Karlovy Vary is one of the most internationally known sites in the Czech Republic. The main reason for its popularity is that this spa town is one of best places to visit on a day trip from Prague. Karlovy Vary is the place with a very characteristic Rococo architecture, nestled in the middle of wooded environment.
Trip to Karlovy Vary can be perfectly done in one day, but if you have the opportunity to spend the night, you will appreciate the atmosphere in the spa town. In this article you will find several ideas of what to do in Karlovy Vary and also various options for getting to Karlovy Vary from Prague.
Based on the experience of our trip to the Czech Republic, if you are going to be in Prague for several days, we would recommend taking a look at this list of day trips from Prague to enjoying more distant sites and the countryside of the country.
A little bit of Karlovy Vary History
In the middle of the 14th century, the Czech king Carlos IV discovered that the thermal springs that sprout in the Teplá River valley have extraordinary healing effects. For this reason, he ordered the construction of a spa in the middle of the forest, which they soon began to call with his name, Karlovy Vary - Termas de Carlos. Over time Karlovy Vary has gained worldwide fame for being one of the most important spas destination in the Czech Republic.
How to get from Prague to Karlovy Vary
Karlovy Vary is located in the beautiful region of Bohemia. This touristic city is perfect for a day trip from Prague, being just about 125 kilometers west of Prague, and close to Germany. Getting from Prague to Karlovy Vary is possible in several ways as you can travel by bus, train or simply taking a day tour.
Going from Prague to Karlovy Vary by bus is the cheapest option that is a great choice if you want to get to know the city on your own. For taking a bus to Karlovy Vary from Prague, you have to go to the central bus station (Florenc Bus Station) or to Hradčanská station.
To get to Prague's central bus station from the center you should take a bus No. 207, trams No. 3 and No. 8, or metro lines B (yellow) and C (red), while Hradčanská station is well connected to the center thanks to metro line A (Green) and trams No. 2 and No. 18.
From Florenc or Hradčanská station, buses to Karlovy Vary leave every hour and the schedule to returning buses is similar. You can choose between Flixbus or Regiojet that leave from 8:30 to 20:30. The journey by bus takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The price of bus ticket for this route is normally between 4-7 Euro, depending on the time of the day. Bus tickets can be conveniently booked online here:
These comfortable buses will drop you off at Tržnice or Terminal bus stop, located about a 15-minute walk or 5-minute taxi ride from the historic center of Karlovy Vary.
Taking Karlovy Vary Full-Day Tour from Prague is the most comfortable and interesting way to travel to this beautiful hot spring city. The day trip includes not only transportation as you will also get to know the history of the city better and you will not miss any important points of interest in Karlovy Vary. You will enjoy a walk along the colonnade through the historic center, where you’ll find the thermal springs and sample the healthful waters and enjoy a 3-course lunch, before taking some time on your own to visit a spa house or the renowned Jan Becher Museum.
When choosing to take a day trip to Karlovy Vary, you won't have to worry about transportation as they will take you and bring you back to Prague. You will also get to know a lot about Karlovy Vary from the a local expert guide.
Traveling by train from Prague to Karlovy Vary is not the most advisable option as it is the slowest way. On the other hand, if you have never taken a train in any of the countries in Central Europe, it is also an experience. There is direct train between the two cities. You can catch the train at Prague Central Train Station, Hlavni Nadrazi. To make your day trip lighter, you can leave your luggage at the left luggage office of the station.
Trains from Prague to Karlovy Vary start running after 5:00 in the morning. The journey on the train from Prague to Karlovy Vary takes around 3 hours and 10 minutes. Train tickets are also more expensive than you would pay for the bus, as the journey from Prague to Karlovy Vary costs about 14-24 Euro, depending on the class and the train.
If you are going to choose this option, expect the trains from Prague station to depart every two hours. Schedule of the train from Prague to Karlovy Vary on a working day:
- R 618: 05:17 - 08:40
- R 616: 07:26 - 10:44
- R 614: 09:26 - 12:44
- R 612: 11:26 - 14:44
- R 610: 13:26 - 16:44
- R 608: 15:26 - 18:44
- R 606: 17:26 - 20:46
What to see and do in Karlovy Vary
First of all, you should know that Karlovy Vary is a small city that can be explored entirely on foot, and although it attracts a great number of tourists, it is actually a very quiet city. There are many options when it comes to sightseeing in Karlovy Vary and the most important places of interest in the city are indicated below.
Market Colonnade is a wooden building inspired by Swiss architecture which was built in 1883. Inside Market Colonnade, you will find the seeps of three mineral springs: the Charles IV Spring, the Lower Castle Spring, and the Market Spring.
Vridlo Fountain is the famous hot spring, which is the symbol of this world-famous spa city. Vridlo is the only source of thermal water used for the local spa baths, shooting 72°C mineral water up to 12 meters at an average rate of 2,000 liters per minute.
Diana Observation Tower
Diana Observation Tower is a viewpoint next to the historic Grand Hotel Pupp, where the celebrities who attend the film festival are housed. To go up to the viewpoint that is surrounded by mountains with lush forests, you can take a walk of around 30 minutes, or by a funicular.
The Thermal Hotel
The Thermal Hotel is the largest cultural center in Karlovy Vary, which hosts city’s main events such as the International Film Festival.
The Municipal Theater is one of the best examples of Rococo architecture, whose interior is decorated with paintings by Klimt.
Church of Maria-Magdalena
The Church of Maria-Magdalena is one of the most important monuments in the city built in baroque style.
Peter and Paul Orthodox Church
Peter and Paul Orthodox Church is a building of great architectural beauty that can be found in the upper part of the city.
Bohemian Crystal Glass Factory
Karlovy Vary has one of the best glass brands in Bohemia and it is very common to see a multitude of glass offerings in its windows. In Karlovy Vary it is possible to see the Moser brand museum. This museum has an exhibition of more than 200 items.
Where to stay in Karlovy Vary
A good location to stay in Karlovy Vary would be more or less close to the spa area where most of city's activities are located. You can stay more or less close to the bus station, which is not a very central position as it may seem but is also convenient.
If you plan to stay overnight in Karlovy Vary, we would recommend you booking the hotel as far in advance as possible, especially in high season.
Some of the best rated hotels in Karlovy Vary:
If you have one more day for a short escape from Prague, do not miss the opportunity to visit Karlstejn Castle and realize how pleasant it is to get out of the chaos of the capital while being surrounded by nature.
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