What do you know about Karlovy Vary - one of the most popular resorts of the Czech Republic? Glory to the city brought the healing springs of mineral water, but many gourmets learned about Carlsbad (as Karlovy Vary was previously called) thanks to the famous drink “Becherovka”, waffles “oplatka” and the international film festival. This article is primarily intended for people who plan to spend their holidays in resorts and hotels in Karlovy Vary, but also fit well for expand the vision. During the rest, you cannot be bored! Visit the famous sights and activities, immerse yourself in the region’s distinctive culture, improve your health and taste exquisite Czech delicacies. So, we offer you the best ways to have fun and to spend time in Karlovy Vary.
The history of the city
An overview of the city according to tradition should start with the history of its foundation. Construction of Carlsbad began in the beginning of XIV century by order of King Charles IV (the resort owes him not only his appearance, but also the modern name) in place of the already existing settlement Vrzhidlo (from Czech "Hot"). In the local folklore, there is a legend that says that the Roman Emperor and Czech King Charles IV was hunting in his lands, injured his leg, and by a happy coincidence, turned out to be close to the striker out of the ground spring. He wound washed out with curing water very quickly healed, and the monarch took it as a gift from God. Less than a year, how small settlement at that time received the status of the royal city and began to develop at a frantic pace.
Karlovy Vary has seen many ups and downs in its lifetime. The terrible fires and floods in the XVI-XVII centuries destroyed most of the buildings, and then the Thirty Years' War passed in a wave across the lands of Carlsbad, taking with them not only buildings, but also the lives of hundreds of people. White stripe changed black at the dawn of the XVIII century. The emperor of Austria-Hungary Joseph I came to power, annually allocating large subsidies for the development of the resort’s infrastructure. Beautiful nature and well-known mineral springs throughout Europe have been complemented by high quality accommodation and services, which made it possible to turn a small town into one of the fastest growing resorts of the Old World for several decades. Even Peter I twice visited Carlsbad, thereby not bad advertised it in the Russian Empire. Holidays in Karlovy Vary could afford only the wealthy aristocracy, resort guests at one time became such outstanding figures of culture and art as Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, Chopin, Paganini, Liszt, Wagner, Freud, Turgenev, Gogol and many others. Since then, the authority of Karlovy Vary has never been shaken and the city is considered one of the centers of culture, architecture and art of Europe to this day.
Karlovy Vary colonnades
The story about Karlovy Vary without a description of its healing springs will be incomplete. On the territory of the resort there are 13 official healing springs (in fact, there are 14 of them, but “Prince Vaclav I” and “Prince Vaclav II” - is one spring brought to two vases) distributed among five colonnades: Park, Market, Mill, Castle and Hot Spring.
Without a doubt, the most elegant and aristocratic colonnade of the resort, which includes springs of Rusalka, Rock, Libuše, Mill and both Prince Václav. It was built in 1881 by the project of the architect Joseph Zitek, so that eminent guests of Karlovy Vary and European aristocrats could go to the healing springs and drink mineral water in any weather. The colonnade is made in the neo-renaissance style, has a length of more than 130 meters. The snow-white construction strikes the imagination with its monumentality, twelve allegorical sculptures adorning the facade, an elegant balustrade and Greek columns that lead strollers directly to the orchestra pit located right there. It is worth visiting the Mill Colonnade not only during the day to see it as a historical landmark of Karlovy Vary, but also in the evening when the lights come on and the symphony orchestra starts playing a classical concert. Water from the Mill Colonnade springs is prescribed for metabolic disorders and diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, patients with diabetes mellitus often come here.
Today it is the most famous and beautiful colonnade of the resort, towering over two curative springs of mineral water: Market and Charles IV. The structure was built in 1882 by renowned architects Helmer and Fellner, and was temporary. It was planned to demolish it in a couple of years, replacing it with a stone structure. But the delicate snow-white gallery, made of wood, with a gable roof and the finest columns was so beautiful and strong, that it was decided to leave her. Now the Market Colonnade is reminiscent of a lacy box with an elegant knit, and invites visitors to relax inside at comfortable tables or make a promenade around the gallery. Mineral water from Market Spring and Charles IV strengthens bones and cartilage tissue. Here are treated people with abnormalities of the musculoskeletal system, as well as recovering from injuries and surgeries.
