Among the many thermal springs in and around Karlovy Vary, 13 are used for spa treatment and can be drunk. Very few have opening hours at all (the large thermal spring Vrídlo, for example), most are out in the open and accessible any time. The water is free to take.
There is an excellent overview of the springs on the homepage of the city, so I don't have to repeat it all here.
I am quoting the rules about drinking the waters from that website because they are important to know, especially for people with health problems:
" The Ten Rules of the Karlovy Vary Drinking Cure
Karlovy Vary thermal water is a complex, highly concentrated mixture of natural substances. It is not designed for ongoing or uncontrolled use.
- It is recommended to use Karlovy Vary thermal mineral water only after consulting a spa physician with appropriate erudition
- To achieve maximum therapeutic effects, it is recommended to use Karlovy Vary thermal mineral water nearby the places where springs flow open.
- It is recommended to use Karlovy Vary thermal mineral water only from traditionally shaped porcelain or glass cups.
- It is not advised to combine a therapeutic cure with the consumption of alcohol or tobacco smoking. Passive smoking should be avoided too.
- Drinking cure includes physical activity too. It is recommended to digest Karlovy Vary thermal mineral water while walking slowly.
- Drinking cure should be taken when you feel fully relaxed and not in a hurry.
It is recommended to repeat drinking cure at intervals set by your physician.
- Drinking cure is a small ceremony during which other clients must not be disturbed.
- Mineral water cannot be used to water surrounding plants or be discharged onto the colonnade floor.
- When taking spring water from a spring vase beware that it is not allowed, out of hygienic reasons, to touch the spring stand or the discharge tubes."
Fondest memory: Sipping the water while promenading the colonnades and the river bank is,as they say in the rules, almost a little ceremony. Celebrate and enjoy it. You are walking in the footsteps of many celebrities of the past.
A water cup is a must-have, and a nice personal souvenir.
Some springs run into plain stone basins, others from fountains with sculptures. The springs all have an archtectural frame. This can be a small pavillon or a large colonnade. The colonnades were built to protect visitors from sun and rain while they were walking, sipping their water, people-watching and being watched. Until a century ago no one wanted a tan, pale skin was chic and a tan was for peasants, hence the sun protection.
The late 19th century has reshaped most of the spa quarter. There was not much space left after 1900 when art nouveau became the fashionable style. However, some gaps were still to be filled. The facades of the art nouveau buildings are just as ornate as their older historistic neighbours.
Fondest memory: Some buildings worth mentioning:
# The house with the majolica(?) picture in the gable that shows the spirit of the healing springs distributing water to sick people. Location: on the river bank opposite Mlýnská kolonáda, the Mill Colonnade.
# Felix Zawojski House, built in 1900 - beautiful facades on both sides. Location: next to the Big Spring and Market colonnade.
# Another large shop and apartement building next to the modern colonnade of the big spring.
# The Three Moors House, famous as Goethe's holiday sojourn during his spa treatments, has received an art nouveau facade.
The French term "belle époque", the "beautiful era", describes Karlovy Vary's general appearance and the majority of its architecture best, that's why I am using it. The healing waters of the hot springs had been known since the 14th century and already around 1800 it had become a popular spa among the elegant world of Europe. However, its most prosperous period began when two doctors published about the medical qualities of the spring waters and the salt extracted from them, and the value of spa treatment in "Karlsbad", as it was then called, in the mid 19th century. After the town had been connected to the railway network in 1870, the number of visitors rose even more.
Karlovy Vary has a lot in common with Baden-Baden - no wonder these two former "summer capitals of Europe" have a relationship as twin cities.
The golden era lasted until the beginning of World War I. In those decades most of the spa quarter and the city centre were rebuilt, refurbished and extended. The prevailing style in architecture is historism in all varieties, with a preference for neobaroque. The springs were covered with galleries for promenading and sipping the water.
Fondest memory: Many buildings from this era look like oversized wedding cakes. The style is more "sugary" than in Baden-Baden - I am comparing these two because I am familiar with the latter. But try not to be overwhelmed by the overdose of ornaments. Have a closer look at one house at a time, and watch out for details. If your camera has a good zoom, the better.
