I cannot tell you exactly why I became so fascinated with this beautiful town in the western hills of Czechia. The more research I did into it, the cooler it seemed. Karlovy Vary is the 22nd largest city in the Czech Republic (according to Wikipedia), a country with a population of 10.7 million.
Everyone knows about Prague, the mystical city with the famous bridge, cathedral, and beer selection. But not even Czech people visit Karlovy Vary. Okay, that’s probably not true, I definitely saw Czech people there but not many!!
Things to Do in Karlovy Vary
Three nights in this little city was plenty but it was exactly what I wanted. I played golf at the Golf and Racing Club, where I made my first birdie of retirement and almost had back to back birds. For the round and the clubs I paid $65. I then hiked to the highest point in town (which had a ton of tourists there, most of whom drove up) the Diana Observation Tower. The views were phenomenal and I got in a nice sweat.
The next day, I got a massage at one of the famous thermal bathhouses. This cost $35 and lasted an hour (no happy ending). I would say that that was the maximum I would pay for a massage outside of Southeast Asia. Later, I stumbled upon a pretty cool craft beer bar in town where I conversed with a guy from Moldova, who convinced me to go there (see Moldova Article).
Karlovy Vary is a really cool place that I would suggest visiting if you’re working your way from Germany to Prague. It has spectacular architecture, built by the Russians a few hundred years ago. Apparently it was a huge destination for Russians until the pandemic, but the influence is clear. The city resembles a smaller St. Petersburg.
Next up on the list of Czech cities is the second largest in the country, Brno. With over a million people you would think that there is some upside in this place…and you would be wrong. The second largest city in the Czech Republic (after Prague), is pretty skippable. I stopped here for a night. My hostel, Wake Up Wellness Hostel, was nice, there were some cool people. Ultimately, this city is not very pretty, it’s small, the nightlife is not impressive, and there is not a ton to do.
Should you Visit Karlovy Vary and Brno?
A few of the highlights of my 24 hours in Brno were: Spilberk Castle, the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, walking to the top of the Old Town Hall (which cost $4). Really, the only one worthwhile was the Old Town Hall, it had a museum type feel as you walk up to the top and some cool views. Prague is a must visit, and then I would go to Karlovy Vary before coming to Brno. Even as a stopover on the way to Budapest, it’s just not worth it.
"Harvey Falcon" is the the senior adventure corespondant for Ski Bum Van Life. From Europe to Asia to South America and beyond Harvey offers an exciting take on adventure travel. Read all his stories here.
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