Hot colonnade has several springs with temperatures ranging from 30 °C to 72 °C. Water acts differently depending on temperature. If you drink hot water, then you will be "strengthened", and if you drink it from a spring with a temperature of 30-40 °C, then vice versa will "weaken". Therefore, always consult your doctor before taking water. What can be done without a doctor's recommendation is to breathe air from a geyser saturated with useful microelements.
The colonnade was built in modern style at the beginning of the last century on a small hill with a wonderful view of Karlovy Vary. The project of the colonnade, which protects two springs - Upper and Lower Castle - was created by architect Johann Friedrich Oman. Drinking a course of water from the lower spring is prescribed to strengthen bones and cartilage, and from the upper (colder) spring - with periodontal disease and caries.
It is rather difficult to walk past the Park Colonnade, as it is located in one of the most beautiful places in Karlovy Vary, not far from the Dvorak Gardens and the hotel «Thermal». It is there that is the gathering point for most of the city’s walking and bus tours. Designing colonnade engaged in 1880 is already familiar to us architects Fellner and Gellner. In 2002, the openwork colonnade was restored according to old designs, so now it looks almost the same as at the end of the 19th century. The Park Colonnade protects three springs from weather adversity: Freedom, Park and Snake. They differ in temperature and, as a consequence, impact on the body. Water from Freedom spring is prescribed to men with hormonal problems and prostatitis. A course of water from the Park spring helps to cure and recover from liver diseases (in particular, hepatitis A), remove sand from the kidneys. And the coldest spring of Karlovy Vary, Snake, with a water temperature of only 30 ° C, is useful for dermatological problems. Once again we draw your attention to the fact that self-treatment by mineral waters may be useless or even harm the body. Be sure to consult with a doctor-balneology consult with a spa-doctor.
Attractions of Karlovy Vary
The area of Karlovy Vary is 59 square kilometers and the population is only 50,000 people. This is several times less than the similar indicators, perhaps, of any sleeping area of Moscow or St. Petersburg. Moreover, every tourist will be able to find himself an interesting way to spend time: visit the theater, museums, and architectural and natural attractions are found literally on every corner.
On the Theater Square directly opposite the embankment stands the elegant building of the city theater, a vivid example of the neo-baroque architectural flow. The Viennese architects Helmer and Fellner worked on the construction of the building, opened in 1886. Over the interior decoration and ceiling frescoes worked Viennese artists - Franz Matsch and Klimtov brothers. Particular artistic value is the curtain of the theater, painted by hand and representing the real picture. Above the statues that adorn the facade and lobby, worked as a Viennese sculptor - Theodore Friedl. Thanks to the master's hand, the “house of art” acquired guards in the form of mythical griffins and a sculptural group of muse. An elegant staircase was supplemented composition of lamps in the Rococo style, designed by the creators of the theater. Perhaps, thanks to the investment of so much strength and inspiration, the building is considered the pearl and heart of the resort. Now the theater offers productions for every taste and for any age. Here you can see “Figaro’s Wedding” to the music of Mozart, which, by the way, was the premiere performance of the theater, as well as the latest works of local and foreign composers in the genre of opera, ballet, operetta or symphony. The balls are passing here, organ music concerts, music festivals and themed evenings.
Extensive neoclassical building of white color, surrounded by emerald lawns and forests, reflected in the waters of the River Teply, invites guests to join the art. In the main Karlovy Vary Art Gallery, built in 1912, you can see the work of famous Czech painters and sculptors. The gallery regularly hosts thematic exhibitions and temporary exhibitions of works of art brought from other countries. Also in the art gallery, you can attend lectures and conferences with famous writers or visit a theatrical production.
Anglican Church of St. Luke
Almost in the center of the resort on the Castle Hill, since 1877, there is a pseudo-gothic two-naved church of St. Luke. Erected on the site of an old Anglican church, the new building stands out for its not typical for Karlovy Vary architectural solution: the bare walls of the Gothic pinkish hue combined with powerful columns, wooden turret with a gallery and a graceful dome. The picture is complemented by beautiful stained glass windows in the altar section, dedicated to both Czech saints and John Chrysostom with Jesus Christ. Now the church is no longer fulfills its original function, here is a museum of wax figures, which inspection should be carried out by all curious travelers.
