The 58th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) is ready to bring film buffs and industry folks a selection of movie world premieres and some of the highlights from the film fest circuit.

But no trip to the famous Czech spa resort would be complete without a bit of Bohemian hospitality, food and drink, picturesque views and maybe some other forms of pampering.

This year, for the first time, the Karlovy Vary region will also have a dedicated social space for festival visitors, called Krajina, or “space” in English. The goal: to allow people attending the festival to chill or socialize while experiencing the Karlovy Vary region “with all their senses.” The fest website also calls it “an open space for all those seeking peace and respite from the hustle and bustle of the festival world. Enjoy local gastronomy, meet the locals, and experience the Karlovy Vary Region as it truly is.”

With that in mind, here is a brief, and definitely not complete, list of ideas for some fun things to do in Karlovy Vary in between film screenings.

Right next to the Hotel Thermal, the headquarters of KVIFF, is the KVIFF.TV Park, a pavilion and its surrounding area that is open for work and play alike.

After all, this is one of the places for public forums and filmmaker Q&As, as well as networking meetings, and food and beverage stalls.

Plus, there is a lot of late fun to be had here, including the opening-night concert and much evening entertainment, particularly music.

So whether you want to schmooze, take a break in between panels or screenings, if you want to party or chill, the KVIFF.TV Park is one of the key fest locations to hang out at.


Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

Grandhotel Pupp
If the brutalist Hotel Thermal is the KVIFF headquarters, one of the fest’s most iconic socializing spots is the Grandhotel Pupp. The hotel, which opened in 1701, plays host to the VIP guests of the fest and special social occasions. Its Becher’s Bar entices visitors with its selection of cocktail and musical offerings. Plus, those so inclined, can enjoy the Pupp’s casino.

Eagle-eyed James Bond fans will remember the Pupp as the Montenegro hotel featured in Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s first outing as the famous spy in 2006. Craig’s Bond and Eva Green’s Vesper also have a late dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

The Pupp’s website also lists the likes of 2006’s Last Holiday with Queen Latifah and Gérard Dépardieu, as well as 2003’s Shanghai Knights with Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson as having shot at the hotel. And the Pupp has been described as one of the inspirations for the Grand Budapest Hotel of the famous Wes Anderson movie.

Lovers of Czech desserts, or anyone else with a sweet tooth, can enjoy the traditional Café Pupp. Among its delights is the famous Pupp Cake, which, among other ingredients, contains the traditional local herbal liqueur Becherovka.

Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary

Picturesque Views
Right next to the Grandhotel Pupp, you will find the entrance to a funicular that takes passengers to the Diana Lookout Tower every 15 minutes. Yes, there is a fare, which can be paid either in Czech cash or via cards.

The approximately five-minute ride through the local forest takes you 167 meters (548 feet) higher to panoramic views of the town below and the nature around it. 

View of Karlovy Vary from the top of the funicular

Once at the top, you have some options. You can enjoy not only the lookout tower but also a mini zoo, the Butterfly House, a restaurant, and more. This is also a good starting point for a potential hike, relaxing walk, or romantic stroll through the spa forest.

“Senior citizens, cyclists, and parents with prams can take advantage of the paved asphalt road, and more experienced hikers can take the forest paths,” notes the funicular’s website. And it adds: “He who has not been to Diana has not seen Karlovy Vary.”

View around Karlovy Vary

Courtesy of Georg Szalai

Spa Time
Hope springs eternal, and so does the thermal mineral water in Karlovy Vary. Don’t be surprised to see tourists, and locals alike, stop at certain spots around town to wash their face with it or even drink it.

The importance of the spas is in the town name itself. Karlovy Vary is named after its founder Charles IV, who was Holy Roman Emperor from 1355 until his death in 1378 and also King of Bohemia, and literally means “Charles’ Baths.”

With 15 springs made available to the public, including 12 that are used for drinking, Karlovy Vary has long been a spa destination for visitors from around the world, including celebrities. It quickly built a reputation for its spas in the 19th century and remains a magnet for people looking to relax, swim or enjoy spa treatments to this day, including at the Hotel Thermal.

The pool at the Hotel Thermal in Karlovy Vary

The most famous local spa opened in 1895: The Imperial Baths. The website touts: “The Imperial Spa in Karlovy Vary is the largest, architecturally and artistically most richly equipped spa house in Karlovy Vary and perhaps in the whole Czech Republic.”

It was originally named after the Austrian Emperor and Czech King Franz Joseph I who visited only once during his visit to Karlovy Vary in August 1904. Explains the spa’s website: “He toured the building, but never bathed in the baths and the bathhouse that bear his name.” After the establishment of Czechoslovakia around the end of World War I, it was however forbidden by law to commemorate the Habsburg monarchy, eventually leading to the Imperial Spa becoming simply Spa I. Nowadays, both names are in use.

With 12 springs of potable water, you may hear Czechs mention an inside joke when you visit the spa town. They like to call the above-mentioned popular traditional Czech herbal liqueur Berechovka “the 13th spring of Karlovy Vary.”

a Karlovy Vary spring

Courtesy of Georg Szalai

Take a Walk
Even aimlessly walking around Karlovy Vary ensures joy, as well as photo and Insta opps galore — whether it is the lovely colonnades and bustling street cafes, souvenir and other shops, or the fountains and the hills around the town.

Tourists love to try the famous Karlovy Vary oplatky, or oblaten — thin wafers that come in a whole range of flavors, from chocolate, caramel and vanilla to lemon, apple-cinnamon, eggnog and beyond, which can be bought in stores or from street vendors who quickly warm them up for you.

An evening stroll also often brings you past concerts. And while you may not understand that Czech band’s lyrics, you may find yourself stopping and joining in with the grooving and clapping crowds.

And for film industry insiders who have had enough of box office doom and gloom or talk about the decline of the entertainment business, just look around and soak up the joy and love that often radiates from lines of passionate movie fans buying tickets or getting ready for a screening. You can see them all around Karlovy Vary during the festival, and it might make for a bit of a mental holiday from any Hollywood negativity.

Karlovy Vary

Courtesy of Georg Szalai

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