I’ve mentioned previously that my girlfriends and I spent a weekend in Prague. On our second day in Prague we decided to take a day trip to the little town of Karlovy Vary – a rustic gem roughly 130 km west of Prague.
Read on to find out what we got up to on our exciting day trip to Karlovy Vary.
- Our guide
For our day trip we were lucky to find an amazing tour guide, Eva Bartušková of Sightseeing Prague. Before we even landed in Prague I exchanged countless emails with Eva and proposed a challenging itinerary for our day. Eva was incredibly patient with all our queries, going out of her way to schedule everything we wanted to cover and by the time we got to Prague I felt like we were already friends!
If you are ever in Prague and on the lookout for an experienced, qualified guide you must contact Eva. She organizes small group tours and even private ones so you can rest assured that you will not be herded around in a gigantic tour bus. Her prices are also the most competitive among all the tour operators we found. Eva’s love for her country shines through and she will make you fall in love with Prague too!
Since we had a lot planned for the day, we had an early start. Eva arrived promptly to pick us up and wisely suggested we grab a quick breakfast at a petrol pump on the way. Armed with sandwiches, pastries, hot dogs and juice we all piled back into the minivan to get started on our trip.
- Dance the drive away
The trip to Karlovy Vary can take about an hour and a half. We still owe Eva a massive apology for blasting music at eardrum splitting levels, for dancing (as much as the interior of a minivan would allow) and for pestering her to help us make time-lapse videos of the beautiful countryside we were driving through. If you are visiting at the right time of the year, you may be rewarded with vistas of mountain slopes robed in cherry blossoms.
- Grandhotel Pupp
Established in 1701, the Grandhotel Pupp is a bastion of history and one of the first buildings we saw as we walked into the town. If you’ve watched Last Holiday or Casino Royale this building may be familiar to you.
This luxury hotel hosts the annual Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Famous hotel guests get their names engraved on plaques on the floor of the courtyard so keep your eyes glued to the ground to catch some of these celebrity names.
- The hot springs
If you do only one thing in Karlovy Vary, let it be ambling through this picturesque town sipping from their hot springs. Pay a visit to one of the many souvenir shops, pick out a tiny shot glass or a mug and stop for occasional sips on your walk. The town is strikingly beautiful with the Teplá river and her curved bridges, the intricate colonnades housing the springs, the luxurious trees and charming benches dotting the streets.
The water tastes different at each spring and even comes in different temperatures. Apparently each spring can address a particular ailment and many people stay in Karlovy Vary to benefit from the treatments prescribed by doctors who specialize in the healing properties of these waters.
- Moser Glass Factory
King of glass, glass of kings
Moser has built up a name for itself as an award-winning decorative glass and exquisite crystal supplier for royalty, particularly the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. Today it is one of the most collected 20th century decorative glass and you will surely find some dangerously tempting souvenirs in their shop. You can read more about the history of this world-famous glass factory here.
We did a tour of the factory and got to see a small molten lump transformed into gorgeous glass jugs, vases and other decorative items. If you’re up for it like our N was, you can even hop up on the platform with one of the glass-workers and give glassblowing a try.
Entry fee : 180 CZK for Museum and Glassworks entry. Discounted rates available for students and families
- Sample some Carlsbad oblaten
A must try on any visit to Karlovy Vary are the famous spa wafers or the Carlsbad oblaten. Large, round, crisp wafers with subtle fillings in a wide range of flavors like vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, lemon and even tiramisu. Delicious!
- Thun Porcelain Factory
Thun 1794 a.s. is the largest Czech porcelain manufacturer. The plant we visited was established in 1921 and has a production capacity of 4 thousand tons per year. Yep! That’s a lot of porcelain in one compound. We took the guided tour, which offered a fascinating insight into the manufacturing process of these beautiful pieces.
If you have a mom like I do who has an avid fascination with dishes and plates of any kind, this is the place for you to pick up a piece or two… or twelve!
Entry fee : 120 CZK
- Lunch at Farma Hory
I could, and probably should, write an entire post about our lunch at Farma Hory. This was by far the best meal we had on our entire trip. Even today when we look back on our trip, Farma Hory is one of our fondest memories.
If the weather permits try to snag a table outdoors in the spacious wooden pavilion – a perfect spot for a scenic lunch. You will be surrounded by rolling green pastures with playful horses frolicking in flower-dotted meadows. You may even spot a deer or two on the premises.
And the food. Oh My Goodness. The food was simply divine! We had some of the most delicious gnocchi we have ever eaten. So good that we had to order a second serving!
Their pizza was also incredible. A light thin crust, the perfect balance between floppy and crispy, dribbled with simple, flavorful toppings.
The highlight of the meal was the pork dumplings, a typical Czech dish which both Eva and I ordered. One spoonful and I had to close my eyes in ecstasy and sigh in absolute pleasure. I do not kid when I say that I had a foodgasm right there! Even Eva seemed impressed by the dish and mentioned that this was exactly the way her grandmother made them! If the food has a stamp of approval from a local, who am I to argue?
For the setting, the service and the quality of food, the prices were extremely reasonable. It is a bit of a commute being 2km away from Karlovy Vary, but trust me when I say that it is absolutely worth every millisecond of your time. Avoid the crowded, pricier eateries closer to town and treat yourself to this hidden gem.
- The Christmas House (Vanocni Dum)
If you have even the tiniest bit of Ebenezer Scrooge in you, be prepared to have him vanish the minute you drive up to the Christmas House. Here at the Castle Doubi, on the river Ohře, it is Christmas 365 days a year.
The minute we stepped into the place our senses were immediately overwhelmed. The place smelled just like Christmas should – warm, spiced and inviting, lights twinkled and glittered all around us and soft Christmas music played in the background. It felt like stepping into a magical, fairy tale world and I half expected to trip over a scampering elf or bump into Santa Claus at the next corner.
All around us were Christmas displays of every imaginable texture, shape, size and color. Everything from delicate glass hand painted ornaments to hand-made fabric ones and even hand carved wooden ones. Lights and candle holders, ribbons, tinsel, magnets, snowmen, angels, Santas, reindeer and elves. You name it, they had it. It was impossible to leave without buying some souvenirs and it was nearly just as impossible to narrow it down to a selected few.
Don’t miss the private teddy bear collection in the lower level. If you are a lover of stuffed bears, this will be your nirvana. We had quite a hard time stopping our T from gathering every bear within arms reach into a massive bear hug (pun unintended).
Entry fee : 70 CZK for adults, 50 CZK for ages 3-15, children below 3 enter free
- An impromptu photo session
Stop en route for an impromptu photo session among the sunny yellow rapeseed fields.
If you have some crazy friends you may even wind up recreating that iconic scene from DDLJ. I’m talking to you S and J!
So there you have it. An exhaustive report of our day in Karlovy Vary. Have you ever been to Karlovy Vary? Is there anything else you would recommend doing there?