The observation deck "Deer Leap"
The most famous and favorite observation deck of both tourists and locals. It is located in the center of the resort, so the panorama from the hill opens up to the whole city and surroundings. Images against the backdrop of green forests, hills and beautiful houses with red roofs turn out amazing. Moreover, the "Deer Leap", named after the fairy sculpture with sulfuric, steeped in legends. It is said that it was this chamois that once pointed the way for the Czech king Charles IV to the city and it was from the top of this hill that the Russian emperor Peter I looked around the neighborhood.
Church of St. Mary Magdalene
One of the most ancient and beautiful temples of the resort, immediately visible from afar due to the high snow-white arches and tops, which acquired a noble greenish tint over the centuries. According to legend, on the site of earlier church was Gothic cathedral of the 14th century, which belonged to a knightly order, 200 years later it was rebuilt, but soon burned. The current appearance of the church was acquired in the 18th century, when it was reconstructed and expanded. Surprisingly, it is still possible to see the ancient icons, have not suffered in the fire and survived even the Thirty Years' War, swept through the Czech Republic in the 17th century. Now the church is open to the public and organ concerts are often held here. The acoustics in the church are striking, and the preserved frescoes, fine wood carving and sculpture gives atmospheric. Also noteworthy is an ancient burial crypt and a chapel, located in the church’s dungeons, which have retained their medieval appearance.
Church of St. Peter and Paul
Orthodox churches in Karlovy Vary too much. The largest church in the city is the church of Saints Peter and Paul, whose full name sounds like “Church in the name of the holy first apostles Peter and Paul in Karlovy Vary”. The temple was opened in 1898, and the initiator of its construction was the princess Elena Pavlovna, who began collecting donations in 1862. Church of St. Peter and Paul is a vivid example of Russian-Byzantine architecture, the height of the bell tower - 40 meters, the inner hall - 21 meters. The temple is active, on Sundays and on Orthodox days, divine services are held. On the remaining days, anyone can visit the church from 9 am to 6 pm. Be sure to pay attention to the richly ornamented exterior of the temple, stucco and figural painting. Also of interest is an oak iconostasis and the bas-relief of Peter I.
The ancient castle of the 13th century, located in the bend of the Ohře River, is only 120 km from the spa town of Karlovy Vary. This stronghold is worth a visit, at least for the sake of the most picturesque natural landscapes, because the stone castle in good condition rises on a hill, surrounded by forests and springs that feed the river. In addition, Loket Castle, initially serving as a border fortress, is filled with legends and tales. Related to him are tales of dragons, of living in the bowels of the hill dwarves, but by its corridors is said to roam the ghosts left over from its last medieval prison. Incidentally, the confirmation of this is placed inside the exposure is not for the faint hearted - the instruments of torture, shackles and handcuffs in the walls, the prison cellars and various torture instruments. Wax figures of executioners and prisoners give atmospheres to this collection. After the basements, you can look at the upper floors, most of the ceilings remain pristine, and on the walls you can still see murals and paintings. In the museum sections of the fortress are weapons exhibits and a collection of porcelain. It is interest of decoration and ceremonial hall, as well as corner towers and outbuildings. After the tour, you can have a picnic by the river overlooking the towering Loket Castle and visit the old cemetery with beautiful tombstones. The castle houses the Gothic Baroque cathedral and the recently reconstructed. Now it is possible to undergo the procedure of marriage, as well as hold a wedding ceremony in the romantic and roomy main hall of the castle.
Jan Becher Museum
There are quite a few people in the world who are connected with only one thing with Karlovy Vary - the “Becherovka” liqueur. But as they say, in every joke there is some truth. After all, the wonderful herbal tincture created by Jan Becher in 1809 made a great contribution to the popularization of the resort. The museum opened in 1992 in the building of an old pharmacy, on the window of which more than two centuries ago the world-famous alcoholic drink first appeared. During the tour, it tells about the history of the creation of the drink, how to pour it and store it. You will see an entertaining collection of labels and bottles, the guests of the museum even reveal some secrets of the Karlovy Vary brand. At the end of the tour you can taste the flavored drink and buy souvenirs in a small shop at the museum.
