The relatively inconspicuous city of Karlovy Vary in western Czechia is a unique combination of spas (listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site), nature, film industry, and luxury. The relatively inconspicuous city of Karlovy Vary in western Czechia is a unique combination of spas (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), nature, film industry, and luxury. It is such a little secret that both important personalities and famous artists, including Hollywood actors, in which they seek peace and rest.
Karlovy Vary is located in the west of the Czech Republic near the border with Germany. It is the most important spa town of this state, founded by Charles IV, which is visited annually by thousands of tourists from all over the world. From 2021, Karlovy Vary is even on the UNESCO World Heritage List under the Famous Spa Cities of Europe item. By the way, if you decide to visit the city, it might look a little familiar. And that mainly thanks to movies such as Casino Royale (the famous James Bond series – 2006 – with Daniel Craig) or Last Holiday (2006 – with Queen Latifah and Gérard Depardieu).
Spas and thermal springs
Karlovy Vary abounds with approximately eighty springs of thermal water, which has a beneficial effect on the treatment of liver and intestinal diseases, on the stomach and liver. The most famous one is the Karlovy Vary spring, which springs from a depth of 2,500 m and, with a temperature of 73 °C, is also the hottest thermal spring in the Czech Republic. You can find it in the center of Karlovy Vary in the Vřídelní colonnade, where it reaches an incredible height of up to 12 m thanks to the pressure and content of carbon dioxide gas.
Thermal water is used here in many ways. And it doesn’t matter if you travel with me for treatment in one of the spa houses or for wellness relaxation in another facility. The effects of thermal water from Karlovy Vary have been tested for hundreds of years. And if you don’t have enough time, you can at least taste the healing water in one of the freely available springs.
The unique architecture of Karlovy Vary
People go to Karlovy Vary not only for the spa treatments but also for the unique architecture that is typical for the city. But it was precisely the spa industry that was decisive for the appearance of the city and local architecture. The local spa belongs to the unique world architectural heritage of human civilization. And which of the buildings inside the city are the most important?
“Císařské lázně” – a unique temple of peat baths
The spa building of the peat spa, also known today under the name “Lázně I”, was built on the site of a baroque brewery according to the plans of the Viennese studio Fellner & Helmer. The Imperial Baths were among the most modern and at the same time the most luxurious facilities of their time. They brought their clients all the necessary comfort and modern technical equipment.
In addition to the spa cabins with their changing rooms, sanitary facilities, showers, and tubs for peat and mineral baths, the spa was also equipped with a spacious gymnasium with 64 electric gym equipment, it was one of the oldest fitness centers. Various massages, steam, and hot air baths, and electrotherapy were among other procedures performed in the “Císařské lázně”.
The central spa was used for balneology until the end of the 20th century and has been a National Cultural Monument since 2010. In the future, the spa building should undergo reconstruction and serve as a museum, cultural hall, or public study room.
The mysterious underground of Vřídlo
The spring springing up in the spa center of Karlovy Vary on the Vřídelní colonnade is unique at the European level. The spring comes out of the ground right here, because the water found the easiest way up here. Even though in 1967-1975 a new glazed reinforced concrete colonnade in a functionalist style was built above the Vřídl spring, it hides a mysterious underground in its interior – the so-called old basement originating from an older cast-iron colonnade that was built on this site according to the plans of famous Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer in the 19th century. It is a place for pumping and distributing the spring for a drinking cure to spring vases and spa facilities in Karlovy Vary.
An excursion route has been set up in the Old Basement of the Hot Spring Colonnade, which is one of the most visited exhibitions in Karlovy Vary. Here it is possible to see pipelines clogged with sinter and collections of sinter. Well-known Karlovy Vary souvenirs – stone roses – are also “overgrown” with hot springs here. The route follows a corridor along the Teplé River, allowing visitors to cross part of the river bed on dry foot.
“Mlýnská kolonáda” (Mill colonnade)
The Mlýnská colonnade is one of the four colonnades of Karlovy Vary and currently also the largest. It was built in the years 1871–1881 according to the design of the architect Josef Zítek in the Neo-Renaissance style. Currently, the colonnade covers 5 springs, including the so-called Mlýnský, which, like Vřídlo, is bottled and exported abroad. The balustrade of the colonnade is decorated with sculptures representing the 12 months. Under the roof of the colonnade, which is supported by 124 Corinthian columns, there is an orchestra and mineral springs – Mlýnský, Rusalčin, Knížete Václava, Libušin and Skalní.
In 2014, the upper terrace of the Mlýnská colonnade was also opened for the first time, offering one of the most beautiful views of the historic center of the spa town. The terrace is only open during the high season, i.e. until the end of September.
“Tržní kolonáda” (Market colonnade)
The richly carved wooden colonnade in the Swiss style was built in 1882-1883 according to the project of the famous Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer. In the interior of the colonnade, you will find three mineral springs – Charles IV Spring, Lower Castle Spring, and Market Spring. According to the plan, this building was supposed to cover the springs for only a few years. However, when it already stood above the springs Tržní and Karl IV. more than a hundred years, the city proceeded with its preservation and complete reconstruction.