Favorite thing: I think the drinking fountains should have a warning sign or some public notice of the potential for ill health effects that comes out of drinking the highly mineralized ground water pumped through the drinking fountains at Karloviy Vary. A few weeks after visiting there, I came back home and started to develop sharp pains in my abdomen and groin, which I initially though were a hernia. After visiting a doctor and undergoing X-Rays, I was diagnosed with a 1 inch size kidney stone, which I am 100% certain came from drinking the water and now require surgery to remove it. I highly advise people to NOT drink the water there if they have a family history of kidney stones or are prone to developing kidney stones. Next time, I'll stick to drinking filtered bottled water, like Matoni, but I will never again be taking a sip of that poison that comes out of the ground.
This town is a little gem about 2 hours' drive from Prague. Formerly known by its German name, Karlsbad, it looks more like Vienna than Prague with its Austro-Hungarian imperial architecture. Of course you must see the hot springs and sample the water, even if it doesn't taste very good.
Fondest memory: It's fun just to walk around and take in the atmosphere, although a tastier souvenir than the spa water is trhe oplatky or wafer cookies. You can buy a box to take home but iyou should also treat yourself to the traditional way of eating them: heated lightly on a griddle.
There are a few things worth noticing in Karlovy Vary: Bohemian Crystal, Becherovka and traditional waffels (Oplatky).
Becherovka (a kind of herbal liqueur) is named after its inventor Josef Becher, Karlovy-Vary pharmacist.
Underground thousands of warm mineral springs exists, and the best place to try the water is probably at the modern building, which is situated beside the statue of Jurij Gagarin, which is impossible to avoid.
The spring goes 20 meters up in the air and is one of the biggest of the hot springs.
Taste the water (the temperatures varies from 42-72 degrees Celsius). The water is free but it is a good idea to buy one of the special cups (at the picture) when you drink the water. The taste is very special and it is said to have a fantastic influence on the body.
Karlovy Vary (maybe better known as Karlsbad - it's German name) is one of the most beautiful cities in the Czech Republic (around 2 hours by bus from the airport of Prague).
Karlovy Vary is named after Bohemian king and Roman emperor Charles (Karl) IV who found the springs in 1358 during a hunting expedition.
Different baths were built and like many thermal cities Karlovy Vary had its high peak in the period 1800-1920. The rich and royal came, built houses, parks, sanatoriums, hotels and theatres etc. to experience the healing powers of the water (most famous visitors were Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, Chopin and Karl Marx).
The present appearance of Karlovy Vary, especially the spa centre, was influenced by the architecture from the end of the 19th century, i.e. by the historicism and Art Nouveau style.
Every year in the beginning of July in Karlovy Vary the International Film Festival is taking place.
In 1348 Kaiser Karl IV was hunting in that area and found the healthy hot wells, because one of his hunting-dogs burnt hs feet in the hot wells-
In 1370 Karlsbad was granted the " rights of a town " by the emperor, who was a guest here many times, followed by hundreds of celebrities over the following centuries:
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Mozart, Tsar Peter the Great,Ludwig van Beethoven,Antonin Dvorak, Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt and a lot more...
...like Globetrott in july 14th, 2003 - as you may easily see on the "flower-calendar"
There are plenty of great hotels in Karlovy Vary / Karlsbad.
Fondest memory: The most famous and most probably also the most expensive is Hotel Pupp.
Have a look for the lovely details of the facade of Hotel Pupp - it looks absolutely perfect, like restored just yesterday
This sculpture is close to the Theatre / Cinema and is another great excemple of architecture simply made in order to be enjoyed by the visitors without having any specific function at all.
I wish I could see something like this in mdern architecture of today.
This is certainly one of the most beautiful post-offices in the world - just opposite of bath Nr. 5 and the flower-arrangement showing today's date.
Take a few minutes to see the great sculptures, before you walk up the street " Zahradni " along the river Tepla.
It is a shame to see such a modern building between all the other great historic buildings.
It is a hotel with a big swimmingpool, built at a time, when people cared less about old architecture.
This hotel is almost opposite the General postoffice, at the beginning of the spa-promenade.
Watch out for the many palmtrees, mostly planted into the ground and therefor obviously also staying outside during the winter.
These Palmtrees make sure you get the feeling to be in the Mediteranean area.
This building is a bank and the facade is simply great with lots of Art Nouveau sculptures and golden ornaments.