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© Ladislav Renner

Karlovy Vary Some like it hot

By the mid-14th century, Czech king Charles IV realized that the hot springs in the valley of the river Teplá had extraordinary therapeutic effects. Therefore he established a spa in the midst of forests, which soon began to be called after him and became the leading spa destination in the Czech Republic. You can let yourself be carried away by the vibrant life of the five Karlovy Vary colonnades, where you will be surprised by the number of street performances and small shops.

The remarkable energy that permeates the entire city is best absorbed at the Vřídlo Colonnade, which arches over the most prolific thermal spring, Vřídlo. Pressurized mineral water with a temperature of more than 73 °C shoots up to a height of 12 metres. When you visit, be sure not to miss the exhibition in the old underground colonnade, where you will learn about rare local microorganisms and how spring water can be used to create “petrified rose” souvenirs.

Medicinal springs

Snake Spring

Temperature 29 °C, mineral content 3 g/l, CO2 1,600 mg/l, discharge 1 l/min.
It is accessible in the Park Colonnade, to which it was piped during reconstruction of the structure in 2001. In terms of availability to the public, is the youngest of Karlovy Vary’s springs. It was named Snake in memory of the snakes that once lived in large numbers behind the colonnade.

Park Spring

Temperature 39 °C, CO2 content 750 mg/l, discharge 2 l/min.
It is very popular among patients due to its high content of dissolved carbon dioxide, giving it a pleasantly tart taste. The spring water is collected in the courtyard of the Military Spa Institute, and part of the water is piped to the lobby level for the convenience of patients.

Freedom Spring

Temperature 60 °C, CO2 content 550 mg/l, discharge 5 l/min.
It was discovered only in 1865 during construction of the Spa III building, which is in the immediate vicinity. A wooden gazebo was soon built over it.

Rock Spring

Temperature 45 °C, CO2 content 650 mg/l, discharge 2 l/min.
Originally it bubbled up directly in the river Teplá. In 1845 the spring was first channelled artificially. The new spring acquired the name Rock Spring. At the end of the 19th century it was incorporated into the promenade area of the Mill Colonnade.

Libuše Spring

Temperature 60 °C, CO2 content 550 mg/l, discharge 3 l/min.
It is one of several medicinal springs located in the Mill Colonnade. The spring was first discovered during construction of the Mill Colonnade in the late 19th century, in the cellar under the orchestra stage.

Prince Wenceslas I + II springs

Temperature I: 64 °C, II: 60 °C; CO2 content 500 mg/l; discharge I: 4 l/min., II: 2 l/min.
In 1784, hot spring water was discovered below the rock extending all the way to the river Teplá. Later it was channelled to the Mill Colonnade. The spring used to be named Bernard, after the nearby St. Bernard rock. Spring I is located in the Mill Colonnade, and spring II is found in the promenade area in front of the colonnade.

Mill Spring

Temperature 53 °C, CO2 content 600 mg/l, discharge 4,5 l/min.
It rises in the Mill Colonnade. The spring itself was known as early as the 16th century and was particularly popular for bathing. Above the spring vase is a marble plaque with the original Latin text of “Ode to a Hot Spring” by the Czech humanist Bohuslav Hasištejnský, which dates to the beginning of the 16th century.

Rusalka Spring

Temperature 59 °C, CO2 content 600 mg/l, discharge 4 l/min.
It bubbles up in the Mill Colonnade. It originally became famous as the New Spring, which in the 18th and 19th centuries was a centre of spa life. Beginning in 1748, the wooden New Spring Colonnade stood above it. At that time, spa doctors set up their surgeries directly at the spring.

Market Spring

Temperature 62 °C, CO2 content 500 mg/l, discharge 5 l/min.
It rises in the Market Colonnade. According to old records from the 16th century, this is probably the site of the first spa in Karlovy Vary.

