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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Our Surprise in Karlovy Vary Spa Town

Do you ever end up at a destination and end up being completely surprised by what you find? We had read that Karlovy Vary – a Czech spa town – was a good place to go, so we booked 2 nights and 1 full day in the town. However, we got distracted by other trip planning and didn’t really sit down & figure out what to do there until the first night we arrived. What we found was a completely different experience what we had envisioned, but it ended up being the best surprise! This is our one full day in Karlovy Vary.

Two children overlooking the Tepla River in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
The beautiful Czech Spa Town of Karlovy Vary along the Tepla River

Getting There

Karlovy Vary is only about 1 hr. 45 minute drive from Prague. There is also a train you can catch from Prague as well. Often times you’ll see Karlovy Vary listed as day trip from Prague. However, with two kids and bed times, etc. we find it really tough to squeeze in a day of exploring and traveling to and from a location more than an hour away. Therefore, we decided to spend 2 nights there and 1 full day to get the experience.

What makes Karlovy Vary unique?

Karlovy Vary used to be a German town known as Carlsbad (or Karlsbad). However, it is a big spa destination within the Czech Republic today that has a very unique feel to it and making it unique from several of the other Czech towns we visited. Karlovy Vary is known for its 19th century architecture and art, including its colonnades with columned walkways; but it is most known for its natural hot springs.

Two children walking down the Mill Colonnade in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
Walking through the Karlovy Vary Mill Colonnade in search of hot springs.

The town is located on top of several natural thermal springs. However, we initially thought the springs were the kind where you lay and swim in them; however, we soon discovered that you actually DRINK the water to benefit from the restorative properties. Oops….we had promised our kids that there would be some swimming here…sorry kids!

While there are several spa hotels that do have spa pools in them, we decided to forego swimming and try the unique experience of drinking the spa water instead.

Drinking the Natural Spring Water

There are about a dozen different springs located throughout the town that you can walk up to and fill up your cup to drink, so we set out on a scavenger hunt for springs! Many people will use the glass containers that were traditionally used to collect the spa water from the fountains and are now sold at little kiosks around the town. However, we were too cheap and didn’t want to collect more things to haul with us as we travel, so we just used the water bottles that we had.

Traditional Glass collection cups hanging on vendor wall in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
Traditional Glass Drinking Cups for Collecting Water out of the Springs.

Each spa has a different benefit to drinking the water, some are supposed to help with wrinkles, some with reproduction, gastronomical, digestive or liver issues, as well as blood sugar regulation and metabolic function. If you are there for the benefits from the spas then many of the treatment plans take a couple of weeks. For instance, we drank from Snake Spring, which has less minerals than other springs, but more carbon dioxide, which are supposed to help fight wrinkles; after 2 weeks of washing you’re supposed to look 5 years younger! There are also Freedom Springs which is supposed to help with male reproductive system. The springs differed in temperature as well, some were up to 60 C and others were cooler – only around 30-40 C.

Two children collecting hot spring water in their water bottle in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
The kids collecting water out of the hot spring in the middle of Karlovy Vary.

The kids didn’t really like the taste of them, but they liked walking and searching for them! The water wasn’t horrible; however, some of them we definitely tasted more minerals and others kind of tasted like a tea.

Other Karlovy Vary Specialties

However, we did find something that the kids did enjoy – Czech spa wafers! The ones in Karlovy Vary are supposedly some of the best ones you can find in Czech Republic and there are different flavors. We tried the traditional ones for only $.79 USD or $1 CDN and the vendor even warmed it up for us. It was sweet and almost tasted like a sugar cone!

Girl eating a Czech Spa Wafer in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
Enjoying a tasty & light Czech Spa Wafer

Heading up to the Viewpoint on the Hill

In the afternoon, we took the funicular from the base of the town up the hillside to the Diana Observation Tower. The Funicular was only 160 kC (or about $7 USD or $9 CDN) for all of us one way up the hillside. It would have been a steep climb up, so we’re glad we took the 2-minute ride to the top. At the top there is the Diana Observation tower, which is free to go in, as well as a variety of other things to do such as a mini children’s zoo with ponies, pot-belly pigs, peacocks and goats. There was also a restaurant where we could enjoy some drinks, a children’s playground and butterfly museum (admission required). Since we only got a one-way ticket, we walked down to get to the town, which was only 1.5 km. It was much easier to go down than it would have been to go up and probably only took us about 25 minutes to get down. (There are some other areas you can stop at on the way down, but we just went straight down.)

We really enjoyed our brief time in Karlovy Vary. It was such a unique experience that we had never had before, and the town was so beautiful to just take in the views as we wandered along. If you have extra time and are looking for something different, Karlovy Vary is definitely something unique to try while in the Czech Republic.

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