COVID-19 Crushed Our Plans, So We Headed to Karlovy Vary!
Journal Entry 16
Things don’t always go to plan, and in our case, travelling through COVID-19 surely is making things a bit more … let’s just say … interesting! Our initial plan was to stay in Brno for five days. After that, we would have travelled up north to the capital city of Prague. There, we were supposed to be part of an English course through the platform Workaway. The short-term job was teaching English to students through activities and conversational classes in exchange for accommodation.
BUT this is what happened: We arrived in the Czech Republic from Austria on Monday 5th October. On the very same day, the Czech government released a new set of laws battling COVID-19, one of which made our plans crumble. It was concerning groups, and it stated that such can’t be of more than 20 persons, something which left no option to the organisers but to cancel the whole thing. Lovely (NOT!)
With just five days to go, we were left with the difficult task to find something to do during that gap of time. Where could we go? Where would we stay?
Honestly, we didn’t want to leave the Czech Republic yet! We had literally just arrived here, the place is beautiful, prices are so cheap and the beer is so good! We had a look at some major bus companies, trying to find where would be the most economical city or town to travel to within the country. It didn’t take much time, we came across a great bargain!
Table of Contents
We Opted for Karlovy Vary
Karlovy Vary is a spa town on the western side of the country, known for its rich mineral hot springs. It’s very easily reached from Prague via a 90-minute bus, and we were told it’s one of the most visited towns in the Czech Republic.
The journey from Brno took us almost 8 hours, but the scenery throughout the way was enough to keep us busy. The closest we were getting to Karlovy Vary, the prettier everything looked. Then, when we got there we confirmed it: This is definitely one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been to!
What is it Like?
It’s difficult to explain! The town is just made up of around 50,000 people. At some places, it has got that city feeling, but without all the things that everyone hates in a busy one. Life is calm, there is greenery ALL AROUND, no traffic, streams of water are visible from anywhere and the scenery is truly fantastic!
Karlovy Vary is the perfect destination for anyone looking for that luxurious and pampering holiday on a budget. It’s filled with rich mineral spas and beautiful landscapes, nice restaurants, astonishing views and authentic hotels – all for a fraction of the price that other major cities may ask for. It’s one of the few places that both of us instantly fell in love with. What a pity we just got six days!
Choosing Where to Stay in Karlovy Vary
In our opinion, the answer to the “Where to stay in Karlovy Vary” question needs to tick the following boxes:
Karlovy Vary is not a big town. However, being central will ensure that you can reach almost everywhere on foot within the same time frame. There are some hiking paths to die for, all of which we’ll highlight more in detail below.
Having a View
We never thought we’d be writing this, but it’s imperative that an accommodation in Karlovy Vary has a view. The town is so picturesque, that having a window or a balcony overlooking the cute streets, streams or fountains will just switch the mood of the visit. You can see constant steam coming up from the natural springs all over the place, colourful houses and beautiful trees. We spent literally hours, sipping on a hot cup of coffee and just staring out of the window. Amazing!
And Finally … Authentic
Karlovy Vary is a proper Czech-German town. Until 1945, the majority of its inhabitants were German. Nowadays, the influence is still highly visible especially in the fact that some people still have some knowledge of the German language.
The town is divided into the ‘old-town’ and the ‘new-town’. They’re both absolutely beautiful, as each part can give you something which the other may not. However, the ‘old-town’ is a perfect resemblance of what the town is all about, the beauty that you may not find easily anywhere else.
So … Where to Stay in Karlovy Vary?
The place that ticks all the boxes is definitely Chebsky Dvur. The family-run B&B has been up and running for over 30 years. It’s delightfully situated in the very historic centre of the town, opposite the market and Sprudel Colonnades.
The building still looks as authentic as it did when it opened up for business. We were welcomed into the reception, which INSTANTLY gave us that Czech vibe we’ve been loving all around the country. The wood makes it so cosy, and the enormously large number of beer glasses hanging from the ceiling continues to enhance the strong beer culture that exists within the Czech Republic.
