Have you made any plans for your Valentine this year? It’s not too late to book a dreamy romantic weekend with your significant other. When a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolate are not enough, you can turn a trip to a spa town into an everlasting memory. Discover Karlovy Vary
The Czech Republic offers some of the best spa towns in Europe, visited by international celebrities, heads of state and artists from all over the world.
Amongst the top spa towns around Prague, I would recommend planning a trip to Karlovy Vary, (Carlsbad in German).
Valentine’s romantic weekend in Karlovy Vary *
How to get to Karlovy Vary from Prague
Karlovy Vary is located in Western Bohemia, about 81 miles, or 130 km west of the Prague, easily accessible by bus (I recommend Regiojet bus line) in two hours or less, at a bargain price of about 11 euro roundtrip.
Karlovy Vary history
The town takes its name from Charles IV, Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, who founded it in 1370.
The area where the town is situated has 13 main hot springs and about 300 small ones. In the 19th century, the town rose to international visibility and became a mayor spa resort due to a study on the healing properties of the mineral springs published by Josef von Loschner and other famous physicians of the time. It has had an increasing number of visitors ever since.
Beethoven, Chopin, Karl Marx, Goethe and Peter the Great are amongst its most prestigious visitors.
Mostly inhabited by Germans through the centuries, the population switched from German to mostly Czech after World War II.
Since the end of Communist rule in 1989, it has seen a boom in the rise of Russian businesses. In fact, the first thing you notice when you walk through the streets is that all the shops and restaurants have a sign in Russian, in addition to Czech, and Russian visitors are all around you.
Karlovy Vary is also famous because it hosts one of the oldest and most prestigious film events in Europe, the Karlovy Vary International film Festival, which takes place in June every year.
Karlovy Vary is also home to the well known glass manufacturer Moser Glass, as well as to the Beckerovka distillery, one of the Czech Republic’s signature herbal liqueurs. Have a shot of this after a heavy meal of Svickova to wash down the dumplings.
The center of town has plenty of hotels to choose from. We booked the Grandhotel Ambassador Narodni Dum, a four star stylish establishment right in the heart of town, within walking distance from the bus stop. This hotel offers spa and wellness services, including a pool and a sauna; you truly get all your pampering needs under one roof without ever having to leave the premises. The rooms are extremely comfortable and the staff is excellent. There is also a fully stocked bar with freshly brewed Pilsner and a restaurant that does not disappoint even the most selective palate.
After your spa treatment and a pint of beer you are now ready to explore the town and start your pilgrimage to the main hot springs and historical attractions.
Romantic weekend in Karlovy Vary: best things to see *
How to spend your romantic weekend in Karlovy Vary? Follow my suggestions … here are the stops not to be missed
Hot springs and Colonnades
Karlovy Vary features several Colonnades.
The biggest one, built around 1881, is the Mill Colonnades, which houses 5 hot springs. This great structure, which features 124 columns, also boasts beautiful sculptures, including some representing the months of the year.
Other notable colonnades in town are the Hot Springs Colonnade, which blasts an average of 2000 liters of mineral water per minute up in the air. The Market Colonnade was carved from white wood in 1893 and has an intricate lace design that makes it beautiful to contemplate.
The Church of St. Mary Magdalene
This church, built in 1737, is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in the Czech Republic and it’s hard to miss because of its twin round spires.
You can admire a magnificent statue of the Madonna and other great Baroque sculptures inside it. There is also an excellent crypt with a funeral chapel where some of the locals were buried after the demolishment of the old city cemetery.
The Moser Visitor Center
Here you can go on a tour of the glass factory and see for yourself how the master glassblowers create art from glass.
There is a superb glass museum where you can admire more than 2000 different types of glass creations. Karlovy Vary is in fact one of the most reputable glassmaking towns in the country.
The Moser visitor center is located at Kpt. Jarose 46/19, 36006 Karlovy Vary. The website is: www.moser-glass.com/eun/
The Orthodox Church of St. Peter and Paul
The construction of this church in the late 1800 was funded by wealthy Russians who routinely visited the spa town. Its Byzantine style golden and blue domes can be easily spotted from the street below, and it doesn’t seem to clash at all with the Art Nouveau buildings that hug it from all sides.
Best Spa establishments
Karlovy Vary is by definition a spa town and here you can indulge in the best and most historical spa facilities in the country.
Among the grandest is Elizabeth Spa, named after the beloved Austrian Empress Sisi, which is undoubtedly the biggest resort spa in the Czech Republic.
The most famous one however remains the Grandhotel Pupp, a 1781 facility featured in the James Bond Casino Royale movie. Other spas worth mentioning are Spa III, by the river Tepla, which is also a venue for many major cultural and musical events, and the impressive Hotel Imperial.
Locket Castle is one of the oldest and most well preserved stone castles in the country. It’s located up on a hill about 12 km from Karlovy Vary. Built in the 12th century, it has been named “the most impregnable fortress in Bohemia”.
Walking within the castle walls truly brings you back in time. The castle was burned down in 1725; only the ground floor and the underground were spared. It was later partly rebuilt and eventually turned into a prison which was operational until 1948.
During your romantic weekend plan a one day visit here as there is a lot to see and learn.
The castle interior is now divided in 9 visiting sections, among which are the Margrave’s house, the Archeological Hall, the Rotunda and the Cathedral, and the Torture Chamber. All of the sections contain magnificent medieval artifacts. Visiting this castle will fill your eyes (and your camera) with images of glorious and infamous historical events.
Every year in July the old amphitheatre hosts the annual Opera festival, and the castle grounds fill with the outstanding sounds of the Czech National Opera.
The address is Zamecka 67, 357033 Locket and the website is: https://www.hradloket.cz/
Final thoughts for your romantic weekend *
Karlovy Vary is an excellent destination throughout the year.
It’s a perfect choice for a Valentine’s romantic weekend, or an exciting place to be in early summer if you are a movie lover (Karlovy Film festival) or an Opera aficionado.
How many places give you the opportunity to indulge, splurge, detox, and walk into history? This is one of them. Enjoy all that it has to offer.