For roughly 12 Euros, you can purchase a round-trip bus ticket and embark on a day trip to Karlovy Vary. Also known as Carlsbad, Karlovy Vary, situated in Western Bohemia of the Czech Republic, is a little over two hours away from Prague.
For my day trip, I purchased a round-trip bus ticket from RegioJet and left Prague at 7:30 in the morning from UAN Florenc Bus station. The return trip I booked will leave Karlovy Vary at 4:00 in the afternoon and will reach Prague UAN Florenc by 6:15 in the evening. Just in time to have dinner in the city. Karlovy Vary can also be reached by train but would take longer and some options require train transfers so I opted for the bus instead.
I would just like to point out that I am very happy with the service and facilities of RegioJet. It was very easy to make a booking and to cancel a booking. I booked a different timing online but changed my mind afterwards. When I cancelled my booking, the refund was processed on the same day. No questions asked. The travel itself did not disappoint as well. The bus assistant offered coffee, newspapers and lent headphones. The bus was not very spacious but was comfortable nevertheless.
I arrived Karlovy Vary at around 9:45. It was very cold and there are no tourists on site…yet.
The town of Karlovy Vary is famous for its hot springs and is well known spa town in the Czech Republic. I did not plan on going to a spa but I intended to visit some of the hot springs. The town also hosts an annual International Film Festival in July, but I will not talk about that.
One thing I like about these hot springs is that you can easily take a sip of the hot (like really hot!) water if you have for yourself one of those porcelain drinking cups with spouts (lázeňský pohárek). You can find them everywhere around town more specially near the colonnades. I got mine for CZK 80.
If you want to have a taste of the hot springs in Karlovy Vary, then the colonnades are the places to go. I bought a small drinking cup and went around to sample the water from the springs. There might be queues on the springs depending on the tourist crowd. Be careful in sipping the water as it is extremely hot. The temperatures are indicated on the springs (and they have names too!), but as I was busy looking at the water I almost missed them! I already finished three colonnades when I realized and so I went back just to take photos!
Mill Colonnade (Mlýnská kolonáda)
Park Colonnade (Sadová kolonáda)
Market Colonnade (Tržní kolonáda)
Castle Colonnade (Zámecká kolonáda)
Hot Spring Colonnade (Vřídelní kolonáda).
Freedom Spring (Pramen Svoboda)
You probably know this as Hotel Splendide from the James Bond movie Casino Royale. The structure of the hotel is also the inspiration for the hotel in the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel. If you prefer to do more than a day trip to Karlovy Vary and stay overnight (and if budget permits), you can consider this hotel. There are roughly 228 rooms in the hotel and when I checked the website, the starting price for a 2-person accommodation is at €206.
There are two ways to reach the Diana Tourist Complex: by hiking through the forest to the top or by taking the funicular. I took the latter, of course.
The lower station of the funicular is at the Mariánská Lane near the Grand Hotel Pupp. The basic rate for a return ticket is CZK 90 which roughly translates to €3.50 and can only be paid in cash. The funicular runs every 15 minutes and takes about 3 minutes to reach the tower.
Up in the complex, you can find the tower, a restaurant, a butterfly house and a mini zoo. There are 150 stairs to the lookout tower but there is an elevator as well (yey!). it was snowing when I went up and it made the view even more spectacular!
Views from the lookout point:
Apparently, there is this saying that goes: “Who has not been at the Diana Observation Tower, has not seen Karlovy Vary (Kdo nebyl na Dianě, neviděl Karlovy Vary).” Good thing I went up to the tower! Now I can say that I have truly seen Karlovy Vary!
Czech Spa Wafers
One of the things I really wanted to try in Karlovy Vary are the spa wafers (lázeňské oplatky). As a Catholic, they remind me of the Host that we receive during the Holy Communion. However, the spa wafers are huge! As fascinating as they are, they tasted normal to me… but a day trip to Karlovy Vary is not complete without having these wafers! Still not to be missed, you can buy them to bring home as they also come prepacked in boxes.
So that’s it for my day trip to Karlovy Vary. If you want to know more about my Europe trip, you can check out my other posts.