I like to think I’m relatively well travelled but I have to admit there are plenty of places I’ve never heard of. Until recently, the little Czech spa town of Carlsbad was one of those places. Sure, I’ve heard of Prague and knew enough about it to expect vastly impressive theatres, cosy Deco brasseries and cute bars on every corner, and when I touched down in the city after a short flight from London I wasn’t disappointed. But Carlsbad, now that place had a few surprises in store.
In our super-anxious fast-paced world, most of us would do well to seek out this picturesque little place with its pastel-hued hotels and pointed gables. A wander around the gorgeous town makes it plainly obvious that the Czech Republic served as the inspiration for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. In fact, the colourful buildings and cobbled streets provided the perfect backdrop for a pre-Christmas trip – romance and festive feels are in no short supply here.
I’ll be honest, I fell pretty hard for Carlsbad after just four days and I can’t wait to head back there to soak up the vibes. So, if you’re planning a weekend away, a mini detox or a longer trip, here are five reasons you should visit too…
Carlsbad is about as romantic and picturesque as it gets
Also known as Karlovy Vary in what was once West Bohemia, Carlsbad is a town with a fairly idiosyncratic history. Not just a wellness hotspot but a beautiful place with a rich heritage, the Czech destination gives idyllic fairytale villages in children’s storybooks a run for their money. The town’s fascinating heritage encompasses a totally unique spectrum of historical events, accidents and occurrences, so if hearing gossip about how the likes of affluent European aristocrats, monarchs, composers and celebs have come to Karlovy Vary at one time or another, don’t skip the guided tour.
It sits on top of natural hot springs making it a little-known centre of wellness
A spa town situated just two hours’ drive from Prague and nestled between quiet forest-covered hills, Carlsbad sits atop thermal volcanic springs lauded for the healing properties of their rich mineral water. The largest of 16 individual spring sources dotted around the town steams and gushes, inviting visitors to take a drink. Known as ‘the drinking cure’ the water serves as the basis for many programmes offered by spas, hotels and medical facilities in the area. With many of the spring sources housed in beautiful colonnades, some hundreds of years old, it’s worth hopping from spring to spring to sample the hot running water and listen to a few local legends.
Carlsbad’s hotels are top notch and perfect if you’re looking for a luxury break
With a smorgasbord of cute and high-end places to stay, Carlsbad has something for everyone but you can bet that wherever you stay, a dedication to preserving the town’s historical beauty and promoting the ‘drinking cure’ will be a common USP. I checked into the Hotel Prezident, a four star spa hotel offering sleek modern rooms, a luxurious health suite comprised of pools, saunas, steam rooms, on-site medical facilities and a team of knowledgable and super friendly staff. Perhaps a fact worth noting, the hotel’s Founder and resident Doctor, Milada Sárová, has treated the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley, Uma Thurman and celebrities and dignitaries from around the world.
Hotel Prezident offers up specially devised wellness programmes centred around rest, relaxation, weight loss, cosmetic care, fertility and more. A family-run business with a great emphasis on tailoring each programme to visitors’ individual needs and concerns, my stay here kicked off with a tour of the hotel’s suites, a list of available health and beauty treatments and a pretty fascinating intro to a collection of groundbreaking new treatments by Dr. Sárová.
The town seamlessly merges Czech tradition with contemporary healthy living
Wellness and beauty buffs certainly won’t feel out of place here but Carlsbad is very much a town loyal to its historical character. Chilled treatments like mud wraps, massages and oxygen therapy are carried out in bright rooms overlooking quaint little inns, gorgeous classical architecture and cobbled streets where horses pull traps from one cute hotel to another. You’ll see Prada and Fendi in the boutiques that line the roads and traditional fare on the restaurant menus as steam rises from the hot springs and up into the surrounding forested hills. So, whether your preferred cardio is Nordic walking or window shopping, you’ll find a pretty healthy balance in Karlovy Vary.
Boho Travels will arrange everything for you so you can chill
I’d never have discovered a wonderful spot like Karlovy Vary if it hadn’t been for for Boho Travels. A wellness travel agency specialising in pairing jet setters with medical and wellness experts, beautiful hotels and European spa towns, if you’re looking to rest, recharge and reset, this boutique agency’s got your back. With a vast knowledge of Czech culture and contemporary wellness, the agency takes the stress out of organising a spa trip abroad and can tailor the experience to you, your needs and your health concerns.
Side note, for anyone who’s serious about amping up their health game in 2019, Boho Travels also offers the Boho Angels programme, a fitness programme that I can personally vouch for. Mixing yoga, barre, pilates, aqua-aerobics and meditation with isolated strength exercises, I experienced sweat seshes like no other in Hotel Prezident’s bright top-floor fitness studio. Pro tip: book a few massages, maybe some lymphatic drainage treatments, stay hydrated and be sure to chase your classes with sauna and steam for best results. I’m not going to lie, I felt like a new person after just a few days.
A couple of hours from London to Prague by plane and then a couple more on the road from Prague to Karlovy Vary… You can basically be drinking healing hot spring water and chilling in a pink salt sauna in the space of four hours. So if you’re planning a little break, fancy a new year detox or are simply searching for somewhere close to home that effortlessly mixes wellness with culture (plus a heathy dose of whimsy and romance), you need look no further than the little Czech spa town that I’m frankly now a little obsessed with.
*Gifted stay and treatments.