crystallising the chemicals, minerals identical to those present in the water are produced. These are packed in sachets and sold, either to be used as bath salts or to be added to drinking water to prevent or treat several diseases. Advertised as a non-drug treatment, Karlovy Vary's salt is believed to be effective for deep intestinal cleansing, treatment of minor stomach ulcers, gastritis and colitis. The biotherapy clinic is also using the salt to produce numerous cosmetic preparations advertised as purely natural with no artificial chemicals added.
If you can't withstand the taste or the odour of the hot spring water, buy instead a bottle of Becherovka, an alcoholic herbal liqueur sold everywhere in Karlovy Vary and considered to be a symbol of the city. Not as natural as the spring water and obviously not recommended for the treatment of diseases, Becherovka is a bittersweet drink which usually goes down well with a light meal or a snack. Before buying, you can visit the small Jan Becher Museum at Masaryka 57 where you have the double opportunity to see the stages of production and taste the liquid though the recipe is still kept secret. The shop sells bottles of Becherovka in a choice of sizes and souvenir packs containing bottles and promotional material.
The region of West Bohemia between Karlovy Vary and the German border is an area of small medieval towns which have developed in the neighbourhood of mighty strongholds or around Victorian-style bathhouses and hot water springs. There's much to see here; historic town centres are…Read More
The region of West Bohemia between Karlovy Vary and the German border is an area of small medieval towns which have developed in the neighbourhood of mighty strongholds or around Victorian-style bathhouses and hot water springs. There's much to see here; historic town centres are compact and sights are close enough to be viewed in a couple of hours. There's also the additional benefit of frequent transport by bus or train between towns.
1. One of the attractions you shouldn't miss is Loket's 12th-century castle. Loket is a small town perched on a hill, 8kms southwest of Karlovy Vary and easily accessible by frequent bus in half an hour. The Royal Castle, reconstructed in the 14th-century and guarded by well-preserved bastions occupies a unique position on the top of a cliffy hill overlooking the Ohre River. Its massive rectangular tower is still untouched and can be seen today as it looked 8 centuries ago. During the Thirty Years' War, the castle was neglected and left to deteriorate. To make matters worse, a great fire in 1795 destroyed the castle completely but not the tower which escaped unscathed. The castle was rebuilt for a third time before it was passed on to the state and used as a prison up to 1949. On the ground floor in the wing facing the tower, the castle houses an exhibition about the history of the area while the first floor is devoted to a priceless exhibition of painted porcelain made in Loket since 1815 and in nearby Horni Slavkov since 1792.
2. Still without crowds of tourists, though easily accessible by bus or train in 1.5 hours from Karlovy Vary, Cheb is a charming medieval town near the west tip of the Czech Republic almost touching the German border. The numerous industries along Cheb's outskirts producing machinery and textiles are perhaps one reason why tourists refrain from visiting. Yet the town's historic core is architecturally interesting enough to fill up at least half a day with sightseeing. The large triangular square, namesti Krale Jiriho z Podebrad boasts numerous Gothic burgher houses, a Baroque Town Hall and a cluster of 16th-century Gothic structures formerly occupied by Jewish shops and known as Spalicek. The Cheb Museum on the north side of the square across from Spalicek has an excellent exhibition about the town's history. A room on the upper floor is devoted to the Thirty Years' War commander Albrecht Wallenstein who was assassinated here in 1634. The town has a number of churches worth visiting; two of these churches face each other on Frantiskanske namesti, southwest of the main square. The most interesting church however is the massive Gothic structure of St. Nicholas, just north of the Cheb Museum. Its Romanesque twin towers, its Gothic portal and its Baroque interior stucco works and sculptures are all equally impressive. From the church, walk east past the Church of St. Wenceslas towards Chebsky Hrad (Cheb Castle). Constructed in the 12th-century along the sharp bend of the Ohre River, this castle is one of the largest Romanesque structures in Europe. The highlight is the unusual Romanesque chapel of St. Erhard and St. Ursala while the 18 metres high Black Tower rewards visitors who take the steps to the top with excellent views of the town. The long stretch of bastions have been guarding the castle since the 17th-century.
If you still have time, you can take the frequent bus from Cheb's bus station to the small town of Frantiskovy Lazne, 5kms further north. There's not much to see here but it's worth visiting the Spa Museum which displays several interesting and unusual items related to spas and water treatments.
3. The small town of Marianske Lazne, 50kms south of Karlovy Vary can best be reached by train from Karlovy Vary Dolni nadrazi, the train station opposite the long distance bus station. It can also be reached easily from Cheb by train or bus in 30 minutes. Sheltered by landscaped parks and forested hills, the town centre with its stately mansions, hotels and gardens is excellent for a stroll. The numerous thermal springs are kept closed but you can still fill up your cup with hot mineral water from the Lazenska Colonnade which is usually crowded with tourists. One end of the Colonnade houses the Cross Spring while the other end is occupied by the Singing Fountain where frequent shows of recorded music are put on. The nearby Municipal Museum on Goethovo namesti has a good exhibition about the town's history. Opposite the museum, you can see the circular Church of the Assumption while further south, you can take to the waters in the New Baths which have opened after renovation. The hilly park opposite the baths has marked footpaths along which you can walk to the south end of the town.
