Karlovy Vary is a spa town located in the western Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. The town is renowned for its numerous hot springs, which have been used for therapeutic purposes since the 14th century.
However, this town is also famous for its scenic setting, nestled among wooded hills and picturesque valleys. So if you’re planning a trip and looking for the best things to do in Karlovy Vary, here are the top 17 attractions and activities to keep you busy.
Things to Do in Karlovy Vary
1. Visit One of the Many Hot Springs
Karlovy Vary is world-famous for its hot springs, and the spa town has been attracting visitors in search of cures for centuries. For this reason, there are numerous colonnades housing the springs around town, many of which were built in the 19th century.
The most impressive of Karlovy Vary’s colonnades is the Mill Colonnade, built in 1881. The Colonnade is 132 meters long and is home to five springs, each of which has different mineral content. You can drink from the springs for free, and there’s even a tap at the end of the Colonnade where you can fill up your bottle.
Another popular colonnade in Karlovy Vary is the Market Colonnade, which was built in 1883. This Colonnade is home to three springs which are said to have medicinal properties. Other notable colonnades include the Castle and Hot Spring Colonnades.
I toured Mill and Market Colonnades, and both were interesting. The Mill Colonnade, in particular, was quite pretty with all the Corinthians columns. The Karlovy Vary colonnades are all free to enter, so be sure to include them on your list of things to see in Karlovy Vary.
Read More: 20 Best Things to Do in the Czech Republic
2. Climb to the Top of the Diana Lookout Tower
For sweeping views of Karlovy Vary and its surrounds, make your way to the Diana lookout tower. The tower is located on a hill above the town and was built in 1914 as a symbol of love.
To reach the Diana lookout tower, you can either walk (it’s about a 30-minute walk from the center of town) or take the funicular railway. The funicular railway is located near the Grandhotel Pupp and departs every 15 minutes.
The Diana lookout tower is 35 meters tall and has an observation deck where you can admire the views. To ascend to the observation deck, you’ll need to climb a narrow, winding staircase with 150 steps. But the effort is worth it for the panoramic views of Karlovy Vary and the surrounding countryside.
There are NO entrance fees to the Diana lookout tower, making it one of the top attractions in Karlovy Vary to visit on a budget. Plus, there is a forest restaurant located at the base of the tower if you need to refuel after your climb.
3. Visit the St. Mary Magdalene Church
If you’re looking for things to do in Karlovy Vary with kids, a visit to the St. Mary Magdalene Church is a great option. The church, which is located in the center of town, is one of the most important landmarks in the city. The church was built in 1737, and its baroque design is truly impressive. The highlight of the interior is the Gothic statue of the Madonna, a baroque Eucharist sculpture, and several interesting sculptures. Take a guided tour of the church to learn more about its history and significance.
4. Explore the Museum Karlovy Vary and Art Gallery
The Museum Karlovy Vary is one of the famous places to visit in Karlovy Vary if you want to learn about the history and culture of the spa town. The Museum showcases the history of Karlovy Vary, from its founding in the 14th century to its present-day status as a world-renowned spa town. Also on display are many artifacts from the town’s rich history and interactive exhibits relating to the town’s Native animals.
The Museum has a library, which is open to the public and has a good selection of books about balneology and the history of Karlovy Vary. This is one of the Karlovy Vary attractions that I would recommend to adults and children as it’s both educational and interesting.
5. Attend the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Every year in early August, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is held in this lovely town. It is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious film festivals. Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is a great opportunity to see first-run and classic films from all over the world.
The festival usually lasts for about a week, during which time many celebrities come to Karlovy Vary to attend film screenings and special events. You might even spot a celebrity or two walking around the town if you’re lucky!
6. Pamper Yourself With a Spa Treatment
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Karlovy Vary, a spa treatment is a must. The town is world-renowned for its hot springs and spa culture, so there are plenty of places where you can enjoy a massage, facial, or other treatment.