A small and comfortable park can hardly be called a landmark, but since it is located in the center of the city, you can hardly walk past. Named gardens in honor of the outstanding Czech composer of the second half of the 19th century, Antonín Dvořák. The park is loved by the locals, because here you can walk on the lawns, ride on rollers and bicycles, and have a rest in the shade of 200-year-old plane trees. During a walk through the Dvořák gardens look at the Park Colonnade, a tiny lake with a sculpture of a mermaid, you will see monuments to Dvořák and the poet Peter Bezruch. Slightly to the side you will find a cabinet with a thermometer, installed here in 1913 and recognized as a national monument of the country. It is nice to walk and relax after a busy day.
Festivals and events in Karlovy Vary
The cultural life of Karlovy Vary boils all year around. Whenever you flew to the Czech Republic, to get to an interesting festival, fair, performance, concert or other exciting work activities will not be. The tourist infrastructure is developed in the city so well that only a very lazy person can get bored here. Look at the table below and project it on your vacation - you might want to attend some activities during the holidays.
In December, the city is diligently preparing to celebrate the Catholic Christmas and New Year, the streets are decorated with garlands and colorful decorations, a little more and the spirit of the holiday can be seen with my own eyes! December 24, 25 and 31 in the central square of the city are organized holiday concerts, now and then you will meet fantastic characters. Therefore, in December in Karlovy Vary it is better to go with children, for whom this trip will be a magical adventure.
The festive baton is picked up by January with its New Year's performances, ballroom dance festival, concerts of organ and symphonic music. Most of these activities take place in the historic building named Grandhotel Pupp. The period from February to April is considered the poorest for events of this kind, but, for example, you can always visit the hotel Ambassador, on the basis of which the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra regularly performs.
In April, it held an unusual meeting of the European aristocracy, in which the city attracts more than 600 members of the noble families and genera, whose history goes back to the Middle Ages. The three-day event includes horse racing at the racetrack, a spring ball and an abundance of small talk. Required dress code: evening dresses, hats, tuxedos and cylinders.
The holiday season opens in May, with which many rituals and events are connected. All 13 springs are consecrated, a costume show takes place along the streets of the city, spread out their tents fairs, street musicians play fiery melodies, to which you involuntarily rush to dance. Dates of the festival - from 2 to 5 May, and fairs and street performances last the entire month.
International competitions in canoeing Kanoe Mattoni are held in Karlovy Vary on the Tepla River on June 2-3. Participants try their hand in the competition under the accompaniment of a concert of Czech pop stars. On the same days the Karlovy Vary Carnival takes place. Also in June, the music festival “Mozart and Karlovy Vary” takes place.
The main event of the year falls on the end of June and the beginning of July. From June 30 to July 8, hosts the annual Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, first held back in 1946. At the festival attracts actors and directors of world size, and 10 days of the festival the audience time to show more than three hundred new films competing for various awards. At one time, such guests as Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Scarlett Johansson, Antonio Banderas, Robert De Niro became guests of the event. In 2016, Jean Reno and Willem Dafoe came, in 2017 for the award came Casey Affleck. But there are always surprises! If you are lucky, you can meet a Hollywood star somewhere near the hotel and politely ask to take a picture with her. The festival is held according to tradition at the "Thermal" hotel.
Summer in Karlovy Vary fully dedicated to art. And August begins with “Beethoven Days” and Fresh Film Fest - the festival of student cinema. But to sit behind the screens does not give the City Triathlon - the country's championship in Olympic triathlon, held in the open air in the heart of the city.
Marathon of cultural events continues in autumn. From September 5 to September 9, an international festival of folklore takes place, which is attended by representatives of more than 30 countries, including Russia. Almost immediately after it ends, “Dvořák’s Karlovy Vary Autumn” starts - a festival of classical music. You have already noticed that in most of the entertainment in Karlovy Vary there are notes of aristocracy, you cannot get away from history and traditions.
