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 in the 18th century with guests including Tsar Peter the Great, Emperor Franz Josef I, Beethoven, Wagner, Brahms, Tolstoy, and Marx. Tourism grounded to a halt during World War I and the city never regained its former glory. After WWII, the largely German speaking city was cleared of its original inhabitants and replaced with Czech settlers. Czech remains the major language today but the signs of German culture and heritage are still very evident.
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. Czechshuttle.comoffers daily transport between Karlovy Vary and Cesky Krumlov, among other places.
Karlovy Vary has two train stations: Dolní Nádraží (lower station) located next to the bus station, and Horní Nádraží (upper station) located north of the city centre across the Ohře River. Horní Nádraží can be reached by a 10-minute walk or by taking buses 11, 12, or 13.
Trains from Prague leave Prague Main Station every 2 hours and arrive at Horní nádraží in Karlovy Vary 3¼ hours later. Regular fare is CZK306, second person pays CZK184, more people in a group pay CZK153, SporoTiket is CZK150-170.
The bus is a cheaper and more efficient method of travel from Prague to Karlovy Vary. However, rail enthusiasts may wish to make this journey by train, as, according to the Thomas Cook European rail guide, it is one of the most scenic train routes in the Czech Republic, with much of it meandering alongside rivers.
The town can comfortably be covered on foot, but a car or motorcycle is useful for exploring the surrounding areas.
- Mill Colonade. 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.
- Rock Spring - Skalni Pramen. Spurts 1.3 litres of water per minute.
- Geyser Colonade - Vridlo. 6am-7pm. Spring that spurts 2000 litres of water per minute in a 14m jet. Free.
- Lazne III. Beautiful spa building.
- Lazne I. Beautiful spa building housing Franz Josef's baths.
- Diana Lookout Tower. You can take the funicular railway or take a beautiful walk through the forest to get here. The funicular costs CZK36, CZK60 return. Free.
- Karl Marx Monument.
- Church of St. Peter & St. Paul. Built in 1897. 5 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".
- Church of St. Lucas. Anglican church.
- Karlovy Vary Museum, Nova Louka 23. W-Su 09:00-12:00 & 13:00-17:00. Local history. Adult: CZK30; Child: CZK15.
- Jan Becher Museum, Masaryka 57. 09:00--17:00. Dedicated to the local inventor of Becherovka. Adult: CZK100; Child: CZK50.
- Castle Spa - Zemecke Lazne. 7:30AM-7:30PM. Modern spa center. €20 for 1 hour, €80 for 4 hours including massage.
- Open Air Thermal Pool, Bazen (on the cliff above Hotel Thermal). 8AM-8:30PM. Includes sauna and fitness club. 40Kc per hour.
- Food Festival Karlovy Vary, in the front of the Thermal Hotel. 1st May.
- Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Early July.
- International Student Film Festival. Late august.
- Karlovy Vary Folklore Festival. Early September.
- Jazzfest Karlovy Vary. Early September.
- Dvorak Autumn. September. Classical music.
- Golf Resort Karlovy Vary, Pražská 219, ☎ , fax: +420 353 331 001, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. March-October. The course underwent a rapid renovation, which included the building of a new clubhouse, an irrigation system, and new tees. The Karlovy Vary golf course becomes one of the most prestigious European golf establishments.
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.
- Bernard (steep small street opposite the end of the Mlynska Colonnade). Quite cheap, but quality is better than in the expensive restaurants. Rustic interior, small, nice Czech food and good beer. Also serves as a Jazz Club with live music.
- Cafe Pizzeria Venetia, Zahradni 43, ☎ . Looks out on the Tepla River. Pizza: 120Kc.
- Jean De Carro. Very good and spacy interior, however dishes served are of a low quality, despite being high priced.
- Parlament, Zeyerova 5. closed on Sun. Outdoor tables. Good food.
- Steakhouse Sklipek, Zeyerova 1, ☎ . Huge steak meals. Steaks: 180Kc.
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 20m+ off the main drag so shop around for a place to drink.
- Cafe Elephant, Stara Louka 30. Coffee and cake. Coffee: 45Kc.
- Juice Bar Kokopelli, Bulharska 9. Juice & Smoothies: 20Kc-37Kc.
- Kafe Brejk, Stara Louka 62. 9am-5pm. Design your own baguette. Coffee: 35Kc; Baguette: 50Kc.
- Camping Březový Háj, 3km south of town, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Open Apr-Oct Tent: 90Kc; Bed: 190Kc.
- Titty Twister Hostel, Moravska 44, ☎ . Accommodation in shared apartments. From 390Kc.
- 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 meters. 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).
- Hotel Kavalrie, T. G. Masaryka 43 (above a cafe, near bus and train stations), ☎ . Single: 950Kc; Double: 1,225Kc.
- Pension Rainbow, Šeříkova 92 (approx. 15 min. walk from centre.), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Family-run guesthouse offering accommodation in conveniently furnished rooms, each including a bathroom and a TV-SAT set, in quiet environment. from 690 CZK.
- Pension Fan, U Trati 57/5, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Opened in May 2004, is a two-storied building, situated in the district Bohatice. Friendly atmosphere, lot of programmes available: cycling with or without a cycling guide, golf, golf-school, wellness and relax programmes.
- Pension Romania, Zahradní 948/49. Spacious rooms. From 735Kc.
- Pension Villa Basileia, Mariánskolázeňská 4, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Family run pension. The parking lot is only open until 8PM. The rooms are not very nice. There's a weird atmosphere because the only person that speaks English or German is gone most of the time. They mention spa treatments on their web site suggesting that they are available at the hotel. Forget it. All they have is an exercise machine in the stairwell. Single: From €50; Double: From €62.
- Sanatorium Astoria, Vřídelní 92 (Opposite the Mill Colonnade). Single: €40; Double: €80.
- Grandhotel Pupp, Mirove namesti 2, ☎ , fax: +420 353 224 032, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Has been a traditional symbol of Karlovy Vary and Czech Republic for three centuries already. 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.
- Hotel Thermal. The biggest hotel in the centre of the city, was used by USSR's political elite for recovery. However, now (in 2007 and 2008) the quality of the service significantly decreased (rooms, restaurant, treatment, cases of robbery inside the hotel building are reported, unfriendly reception). Single: From 2,350Kc; Double: From 4,320Kc.
- Hyalit Aparthotel, Stari Luka 62. 5 stylish apartments. From CZK1,900.
- Moonstorm Internet, Masaryka 31. 9am-9pm. 48Kc per hour.