Written by mfs on 13 Dec, 2000
We were very curious about the alleged healing powers of the springs that are all over Karlovy Vary. We discovered that certain springs are said to cure specific ailments. Many sufferers of upper respiratory ailments come to Karlovy Vary seeking a cure from…Read More
We were very curious about the alleged healing powers of the springs that are all over Karlovy Vary. We discovered that certain springs are said to cure specific ailments. Many sufferers of upper respiratory ailments come to Karlovy Vary seeking a cure from the waters.
All Karlovy Vary springs have the same source and have roughly the same chemical composition, although water temperatures vary at each spring, which affects the formation of sedimentation. (This sediment is called "thermal tuff." This stuff freaked us out a bit - if you put a rose in a glass of spring water for a few weeks, the thermal tuff will coat it with a reddish layer of gunk. After seeing the coated roses, which are sold as souvenirs, we didn't want to drink the spring water). Apparently, the amount of sedimentation is related to the water's ability to cure certain ailments.
There are 12 springs in Karlovy Vary, and ten of them are meant for drinking and baths (balneology). Spa visitors use special "spa cups" to drink the water directly from the spring. These cups are tradition in Karolvy Vary and are available from every souvenier vendor.
While we didn't drink the water, we did swim at the Thermal Pool, located on a sleek terrace overlooking the spa district and owned by the enormous 60s-style Thermal Hotel. The other bathers were primarily older Russians and Germans. The water felt great, but we don't know if we were "cured" of anything!
*I recommend purchasing "The Indispensable Guide Through Karlovy Vary and its Surrounding" when you arrive in town. The book explains the springs in detail, provides lists of famous visitors to the spas (from as far back as the 1300s), maps out excellent walking tours, and gives a good overview of what is and has been going on in Karlovy Vary for the past 700 years.
Written by Amanda on 12 Sep, 2000
The '13th spring' of Karlovy Vary is the amazing drink. It's a type of spirit, which tastes a bit like vodka with pepper and cinnamon, with mysterious herbs added in a secret process. It's made here, and drunk all over the Czech Republic. It's amazing…Read More
The '13th spring' of Karlovy Vary is the amazing drink. It's a type of spirit, which tastes a bit like vodka with pepper and cinnamon, with mysterious herbs added in a secret process. It's made here, and drunk all over the Czech Republic. It's amazing stuff - if the springs don't cure you, try this. I guarantee it will be kill or cure! Close
This is the reason to come here - it's a Spa town. There are loads of springs, all tasting subtley different in their various nasty ways. But console yourself - they are very good for you! (allegedly...) It's fun, wandering around with a cup, trying…Read More
This is the reason to come here - it's a Spa town. There are loads of springs, all tasting subtley different in their various nasty ways. But console yourself - they are very good for you! (allegedly...) It's fun, wandering around with a cup, trying them out and deciding between yourselves which are the most unpleasant. You can buy cups everywhere - special ones for drinking the mineral water have little spouts, suitable for invalids. (And many of the visitors here do look a bit shaky on their feet.)
The oldest building housing springs here is the Market Colonnade, near the river. It;s a pretty building, made out of decoratively carved wood, and painted white. There are two springs here to try.
The biggest buildig is the Mill Colonnade, which has five springs and elaborate decoration to match, and the nastiest spring, in my judgement.
It#s great fun, wandering around, and there are loads of springs to try out, 12 altogether. The water comes out naturally warm, and packed full of minerals. Different springs are recommended for different medical problems - plaques next to the water tell you which is for what condition.
The town has a completely different feel from Prague or other towns we visited in the Czech Republic - it has a more Austrian lilt to it, which provided a nice contrast to the heavier, Bohemian atmosphere of Prague and Cesky Krumlov. We thoroughly…Read More
The town has a completely different feel from Prague or other towns we visited in the Czech Republic - it has a more Austrian lilt to it, which provided a nice contrast to the heavier, Bohemian atmosphere of Prague and Cesky Krumlov. We thoroughly enjoyed the filigreed Belle Epoch architecture. Some of the buildings looked as if they had been lifted right out of Vienna and brought to Western Bohemia. We visited in late May 1999 and were happy to see that the town was not too heavily touristed at that time. Most of the other visitors were older Germans and Russians, but they seemed to stick to the spas and go to bed early, leaving the promenades and restaurants practically to us alone in the evenings. It is a very romantic-looking place, the graceful buildings are overshadowed by gentle tree-covered hills which rise up over the skyline. Sunsets were particularly beautiful here. We originally intended to stay only two days in Karlovy Vary and then head to Poland for some serious hiking, but the beauty of the town (along with the good hiking it offered) caused us to change our plans and save Poland for another trip. We spent the remainder of our time in the Czech Republic savoring Karlovy Vary's tranquil beauty. Close