In October and November with their autumnal melancholy fit perfectly into music festivals: International Festival of classical and contemporary jazz (approximately 3 to 24 October) and Dvořák Vocal Competition (3 to 10 November). And on October 6 and 7, the international film festival on tourism films Tourfilm opens its doors to everyone.
What to bring from Karlovy Vary
Tula is famous for gingerbread and samovar, Paris - for perfumery and croissants, from Egypt people bring cotton things and hookahs. And what kind of souvenirs should we expect from friends who went to receive treatment or relax in Karlovy Vary? Let's look at the top 10 most popular gifts brought from Carlsbad.
- Becherovka. This herbal alcoholic beverage was already discussed in the article, but Czech liquor is brought most often. It is easy to find in CIS stores, so if you carry Becherovka, then do it in some exotic container. Souvenir sets sold in the store at the Jan Becher Museum and in numerous shops, but the museum will come out cheaper and more reliable.
- Waffles. Like Becherovka, Czech wafers can be bought at every corner. There is nothing to comment on: choose the most beautiful packaging, look at the expiration date and delight your loved ones with an excellent delicacy.
- Cosmetics. Girls always leave Karlovy Vary with suitcases full of all sorts of tubes, jars and containers to the brim. Cosmetic and medicinal products based on healing mineral water from local springs are considered beneficial for the skin and supposedly have a rejuvenating effect on the body. Karlovy Vary bath salt is very popular - inexpensive, useful and pleasant, and it does not take much space. In general, the range of products is huge: from toothpaste and shampoos to creams, serums and aftershave lotions.
- Absinthe. Back to alcohol. In the crowded streets of the city, you will often come across shops that specialize in the sale of absinthe, and the largest in this field museum of absinthe in Zahradni Street deserves special attention. There is a great choice, and you can get acquainted with the history of the creation of the drink, while tasting the intoxicating drink.
- Mugs with a "nose". Porcelain or clay cups are usually sold near the colonnades and are intended for drinking mineral water. If you came to Karlovy Vary for treatment, then this one will really come in handy, but it will also look very nice and cozy as a souvenir.
- Crystal. In the souvenir shops and specialty stores sell a variety of products from famous Bohemian crystal (vases, dishes, lamps, etc.), but such gifts are not all suitable. Firstly, this crystal is heavy and difficult to carry home. And, secondly, it is very expensive. The optimal, in our opinion, choice is a set of 4 or 6 crystal glasses. Especially if to add a gift bottle Becherovka. In the case of expensive acquisitions, protect yourself from problems at customs: do not forget to take the relevant documents from the seller. For high-quality goods, we advise you to go to “Moser” and “Thun” brand stores.
- Stone rose. No, it's not a houseplant. This is a real rose, soaked in a special way in thermal mineral water from the Karlovy Vary springs. A great souvenir for a girlfriend or mother and grandmother. These flowers are sold in stone vases, are transported without problems and do not need to care for them. Local craftsmen say that there are no two identical flowers!
- Jewelry. But the main focus in Karlovy Vary is on products with Czech garnet. In jewelry boutiques like Boucheron, Mikimoto or Chopard for luxury, your eyes pop out. And not far from the Mill Colonnade is the Royal Gold Jewelery store, specializing in gold and silver jewelry with garnet. Again, do not forget about checks.
- Beer. Well, finish our top intoxicating drink, without which no cost, no article about the Czech Republic. You will not be able to bring a lot of beer across the border, so take 3-4 samples of cans or bottles of fresh craft beer to your friends - from such a souvenir the guys will obviously be more enthusiastic than a fridge magnet.
Useful advices for tourists
Finally, we want to give some practical advice to tourists who plan to visit Karlovy Vary for the first time. We hope that they will simplify your life a little bit or help you save hard-earned money. So, your attention 5 life hacking for a holiday in Karlovy Vary.
- The weather in Karlovy Vary is very changeable; during the day, clear weather can be replaced by rains several times. So, always take an umbrella with you on a tour, even if in the morning there are not a single cloud in the sky.
