In the grand tradition of the original European spa hotels, the Grand Hotel Pupp in northern Bohemia exudes the charm and grace of the nineteenth century. Elegantly restored, the ballroom and marble atrium create the feeling that crowned heads dance the night away in this magnificent structure.
Privatization and a new government in Prague have encouraged preservation of the traditional water kurs along with new facilities for advanced treatment of stress-related illness. One of the best examples of this new breed is the Harp Spa Clinic at the Grand Hotel Pupp. Housed on two floors of the hotel’s garden wing, the clinic offers a full range of treatments under medical supervision. Facilities include underwater massage tubs, mud therapy, massage rooms, facial rooms, and electromagnetic muscular stimulation. Your kur can include lymphatic drainage, reflexology, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy. Hotel guests also have access to the Roman Bath Spa and a beauty salon.
Beyond its facade of Mitteleuropa luxury, Karlovy Vary (better known in the West as Karlsbad) offers some of the finest hiking and golf in Central Europe. It is fast becoming a resort area for the new moneyed class of Russia and Austria, and the old-world hotels stand alongside new condominiums and remnants of communist-era buildings. If you’re not under a doctor’s supervision, typically for a three-week kur program, the place to stay is Hotel Pupp. It’s a return to the pleasures of a bygone era, with freshly decorated rooms that feature antiques and modern amenities. There are vast restaurants and bars serving Czech and international specialities, not spa cuisine Concerts are held in the hotel’s ballroom, originally opened in 1907, as well as in the city’s newly refurbished theater, an 1886 architectural confection. During the annual International Film Festival Karlovy Vary in July, it’s not unusual to see Hollywood stars at the Hotel Pupp.
The hotel’s spa is replete with marble columns and mosaic floors and is modeled after ancient Roman baths. There are daily massages, saunas, steambaths, whirlpools, and fitness classes. Prices for spa services are about half what you’d pay at an American spa; appointments can be made by the hotel’s concierge when you arrive.
The thermal waters still attract throngs to the town’s public springs. According to test results, the warm mineral water contains all the vital minerals your body requires. Said to improve digestion and offer immunity from disease, a daily dose of the waters has been effective in reducing inflammation and for treating lipid disorders. Souvenir mugs with long sipping handles are sold in shops that line the promenade in front of the colonnades, where spring water is freely dispensed. Sipping water and strolling along the riverside is a daily ritual here. Visitors snack on waffles-first created in Karlovy Vary in 1788—and Viennese pastry. There is a museum of handmade glass from the Moser factory just outside town, where outlet shoppers can find bargains, and a brewery that offers herbal liqueur samples. Surrounded by forested slopes, the central district of Karlovy Vary conveys a comforting sense of being set apart from the world, a place of health and healing.
Accommodations: 112 luxury guest rooms rebuilt between 1994 and 1996. Some rooms are air-conditioned.
Meals: The hotel’s main restaurant serves Czech and international specialties.
Facilities: Full-service spa with Roman baths; the Harp Spa medical center; tennis; squash; swimming; horseback riding; volleyball; basketball; conference facilities.
Services & Special Programs: Kur programs for metabolic, digestive, muscular disorders; oxygen therapy; antistress with acupuncture and homeopathic therapy; dental care; anticellulite series; cosmetician; facials, manicure, and pedicure. Kur Spa Course (in English) each May, two-week study tour including treatments.
Best Spa Package: The Harp Spa and Medical Therapy is custom designed to meet individual needs. It includes treatment for digestive, metabolic, and motor problems. The cost of the package is relative to the length of stay. The clinic offers a two-hour “rejuvenator” for $55. A day at the salon costs $98.
Getting There: From Prague by car, Highway 6 West (ninety minutes); by train or bus; airport bus (two hours).
What’s Nearby: Golf Resort Karlovy Vary; Moser Glassworks; Thun Porcelain; Zen Garden; horse racing course; Dvorak Autumn Music Festival; Marienbad; Plzen (Pilsen Brewery).