Head out of the city for a day to find rejuvenation at Karlovy Vary, a world-class spa town in the idyllic foothills of western Bohemia. First, have breakfast in Wenceslas Square at legendary 110-year-old Café Louvre before heading to the nearby Florenc metro station to take a two-hour bus ride ($8 round-trip). After you arrive, start relaxing with a mud bath ($35) at the famous Grandhotel Pupp, whose history dates as far back to 1701 and is known for its white-glove service. Next, pass the Thermal Spa, home to the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, on your way to the Vřídlo colonnade, the city’s largest hot spring. Here, the water shoots 40 feet into the air every minute and is still used for its medicinal powers. You can lounge in the geyser room for the vapors or sample the water from a series of taps. For lunch, grab a table at Café Elefant (Stará Louka 30; 353-223-406), which is best known for its Belle Epoque décor, Viennese fare, and decedent chessboard torté ($3). If you’re interested in traditional Czech-made glass, stop at the factory of Moser for a 45-minute tour (from $2.50) and a visit to the gift shop to browse the selection (international shipping can be arranged). Afterward, head over to the Becherovka distillery at the Jan Becher Museum ($5) in the center of town to sample the famous herbal bitter created by chemist Josef Becher in 1807, which is still a popular Czech digestif. The fine spirit is only made in Karlovy Vary since the spring water from the colonnades is a key ingredient. Tour the cellars where the liqueur is produced before tasting the finished product at the museum bar. Catch the next bus back to Prague (buses leave every hour, on the hour) and take a nap to prepare for a decadent meal of foie gras ($17.50) and baked scallops ($14) at newly opened Bilkova 13, a sleek fusion restaurant in Old Town. For a nightcap, try some of the 50 cognacs produced by 28 small distilleries on hand, which the cognac sommelier will be happy to advise you on.
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Published on Nov 16, 2012 as a web exclusive.