- Travelers without a driver's license should immediately buy a single ticket at a hotel or newsstand, which, with regular use, will reduce the price of the trip by almost half. It applies to buses and to the funicular that lifts to the Diana tower to the observation deck.
- Most grocery stores and even shopping centers close at 6:00 pm, so it’s better not to delay shopping. But small shops open very early, usually at 6 or 7 am.
- The spa part of Karlovy Vary is a small one and a great solution would be to rent a bike for sightseeing. It is fast, convenient, and very useful for health.
- In Karlovy Vary, as in most tourist cities in Europe, it is customary to leave a tip of 5-10%. Do not forget about it when you pay in a cafe, restaurant, taxi or with a guide.
Transport in Karlovy Vary
How to get to Karlovy Vary from Prague
If you arrived directly to Karlovy Vary, to the railway station or to the airport, then there will be no problems with getting to your hotel: taxis and transfers inside the city cost a penny, and the bus stop is located right next to the airport. But most international flights land at Prague’s airport, not Karlovy Vary, so you should plan your route in advance. After the flight, tired, with bags in your hands, you really do not want to wander around the terminal in search of a long-distance bus or a fixed-route taxi. So, memorize!
Transfer. Let's start with the simplest and most convenient way - pre-order transfer to Karlovy Vary on our website. You only need to specify the date and time of arrival, the name of the hotel and give the name that will be written on the driver’s plate who meets you in the terminal. The choice is given individual or group transfer: the first option is more expensive, but faster, because you will not have to wait and carry all the passengers to the hotels. The price for 1 person for group transfer is 29 euros, for an individual - 100 euros per car, which is also beneficial if you have 3-4 people.
Bus. The most popular leadership is holding a long-distance bus. Karlovy Vary is about 130 kilometers, which will take 2-2.5 hours. Regular buses depart from the Florenc bus station, located at the exit of the metro station of the same name (the intersection of the B and C branches, you can look at the diagram in the metro itself). It is better to specify the exact schedule on the official sites, but usually buses leave for the route every 30 minutes. Ticket price will be 7-10 euros. Please note that all journeys pass by the Prague airport, so if you guess, then you can to do not go to the bus station. Buses are comfortable, with free Wi-Fi, sockets, toilet, air conditioning and the ability to order tea or coffee.
Train. A more familiar and traditional way for our fellow citizens to move around the country is less attractive for many reasons. Traveling by train takes you three and a half hours and about 15-20 euros. Intercity trains depart from Prague’s main station - Hlavní Nádraží. One of the few advantages of this route is a wonderful view from the window, making a strong impression on inexperienced tourists.
Airplane. There is an air connection between popular Czech resorts, but prices are very high, even by European standards. Saving 1-2 hours will cost at least 400 euros per person. It is necessary to hurry up very much or to like comfort very much in order to choose such a way of moving around the Czech Republic.
Public transport in Karlovy Vary
Bus. Karlovy Vary is a small town and it is not surprising that the metro is not here. And in the absence of the metro, buses and route taxis have easily become the most convenient and profitable public transport in the resort. All taxis drive strictly according to the schedule and at a short interval, you can hardly find a crush, and the cabin is always clean and comfortable.
Tickets can be purchased in two ways: buy at the box office or directly from the driver. Another option is to buy a reusable ticket at the box office - if you plan to travel a lot around the city, then this is the most beneficial idea. You will have to get used to the fact that you do not pay the fare itself, you pay for the time. That is, buying a regular ticket you get the opportunity to use public transport for one hour. The box office ticket costs 18 crowns, the driver - 25 crowns (1 hour), for a child older than 6 years - 9 crowns. A ticket for 24 hours costs 80 crowns, for a week – 220 crowns. The main thing is not to forget to compost the ticket at the entrance, the terminal is located on the bus near the first door, near the driver. Chances are that at the bus stop controllers will be asked to show a ticket.
Funicular. The city has two cable lifts: one from the hotel «Pupp» will take to the observation tower Diana, the second from the Theater Square (from the “Olympia” hotel) takes to the spa hotel “Imperial”. By the way, if you bought a travel card for a week, then its price includes two lifts on the funicular to the tower Diana.