Chebsky Dvur – Our Experience
We were greeted so warmly by the owner who welcomed us by offering two espressos, which felt so damn good after a 20-minute walk in the frosting weather. He explained to us the history of the place, and the efforts made to keep it as original as possible.
After a chat, we were shown to our room – Helena – and gosh she’s an absolute beauty! We found a full bowl of freshly cut apples from their own garden, which not only looked cute AF, but also tasted delicious! The room looked more like a studio apartment, rather than a hotel room. Actually, no … we’ve lived in studios much smaller than this one. Let’s correct ourselves – it looks much better!
Looking out of the two huge windows is a view to die for. Steam could be seen coming out not from one, but two different natural thermal springs. Beautiful colourful houses are visible opposite the hotel, while the huge trees all around the streets make the view as spectacular as it could get!
All rooms are fitted with central heating, a flat-screen TV, a fridge, a bathroom and an electric kettle. And all of you who’d like to dry your hair the quick way, no need to carry anything in your luggage. You can borrow a hair-dryer free of charge.
Things to Do and See in Karlovy Vary
There are PLENTY of things to do! We came here during a pandemic … Bars and restaurants are closing at eight in the evening and many of the attractions are sadly not open to the public. In spite of this, we’re definitely not going to manage doing everything on our list in a span of six days!
Hikes and View Points
If you’re looking to spend some time deep into nature, these viewpoints should definitely make their way up on the top of your ‘To-Do list’. The closest one to Chebsky Dvur is the Deer Jump Lookout. The hike into the woods starts just a few minutes walk from the hotel through a well-marked uphill trail.
Probably our favourite viewpoint is the Diana Observation Tower, directly above the centre of Karlovy Vary. It offers breath-taking views of the whole town and the hike up there is something we surely wouldn’t want to miss. It goes straight through the woods (should take around 30-45 minutes walking up), with easily marked passageways good for both hiking and biking. Google maps can easily guide you to the top, so don’t worry about getting lost in there. Alternatively, there is an easier route for those not fancying a stroll. One can take the cable car (funicular) leaving from this location all the way to the top.
We suggest planning to arrive up there during lunchtime, as a beautiful restaurant awaits right at the very top. Food is amazing and the prices are so cheap. We got a pint of beer, mulled wine, goulash soup in a bread bowl, fried cheese with tartar sauce, baked potatoes and potato dumplings for just around €10!
The Hot Springs
Karlovy Vary is built on a very mineral-rich land, where countless springs and strands are passing by underground. All of these are remains of post-volcanic activity, all of which forms depths of 2,500 metres below Earth’s surface. A total of 15 springs are captured and made available to the public, 12 of which are fit for drinking (which is an integral part of the Karlovy Vary healing treatment). You can find these all over the town, and some can be spotted from far by the highly visible steam rising from them.
Although frequented by many tourists, Karlovy Vary still qualifies as a very cheap place to dine out when compared to other European countries. This all depends on how well you know the town, where to go and how not to fall into those touristy places. However, if you’re staying at Chebsky Dvur, fear not! The owner will make sure to point you in the right direction of the best places to get delicious meals and good beer for a fraction of the price. On most occasions, the cost of lunch or dinner for two people ranged from €7 up until €13 at its max!
There are countless things to do in Karlovy Vary, which makes it unfortunately impossible to go through them in one short blog. Also, what we want to mostly point out is that the city is so magical, that even just strolling through the colourful houses is an exciting and magical experience. Once again, we’ve been here during a pandemic!
Also, upon arriving and checking-in at Chebsky Dvur, you’ll have at your service the best person to guide you during your visit in Karlovy Vary. The owner of the B&B had a full list of things to do and places to go, as well as sights, restaurants and bars to avoid! He was our inside man who gave us tips and information which unfortunately is not found anywhere online, tips only a local who’s been living in Karlovy Vary for some time can know well. But we won’t spoil it – it’ll be another reason to stay at Chebsky Dvur when visiting Karlovy Vary!