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Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), or simply 'Vary' to Czechs, has stepped up its game in recent years, thanks largely to a property boom spurred by wealthy Russian investors. Indeed, the first thing you'll notice is the high number of Russian visitors, all following in the footsteps of Tsar Peter the Great, who stayed here for treatments in the early 18th century. Day trippers come to admire the grand 19th-century spa architecture and to stroll the impressive colonnades, sipping on the supposedly health-restoring sulphurous waters from spouted ceramic drinking cups.

Despite its exalted spa reputation, Karlovy Vary is not entirely welcoming to walk-ins looking for high-end treatments such as exotic massages and peelings; these services are available but should be booked in advance.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Karlovy Vary.