The Grandhotel Pupp is a luxury hotel famous for hosting the annual Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and featuring in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale (as Hotel Splendide in Montenegro). We were staying March 21/22 which is still considered out of season.
We were using a voucher that had been given to my girlfriend’s company. Prices are normally around 270 EUR per night and so I’m basing my review on what we would have paid and the fact that the hotel advertises itself as luxury five-star hotel. So please don’t think I’m nit-picking – I can of course open a door for myself and if I was staying in the Holiday Inn Express then I wouldn’t be looking for certain aspects associated with a luxury hotel.
We took the excellent Student Agency bus from Prague to Karlovy Vary. The place where the bus stops is about a mile away from the Hotel Pupp. We’d normally just take a taxi, but Karlovy Vary is renowned for being expensive, mostly due to the nouveau riche Russians who have adopted the town. We asked a taxi driver how much to the Hotel Pupp and he said 200Kc – that’s only £5/EUR7/$8 but is still a rip off for the Czech Republic, so we declined on principle and decided to walk. It was a lovely spring day and we only had two-nights worth of luggage.
The walk through the town was lovely. We arrived at the entrance to the Pupp, the grand entrance recognisable from the Bond movie. However, the entire area was quiet, there were no taxi or limousines lined up outside and no sign of a uniformed hotel doorman.
We entered the hotel and found an employee. They advised that this entrance wasn’t really in use and that the actual reception was via a small labyrinth (my description not theirs). We continued through an impressive high-ceiling’d bar area (Club Malá Dvorana), then an equally impressive, but empty, restaurant, down a corridor, past a deserted bar, down another corridor, past the entrance to the casino where we asked another hotel employee if we were still going the right way. He took my girlfriend’s bag and led us along another corridor to reception.
The reception wasn’t especially grand and had only one person on duty. But the receptionist was friendly and gave us our room keys plus two-for-one cocktail vouchers. The key card unlocked the double-fronted room door on touch, rather than having to slide down or into a slot. Our third-floor room was quite large and nicely appointed. The bathroom was modern, although only a shower and not a bath. The main room had high ceilings and a large double bed; bathrobes and slippers in the wardrobe. There was an electronic room safe, a mini bar and a good free wi-fi connection. A small CRT television looked out-of-place in what was otherwise a refurbished room. I was also disappointed to find that the room electrics required a room key in a slot – something you’d expect in cheaper hotels.
We’d seen a sign on our way to the reception that offered a buffet dinner for 1500Kc per person. I’m sure the food would have been delicious but with wine and water I’m guessing the bill would have been over 4000Kc which is a bit steep for the Czech Republic. Luckily we had booked dinner in a nearby restaurant called ‘Le Marche’ (number 1 on trip advisor in Karlovy Vary) and that turned out to be very good – cost there was 2300Kc for two with tip. The ‘Le Marche’ restaurant was just a short walk from the hotel Pupp. We exited via the door close to the reception and I was again surprised that there weren’t any staff manning the doors.
I also realised that if we had taken a taxi, we would have probably been dropped at the correct entrance. I think that the grand entrance isn’t normally accessible by car and is only used during festival weeks and James Bond movies. And that’s a shame as it is an impressive entrance.
We returned to the hotel after dinner and followed some stairs down to Becher’s Bar. There was a small band playing and a few guests. As this was the hotel used in a Bond film (albeit the worst Bond film I’ve seen), I decided we should try a Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred. I’m actually surprised that the hotel don’t make more of the Bond connection and offer this as a signature cocktail. The barman made our cocktail but stirred and didn’t shake it. I realise that’s the proper method as shaking results in a watered-down Martini – I’d only ordered this drink for a bit of a laugh, but they really should have made more of an effort. That cocktail was 155Kc for two using the voucher.
We returned to our room to find that the turn-down service had occurred. However, the best part of this service is usually the little chocolates that are left – there were no chocolates, just two mini bottles of water.
I visited the casino – again in another impressive high-ceiling’d room. There were three roulette tables (two open) and I think three card tables. The roulette tables were quite busy and there weren’t any spare seats so I bought a drink at the bar. I wasn’t able to sign for the drink as the casino is independent from the hotel. I asked the lady manning the bar if drinks were free to gamblers and she advised that only soft drinks were free. Considering that the table minimums were quite high; 50Kc inside, 250Kc outside, I think that not offering free alcoholic drinks is a bit tight. I’m contrasting this with the best casino in Prague, part of the Marriott Hotel, where table minimums are 25Kc/250Kc and drinks are free. I eventually found a seat, won a little bit and left.
A buffet breakfast is served, until 10:30, in the impressive restaurant that we’d walked through the day before. The food was good and there was an omelette station. British and American visitors might be disappointed by the lack of English or American bacon and sausages, but there was German-style sausages and Czech bacon. There wasn’t any sparkling wine included.
We’d left the ‘do not disturb’ sign on our room door while we went to breakfast as it’s often awkward to arrive back, just as the cleaner has started. But when we got back from breakfast the cleaner has ignored the sign and cleaned the room anyway.
We tried the new wellness centre with pool and saunas. Sadly, this was at the other end of the labyrinth, where you need to walk through the restaurant and bar. So it wasn’t practical to wear swimwear and bathrobes to get there. There was a bag provided in our room for swimwear and so we took that. I suppose if you were staying in what are probably more expensive rooms, on the other side of the hotel, then you might be able to walk in a bathrobe.
The centre is a completely new building added on to the main hotel. Everything is very modern, your room key gives you access to the locker room and also locks and unlocks the locker. The pool was good, with various waterfall, firehose and forced current effects. There are four rooms surrounding the pool; one is occupied by the lifeguard, the other three are warm themed water rooms (flowers, music, lights). Downstairs were three types of sauna – I can’t comment on these as I hate saunas!
Many of the hotel areas are impressive and there are pictures of, or references to, the stars that have stayed there. The main hotel bar has a huge photograph of Morgan Freeman on the wall and he dominates the room.
Checkout is set as 11am, which is a bit early really, especially as breakfast is available until 10:30. But we were offered 1pm as a late checkout without any problems. I’m not sure how this would work in the high season.
So would I recommend this hotel? Well, I yes, if you visiting Karlovy Vary then this is the place to stay despite the price. I have a feeling that all the Karlovy Vary hotels are expensive and so why not stay in a landmark property? But I think if the hotel truly wants to be known as luxury five-star, they need to improve the guest experience in several areas – and provide a permanent doorman!