Karlovy Vary residents have a favourite joke. Russian President Medvedev says to Czech President Klaus, “If you get any closer to the USA I’ll bomb Prague”. President Klaus says, “If you bomb Prague I’ll bomb Karlovy Vary”. The freshly painted spa town, awash with fur caps and poodles in Dior handbags, feels decidedly un-Czech, largely owing to its popularity with Russia’s nouveau riche, partly because tourists outnumber locals. Peter the Great, Goethe and Beethoven all visited the town, and the old-style pleasures of spa life – hiking in the forest, bathing in hot spring water, and eating sweet nut wafers (oplatky) to chase away the taste of the water – are still the best.

Walking into town with Communist eyesore Thermal Hotel on your right, you’ll pass a series of slender white colonnades built over the springs, which can be sampled for free. The grandest spa is Mill Colonnade (Mlýnská kolonáda), containing five springs. Further up Lázeňská street are Market Colonnade (Tržní kolonáda), a delicate wooden construct, and the Communist-era Hot Spring Colonnade (Vřídelní kolonáda), a spring so hot and powerful that spa guests breathe the vapours instead of drinking the water.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Czech Republic features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

10 great winter destinations in Central and Eastern Europe

10 great winter destinations in Central and Eastern Europe

If you can look past the plummeting temperatures and long dark nights, winter is a hugely rewarding season in which to visit Central and Eastern Europe. Frozen…

13 Nov 2017 • Jonathan Bousfield insert_drive_file Article
Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
A first-timer's guide to Central and Eastern Europe: 10 places to visit

A first-timer's guide to Central and Eastern Europe: 10 places to visit

Central and Eastern Europe are among the culturally diverse parts of the world, preserving a plethora of deep-rooted traditions. What’s more, large tracts of …

12 Dec 2016 • Jonathan Bousfield insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook