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, Goethe, Wagner, Brahms, Leo Tolstoy, and Karl Marx. Tourism grounded to a halt during World War I and the city never regained its former glory. After World War II, the largely German-speaking city was cleared of its 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.com offers 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. If you arrive at the upper railway station where main line trains stop, cross the car park area to the bus stop on the opposite side to get a bus into town. As of early 2017, Karlovy Vary Horní Nádraží is under reconstruction and there are only very limited facilities for passengers available. There's not a lot to do if you wait for a train there, so it's better to arrive punctually from town.
Trains from Prague leave Prague Main Station every 2 hours and arrive at Horní nádraží in Karlovy Vary 3¼ hours later. Regular fare is 306 Kč, second person pays 184 Kč, more people in a group pay 153 Kč, SporoTiket is 150-170 Kč.
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.
Hourly trains operate between Karlovy Vary and Loket (16km, 30 minutes, 29 Kč) and Cheb (52km, 52-63 minutes, 74 Kč). There is also a railway line across the Ore Mountains to Johanngeorgenstadt in Saxony, Germany, with connections further into Saxony via Zwickau.
The town can comfortably be covered on foot, but a car or motorcycle is useful for exploring the surrounding areas.
Bus travel is very cheap. A week ticket for 220 Kč also gives you a trip on the Diana furnicular. A ticket can be useful if you need to make trips up and down the river for whatever reason.
- 1 Mill Colonade (Mlýnská kolonáda). 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.
- 2 Rock Spring (Skalní Pramen). Spurts 1.3 litres of water per minute.
- 3 Hot Springs Colonade (Vřídelní kolonáda). 6am-7pm. Spring that spurts 2000 litres of water per minute in a 14m jet. The thoroughly modernist hall was designed by Jaroslav Otruba replaced an earlier traditional colonnade, derelict after the war. It has a number of small fountains for visitors to take the waters, plus exhibition spaces, a cafe and tours of the underground. Free.
- 4 Lázně III. Beautiful spa building.
- 5 Lázně I (Bus number 2 from the centre, or walk to the top of the town). 09:00-18:00. Beautiful spa building that housed Franz Josef's baths (he did not visit however) and also used for the casino setting in Casino Royale. The building is being restored after a period of closure to become a cultural centre. There is a small exhibition which also gives you a quick peek around the main entrance halls and stairways. €1 / 50 CZK.
- 6 Diana Lookout Tower (Rozhledna Diana). You can take the funicular railway or take a beautiful walk through the forest to get here. The funicular costs 36 Kč, 60 Kč return. There is a café and hunting lodge style restaurant serving Czech cuisine as well as a small zoo. Animals including piglets and peacocks roam adjacent to the building. Free.
- 7 Karl Marx Monument. Very close to the Russian embassy and the Orthodox Church and at the start of some woodland walks.
- 8 Church of St. Peter & St. Paul. Built in 1897. Five 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.
- 9 Church of St. Lucas. Anglican church.
- 10 Karlovy Vary Museum, Nova Louka 23. W-Su 09:00-12:00 & 13:00-17:00. Local history. Adult: 30 Kč; Child: 15 Kč.
- 11 Jan Becher Museum, Masaryka 57. 09:00--17:00. Dedicated to the local inventor of Becherovka. Adult: 100 Kč; Child: 50 Kč.
- 1 Castle Spa (Zámecké lázně). 7:30AM-7:30PM. Modern spa center. €20 for 1 hour, €80 for 4 hours including massage.
- 2 Elizabeth Baths (Spa 5), Smetanovy sady 1145/1, Karlovy Vary, 36001 (Main entrance is in the flower gardens), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 09:00-21:00. Somewhat old school publicly accessible state owned spa and baths, with Communist-era baths downstairs, and early twentieth-century therapeutic rooms. Cheap and worth a visit just for the retro feel. 85CZK-900CZK.
- 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: , 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.
- 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: 180 Kč.
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: 45 Kč.
- Juice Bar Kokopelli, Bulharska 9. Juice & Smoothies: 20 Kč-37 Kč.
- Kafe Brejk, Stara Louka 62. 9am-5pm. Design your own baguette. Coffee: 35 Kč; Baguette: 50 Kč.
- 1 [dead link]Camping Březový Háj, 3km south of town, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Open Apr-Oct Tent: 90 Kč; Bed: 250 Kč.
- 3 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).
- 4 Hotel Kavalrie, T. G. Masaryka 43 (above a cafe, near bus and train stations), ☎ . Single: 950 Kč; Double: 1,225 Kč.
- 5 [dead link]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 Kč.
- 6 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.
- Grandhotel Pupp, Mirove namesti 2, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Has been a symbol of Karlovy Vary and Czech Republic for three centuries. 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.
- [dead link]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 and still features spa and wellness services. It is still state owned and hosts the annual film festival. It is slowly being refurbished, but the once-famous thermal swimming pool overlooking the city is currently closed, and is likely to remain so until at least 2018. The indoor pools are of a high standard. Single: From 2,350Kc; Double: From 4,320Kc.
- Hyalit Aparthotel, Stari Luka 62. 5 stylish apartments. From 1,900 Kč.
- Hotel Bristol Palace, Zámecký vrch 918/34. Hotel set in an aristocratic manor dating back to the 19th century.
- Moonstorm Internet, Masaryka 31. 9am-9pm. 48 Kč per hour.