Revisiting a 'Grand' dame of Czech Republic spa towns: Travel Weekly

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — The Grandhotel Pupp dates to 1701; however, the two main buildings that one sees, and sleeps in, date from the late-19th century heyday of Czech spa towns — and a time when Karlovy Vary was called Carlsbad.

Its parkside wing was built in 1877, but the property sealed its claim to a “grand” name with construction of the larger riverside wing in 1894.

In 1988, I traveled by car with a colleague to Karlovy Vary. On that dreary November day, it was no problem getting a couple of rooms at the Grandhotel, then the Grandhotel Moskva. My room cost $23, but I don’t know if breakfast was included. It probably was.

In my diary, I called it a “well-named old thing.” In addition, I said: “Featuring high ceilings, large eating rooms, good-sized bedrooms (esp. for singles), wide long halls, etc., it also offered, for me, a great view of the winding river stream and twin rows of rundown houses, shops and small hotels lining the waterway.”

In May I returned as a guest of CzechTourism, in order to attend that organization’s Travel Trade Day. This time, the hotel shone in the light of a sunny spring day. Those spacious interior public spaces looked bright and airy, with their belle epoque decor beautifully maintained.

The Grandhotel’s Grandrestaurant.

My room was in the older, parkside wing, where again I marveled at how wide the halls were and also how tall the room doors were, now accessed with key cards, not keys.

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However, my room did not match the promise of the public spaces. It had WiFi and a sizeable flat-screen TV. Also, the bed and seating were comfortable, but design choices seemed outdated, and in my large room, the space looked oddly under furnished.

Mine was a Comfort Room, meaning the most basic. I later saw a Superior Room, the most basic in the riverside wing; it wasn’t significantly different, but there were pictures on the walls, and the bathroom looked snazzier.

I don’t mean to sound cranky; I hasten to say I was thrilled to be back in the 228-room Grandhotel and back in Karlovy Vary (where all those buildings lining the Tepla River look a lot spiffier than when I first saw them). Also, the Comfort Room, at about $156 (150 euros) for two, including breakfast, is a good deal. That puts guests in a five-star hotel with 24-hour room service, a spa (a pampering spa, not medical spa), casino and fine dining in its Grandrestaurant.

The included breakfast is no small matter, either. Our buffets were abundant — and the breakfast eateries are really atriums with ceilings worth a second look.

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