Charles IV Spring

Temperature 64 °C, CO2 content 250 –450 mg/l, discharge 4,8 l/min.
It rises in the Market Colonnade. According to an old legend, it was at this spring that the founder of the spa, Emperor and King Charles IV, healed his afflicted limbs. Above the spring vase is a relief called “Discovery of the Springs”.

Vřídlo (Hot Spring)

Temperature 73.4 °C, CO2 content 400 mg/l, discharge 2,000 l/min.
Water for drinking cures is supplied to five spring vases in the Vřídlo (Hot Spring) Colonnade. It is available not only at its original temperature (in spring vase A), but also cooled to 50 °C (in spring vase B) and 30 °C (in spring vase C). One of Vřídlo’s outlets is a fountain by that name in the hall of the Vřídlo Colonnade, where the water gushes to a height of up to 12 metres.

Lower Castle Spring

Temperature 61 °C, CO2 content 600 mg/l, discharge 2,5 l/min.
It rises inside the former Castle Colonnade (today the Castle Spa), which was built to the design of the Viennese architect Friedrich Ohmann. The spring vase has a sandstone relief depicting the “Spirit of the Springs”.

Upper Castle Spring

Temperature 61 °C, CO2 content 600 mg/l, discharge 2,5 l/min.
The Viennese architect Friedrich Ohmann implemented an interesting idea of the Municipal Spring Authority: to pipe a small portion of the water of the Lower Castle Spring to a collection point several metres higher. A small pavilion was built over the inflow in 1912. Today the spring water is retained in wells.


For healing treatments, twelve major springs are traditionally used. There are many more springs in Karlovy Vary, although some of them bubble up directly in the river Teplá or in the cellars of local houses. The beneficial influence of the local waters has attracted famous personalities for centuries, including Johann Sebastian Bach, the Russian czar Peter the Great, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and numerous Hollywood stars, from Mary Pickford to Robert Redford. One of the regular visitors was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who liked the city so much that he visited a total of thirteen times during his life.

Inspiration for Beethoven

It is said that a melody played on the trumpet by a Karlovy Vary postman was the inspiration for the main theme of Ludwig von Beethoven’s Overture in C Major. The famous composer stayed in the town twice in 1812 and is indelibly inscribed in its history.

Still remembered today is Beethoven’s benefit concert to support the Austrian spa of Baden, which was damaged by a huge fire in 1812. Beethoven performed together with the Italian violinist Giovanni Batistta Polledro in the Czech Hall of the Grandhotel Pupp, and completely won over the local inhabitants. Maybe even more so because a similar tragedy to the one which befell the Baden spa had previously been experienced twice by Karlovy Vary.

The lively and joyful atmosphere of spa life is reflected in Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony, which he worked on here. That the memory of the German Romantic composer is still alive in the city today is suggested by the regular August music festival called Beethoven’s Days, during which the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra showcases the best of Beethoven’s works. The composer also has one of the most impressive monuments in the city, in which the sculptor Hugo Uher immortalized him in larger than lifesize.

Star-studded summers

Each year at the end of June and beginning of July, the most prestigious film festival in Central and Eastern Europe takes over Karlovy Vary. During the two weeks of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, the biggest stars of the silver screen strut the red carpet in front of the Hotel Thermal, and the entire city is transformed into one big never-ending party.

The tradition of the Karlovy Vary film festival dates back to 1947, although the first such showcase was held one year earlier in nearby Mariánské Lázně. During the communist era, although the festival was ranked alongside similar festivals in Berlin, Venice and Cannes, due to the country’s international isolation the festival never achieved the same level of fame. Only since 1989 has it gradually been building its name and gaining greater critical acclaim and the increasing attention of filmmakers from around the world. They know that in Karlovy Vary there will often appear talented artists who are not yet too well known but in a few years will attain international recognition.

The festival offers not only the chance to see excellent films but also an opportunity to establish connections with other lovers of cinema. In the tent city there is always a family atmosphere, and at a party in one of the many Karlovy Vary bars you definitely won’t remain sitting alone in the corner.