The market colonnade is located close to the Vřídelní colonnade, on the other bank of the Teplá River. It is based at the foot of the rock – Zámecký Hill, on the site of the oldest springs. Today it is a faithful copy from the end of the 20th century of the original wooden building from the second half of the 18th century.
Palace of luxury Grandhotel Pupp
Grandhotel Pupp is the most famous Karlovy Vary hotel, known in the Czech Republic and throughout Europe. It has been synonymous with luxury and quality spa care for more than 300 years.
The first building of the future hotel called the Saxon Hall, was built in 1701 by the then-mayor of the city, Lorenz Deimel. A few years later, another building was added to it, which was called the Czech Hall. The names of the halls were allegedly derived from the nationality of the waiters. In 1760, a young confectioner from Veltrus, named Jan Jiří Popp, who later began to sign himself as Johann Georg Pupp, immigrated to Karlovy Vary. He married here the daughter of a confectioner Mitterbach, who, thanks to a rich dowry, bought the Czech Hall and then she and her husband modernized it expensively. During the 18th century, the city became a center of cultural and social life, and the hotel itself was visited by world-famous composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Fryderyk Chopin, and the writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe.
The hotel complex is a very successful artistically and architecturally valuable building. There are many things here that are worth appreciating and marveling at. The unique atmosphere here attracts filmmakers from all over the world.
Hotel Thermal loved and hated
A modern eighteen-story high-rise building of reinforced concrete construction in the Brutalist style was built in the very center of Karlovy Vary between 1967 and 1976 and looks quite out of place in the middle of the city. However, Hotel Thermal is the center of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival every year and is also the subject of many discussions.
This four-star hotel has 273 rooms with a capacity of almost 500 beds, a wellness center, an indoor pool with a whirlpool and saunas, and a spa. The hotel complex is complemented by a congress center, which consists of the famous Great Hall with a capacity of 1148 seats, a small cinema hall, a Congress hall, a hall, and other conference lounges. The hotel’s restaurant with a summer terrace offers a beautiful view of the meander of the Teplá River and the spa center, and the lobby bar Film Café offers desserts from its confectioners.
This unique, for many not very friendly high-rise building, is a sought-after place for tourists, film festival celebrities, and locals and remains the subject of endless discussions. Some hate her, others love her. So whether we like this building or not, it has earned its place in the history of architecture.
Luxury glass, wafers and herbal liqueur
In addition to spas, Karlovy Vary is home to glass and porcelain. The glass industry is primarily associated with the Moser company, which produces beverage and decorative glass products and is also the manufacturer of the Crystal Globe, i.e. the main prize of the International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary. Moser products are rightly called “the glass of kings”.
And the food industry is also thriving here. You may have heard of the famous Becherovka herbal liqueur. Karlovy Vary is the only place in the world where it has been produced for over two hundred years. Drinking this herbal liqueur is both an experience and a pleasure. However, in 1900, his taste won the first prize at the Grand Prix World Exhibition in Paris. Today, Becherovka is available worldwide, but it would be a sin not to enjoy its taste right at the place of its birth in Karlovy Vary.
Or the famous Karlovy Vary spa wafers, do you know them? Come and taste them. They have been produced according to the original recipe since 1770. Their fluffy lightness, unique aroma, and delicious taste have already attracted many famous personalities. For example, Russian Tsar Peter the Great, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and well-known poets J.W. Goethe and F. Schiller enjoyed the spa wafers.
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
This luxury film festival is traditionally held every year at the beginning of July. The festival attracts thousands of visitors, not only for the film screenings but also for the beautiful city architecture and a whole host of famous stars.
The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is one of the oldest film festivals in the world. Every year, over 180 feature films and dozens of short films from around the world are screened at the festival. In 1956, Karlovy Vary was included by the International Federation of Associations of Film Producers in category A among the most important world festivals. At this time, such stars as Claudia Cardinal and Henry Fonda also started coming to the festival.
And even the present has not changed the uniqueness of this event. If you also head here during the festival, you can meet such stars of today as Michael Douglas, Leonardo DiCaprio, Scarlett Johansson, Russell Crowe, Morgan Freeman, Uma Thurman, Julian Moore, Michael Caine, Johnny Depp, and many many others.
The center of the festival is the Thermal Hotel, which was built in 1976 and reopened in 2021 after extensive renovation. It is there that the most important points of the program take place, such as the opening and closing. The hotel hall can accommodate approximately 1150 participants.
Karlovy Vary – the best place for both relaxation and a romantic getaway
Karlovy Vary is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spa towns in Central Europe. With a rich history, beautiful architecture, healing springs and countless attractions, it offers visitors many experiences and opportunities for rest and relaxation. Regardless of whether you come here for a romantic escape, for medical treatments, culture or simply to relax, Karlovy Vary is guaranteed to provide you with an unforgettable experience.CityCzech republicEuropeSpa