I had a great experience at the Grandhotel Pupp, which is one of the most luxurious spa hotels in Karlovy Vary. The hotel has its own mineral springs, so you can enjoy treatments using the local waters. There are plenty of other spa hotels in Karlovy Vary to choose from, so do some research to find one that fits your budget and needs. And if you’re not staying at a spa hotel, don’t worry. There are plenty of standalone spas where you can enjoy the treatment.
Read More: 20 Best Things to Do in Cesky Krumlov
7. Tour Loket Castle
Loket Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Karlovy Vary, and it’s not hard to see why. This 12th-century castle, which sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the town, has had a long and turbulent history. It was once the seat of the Bohemian kings and was even the prison where Emperor Charles IV was.
The castle is now open to the public and houses a museum with exhibits on the history of Karlovy Vary and the castle. You can also explore the castle’s underground corridors and thick stone walls. If you’re interested in the history of Loket Castle, there are guided tours that tell about the intriguing past of this Gothic building.
8. Take a Tour of the Becherovka Herbal Liqueur Factory
Becherovka is a bitter herbal liqueur that is produced in Karlovy Vary and has been produced since 1807. The recipe for the liqueur is a closely guarded secret, known only by two people, and it is said to contain more than 30 different herbs and spices. You can take a tour of the Becherovka factory, which lasts around 45 minutes, and at the end of the tour, you get to sample the liqueur. The tours are held in Czech, but English-language audio guides are available.
I took the tour, and it was interesting to see how the liqueur is produced. I’m not a big fan of Becherovka, but I know many people who are, so if you’re a fan, be sure to include the tour on your list of the best things to do in Karlovy Vary.
9. Visit the Svatosske Rocks
Do you want to explore Karlovy Vary’s natural side? If so, head to the Svatosske Rocks, a group of high granite walls located just outside town. These rock formations were formed when the Ohre River was forcing its way through the granite. Through the process, a high wall was created on the left side of the river. Over time, erosion, wind, and rain caused the rocks to take on strange and interesting shapes. And due to its uniqueness, Svatosske Rocks was declared a protected natural creation in 1993.
Today, the Svatosske Rocks are one of the top tourist attractions in Karlovy Vary and a popular spot for hiking and picnicking. There is a marked trail leading through the rocks, and the views from the top are well worth the effort. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even go for a swim in the Ohre River after your hike.
10. Spot Wildlife at St. Linhart Game Reserve
Karlovy Vary is one of the best places in the Czech Republic to see wildlife, and a visit to St. Linhart Game Reserve is a must for any nature lover. The reserve encompasses over 70 acres and is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including deer, wild boar, red foxes, and even lynx. You can observe the animals in their natural habitat from suspension bridges that criss-cross the reserve or on one of the many hiking trails.
A visit to St. Linhart Game Reserve is a great Karlovy Vary activity for families, and kids will love getting up close to the animals. Have fun spotting all the different species, and be sure to bring your camera to snap some pictures.
11. Enjoy Karlovy Vary Nightlife
The city of Karlovy Vary is not only famous for its healing springs, but also its vibrant nightlife. The streets come alive after sunset, and there are plenty of things to do for travelers looking for an exciting night out.
From live music and karaoke to dancing and drinking, Karlovy Vary has it all. And if you’re looking for something a little more low-key, there are plenty of bars and cafes to relax in.
Here are some of the best things to do in Karlovy Vary at night:
• Catch a live show at the Hot Spring, one of the oldest music venues in the city
• Go for a night walk through the city center and admire the neo-renaissance and baroque architecture
• Head to one of the many bars or clubs, such as Slash Bar Karlovy Vary, Barracuda Cocktail Bar, Klub Macko
• Enjoy a few drinks at one of Karlovy Vary’s many beer gardens
12. Relax at Dvorakovy Sady
Dvorakovy Sady is one of the most popular parks in Karlovy Vary, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a picnic lunch on a sunny day. The park was created in the 1870s on land that used to belong to the local monastery. Today, it’s a delightful green space in the center of town, with well-kept gardens, walking paths, and plenty of benches to relax on.
In addition to being a lovely spot for a stroll, this park is also home to several monuments. Most of them are spread throughout the park, so keep your eyes peeled as you wander. I spent an enjoyable hour exploring the park and seeing the sights, including a monument to Antonin Dvorak, a prominent Czech composer.
