Prior to our trip, I never really thought about visiting other cities within the Czech Republic. Only now do I understand that this would have been a mistake. When researching day trips from Prague, a number of cities within the Czech Republic continued to come up in my searches. The most popular cities that I saw repeatedly were Karlovy Vary, Cesky Krumlov, and Kutna Hora. The allure for Karlovy Vary came from the description of it being a “spa town” in every article I came across. This sounded fantastic to me. The other fact that I kept seeing about Karlovy Vary was they host a film festival every year at the beginning of July. Therefore, July is evidently their busiest time of year drawing large crowds.
I made the decision that this was the day trip we needed to make. I planned our trip to Germany on a whim around the Karlovy Vary decision. Unfortunately, many of the nice day trip cities in the Czech Republic are all in different directions from Prague. Karlovy Vary is to the west of Prague and just south of Germany. I read in a couple of travel books about keeping Karlovy Vary as just a day trip. While I would encourage a trip to this city regardless, I truly enjoyed staying here overnight. We arrived around 3pm and left the following day around 2pm. One of my favorite things was walking around the city in the evening when it was quiet. It is absolutely gorgeous!! I cannot emphasize this enough. It is small, yet truly beautiful. It was peaceful, relaxing, and a true hidden gem!
Karlovy Vary was described by our mydaytrip driver as a “mini Monaco”. I have been to Monaco and definitely can understand the comparison. While the expense is not the same, the concept is the same. Grandhotel Pupp is one of the center points of the town with a casino inside. The remainder of the town can easily be traversed by walking a very short distance much like Monaco. There are a few things that you will want to consider on your visit:
1. Take the funicular to the lookout point. There are absolutely incredible views at the top. Also, at the top, you will find a butterfly sanctuary, small animals, lookout tower, and restaurant. We paid to enter the butterfly sanctuary, which was a fun stop. The lookout tower gives panoramic views of Karlovy Vary and the surrounding Czech Republic. The restaurant is where I tried Becherovka for the first time! Becherovka is the herbal liquor that the Czech Republic is known for. This funicular ride to the top is not to miss!
2. Enjoy Grandhotel Pupp. This hotel was one of my absolute favorites. We stayed the night here, and I will be posting a separate review of the hotel. I would encourage those not staying here to walk around inside and possibly enjoy a drink at their bar. The hotel is a classic beauty with very traditional decor. Personally, I am typically more interested in a modern decor, but I could make an exception in this case. They also have a casino inside as I mentioned above.
3. Walk the “main drag.” You would probably have to see it to understand my quotes but once you leave the “Pupp” you cannot miss it. Stroll down the street and enjoy the stores and the scenery. You will pass the Mill Colonnade and mineral springs.
4. Try the mineral springs. Everyone in Karlovy Vary is buying their “cup” and spa wafers to enjoy the springs. Walking along, you see people sipping from their elaborate cups. Since I am a scaredy cat, I did not try the mineral springs. Ahead of time, I read that people feel it is an aid to help with arthritic problems and ease digestive issues. At the same time, I also read that if you get water from more than one spring, you can start to feel sick.
Lesson 1: Don’t combine springs! Drinking too much of the water in general is also not favorable.
Lesson 2: Control yourself! More is not better in this case.
5. Enjoy a spa experience. Our hotel, Grandhotel Pupp, had spa facilities that we were able to enjoy. There are public spas available as well. In my post reviewing the hotel, I will share my experience in the Pupp spa.
Other considerations: The Jan Becher museum is in Karlovy Vary. If you have the time, check this out and learn more about the herbal liquor Becherovka.