This park is definitely one of the top places in Karlovy Vary if you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet in the middle of the city. So take a break from sightseeing and relax in Dvorakovy Sady.
13. Visit the Moser Museum
The Moser Glassworks is one of the most famous brands to come out of Karlovy Vary, and a visit to the company’s Museum is one of the top things to do in the city. The Museum tells the story of how Moser Glass came to be and how the company has evolved over time.
You’ll see a range of Moser products on display, from early pieces dating back to the 19th century to contemporary designs. The Museum is located in the former Moser factory, and you’ll also get to see the factory floor where Moser glass is still made by hand using traditional methods.
A visit to the Moser Glass Museum is a must for anyone interested in design or history, and it’s one of the top attractions in Karlovy Vary not to miss.
14. Take a Food and Wine Tour
Karlovy Vary has a long tradition as a spa town, going back to the 14th century when people came here to “take the waters” for their health. Although the spa industry is still a big part of the town, in recent years, Karlovy Vary has become increasingly known for its food and wine scene.
One of the best ways to learn about this side of Karlovy Vary is to take a food and wine tour with a local guide. These tours typically last around three hours and include visiting some of the best restaurants in town, as well as sampling local wines, and getting an insider’s view of the Karlovy Vary food scene.
I did a food and wine tour with Andrea, a private guide who can tailor tours to your specific interests. We toured a local market, tried some traditional Karlovy Vary sweets, sampled locally-produced spirits, and ended with a three-course meal at one of the town’s best restaurants.
A food tour is a great way to get to know the local cuisine and learn about Karlovy Vary’s food and wine scene. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that food tours are one of the most popular things to do in Karlovy Vary.
15. Stroll Around the City Center
Karlovy Vary’s city center is compact and easily explored on foot. The main drag, Stara Louka, is lined with grand buildings, many of which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries when Karlovy Vary was at the height of its popularity as a spa town.
Make sure to stroll down Karlovy Vary’s picturesque market streets, and watch the sculptures of local personalities that adorn many of the buildings.
If you want to learn more about Karlovy Vary’s history and architecture, consider taking a guided walking tour with a local guide. These tours typically last around two hours and include visiting some of the most important sights in Karlovy Vary.
16. Take a Nature Walk in the Hills
Another of the best things to do in Karlovy Vary is to take a nature walk in one of the many parks and forested areas surrounding the town. There are a number of well-marked trails to choose from, ranging from easy walks of 30 minutes to more challenging hikes that can take several hours. I
You can combine your visit to the Diana Lookout Tower with a nature walk by taking one of the trails that leads down from the tower. Or, for a longer hike, you can head to Bozi Dar, a small village located in the hills above Karlovy Vary. There are a number of loop trails starting from Bozi Dar that lead through the woods and offer great views of Karlovy Vary and the surrounding countryside.
All in all, taking a nature walk is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the town center and get some fresh air in the beautiful Karlovy Vary countryside.
17. Tour the Historical Motorcycle Museum of Karlovy Vary
This is an absolute must-see for anyone with a penchant for two wheels. This Museum is located in the small village of Becov nad Teplou, about 30 minutes from Karlovy Vary. Here, you’ll find a collection of over 40 vintage and classic motorcycles, as well as related memorabilia. The collection includes bikes from renowned manufacturers such as Harley Davidson, BMW, and Triumph.
Take a guided tour of the Museum and learn about the history of each bike on display. This is definitely one of the top attractions in Karlovy Vary that takes you a step back in time and explores the history of the motorcycle. So, this is certainly worth a visit if you are a bike enthusiast or simply someone who appreciates classic machines.
A trip to Karlovy Vary is sure to be a memorable experience. I didn’t even imagine there could be great things to do in Karlovy Vary. And now, I want to come back here again and explore more of this amazing town. Lastly, I hope I’ve given you a taste of what the town has to offer and that you’ll put Karlovy Vary on your travel list.
Where to stay: Best Hotels in Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic)