History of the Hotel Imperial

A tradition in providing top-notch quality service

The Hotel Imperial is an important Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) landmark. It's history goes back to the beginnings of the 20th century. Even then, it belonged to the most important and most luxurious hotels in Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad). And it still does.

Famous hotel, famous guests

There are only a very few spa hotels in the world which have hosted so many famous personalities as Hotel Imperial. Some of the famous guests of Hotel Imperial are:

  • Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand I
  • Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich Romanov (son of Russian Tsar Alexander II)
  • Prince Friedrich Leopold (brother-in-law of German Emperor Wilhelm II)
  • Archduke Franz Salvator of Austria-Tuscany (son-in-law of Emperor Franz Josef I)
  • George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon (best known as the benefactor of archaeological excavations in Egypt that lead to the discovery of the famous Tutankhamun's tomb)
  • Grand Vezir Hussein Hilmi Pasha
  • Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa el-Nahhas Pasha
  • Members of the Rothschild dynasty (Maurice de Rothschild, Henri de Rothschild…)
  • William Steinway – world-famous piano maker
  • Prague factory owner Kolben
  • Jan Antonín Baťa – entrepreneur
  • Mary Pickford – actress
  • Douglas Fairbanks – actor
  • Gustav Machatý – film director
  • Oskar Straus – Viennese music composer
  • Seal – singer
Hotel Imperial
  • Pál Schmitt – Hungarian President (2010 Visegrad Group meeting)
  • Bronisław Komorowski – Polish President (2010 Visegrad Group meeting)
  • Ivan Gasparovič – Slovakian President (2010 Visegrad Group meeting)
  • Václav Klaus – President of the Czech Republic
  • Miloš Zeman – President of the Czech Republic

Hotel Imperial is famous thanks to Lord Richard Westbury.

Built for the most demanding clientele

The impressive hotel building, carefully embedded in the natural environment of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) and corresponding to the most demanding requirements on spa architecture focused on artistic details and overall comfort, was festively launched in operation on June 18th, 1912.

The idea of building this "dreamy" international hotel came from a Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) banker and entrepreneur, Alfred Schwalb. At the beginning of the past century, he bought the lots Na čihadle, located ideally above the city, which even then did not have enough accommodation capacities for its guests. He hired the experienced French engineer, Ernest Hebrard, who, among other things, participated in the construction of Hanoi or the Greek Thessaloniki. According to his drafts and under his leadership, the city got its new dominant feature on the Helenin dvůr hillside between 1910 - 1912. The Hotel Imperial was, besides others, the first structure within the Czech territory which was built using the new technology of poured concrete.

A modern hotel, a modern transportation

The broken, hilly terrain around Hotel Imperial required at the time of its construction a more modern way of guest transportation than horse-pulled hotel omnibuses. Thanks to the influence of Lord Westbury, a construction of two funiculars was pushed through, and the funiculars were, along with the construction of a road, built by the already mentioned Alfred Schwalb. To avoid buying other lots and renovating many houses, he planned the entire funicular in a tunnel. The city council supported the project, because it did not disturb the appearance of the romantic hill close to Vřídlo (the Thermal Spring).

The famous Swiss engineer Emil Strub undertook the project; other specialists came from Italy, and initiated the construction at the Divadelní square in December 1905. The tunnel through the rock was thrust simultaneously from the top to the road above Nebozízek.

The entire 127 meter route of the funicular was one-rail with a turnout in the center. The operation was ensured by Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) Electric Funiculars using two wooden carts with open platforms since May 10th, 1907. Back then, the funicular only worked in the summer. Unaltered, it worked until 1955. Then, its new owner (Dopravní podnik města Karlovy Vary) decided to renovate it. The entire machinery of the funicular was replaced during the reconstruction. The carts remained the originals until the year 1961, when the wooden boxes were replaced with metal ones. During another general reconstruction completed in the year 1987, the tunnel was fixed and a new cart supplied. Since then, the Imperial funicular is, as a part of the Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) public transport, in operation in 15 minutes interval throughout the entire day.

The second funicular was launched in operation only a few days before the opening of the Hotel Imperial in June 1912. It was 126 meters long and its maximum slope achieved the record 570 per mille. This surface funicular survived both world wars, but was terminated in 1959 for bad technical conditions.

"Golden times"

The Hotel Imperial quickly became popular, because at the time of its origination, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) hosted up to 70 thousand guests yearly, which is the highest visitation rate in the entire history of the spa city. The Hotel provided mainly luxury accommodation services to its first honorable guests from the aristocracy, politicians, entrepreneurs, and financial magnates. In this time, guests from overseas and from England also brought a new type of entertainment and change of lifestyle to the spa. Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) saw new tennis courts, golf courses, and a racecourse.

Another inflow of spa guests was interrupted by World War I, as well as the attractiveness of the sea spas, mainly Riviera, and, after the war, also the modern Alps centers. Followed by the prolonged economical crisis, World War II and, with it, a collapse of the Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) balneology - only 3 794 guests came in the year 1945 and, soon afterwards, the curative mineral sources and spa facilities were communized.

New chapter of the hotel history

The year 1990 ended the decades long state monopoly and new joint stock companies and private owners opened a new chapter in the history of the Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) balneology. The Imperial Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) joint stock company opened a new chapter of the history of Hotel Imperial in the year 1992; the general reconstruction completed in 2003 gave the hotel back its original glamour and, thanks to the top quality of the provided spa and hotel services, its fame as well.

The present five-star Hotel Imperial is a holder of the World Travel Awards, a prestigious international prize for the best spa hotel in the Czech Republic. However, it definitely does not rest on its laurels and continues to do the maximum to satisfy its guests. The Imperial Balneology Centrum received a brand new face shining with colors in 2007. Practically everything here is new: the layout, all the technical equipment, balneology technology, tubs, and the modern stainless steel rehabilitation pool.

History of the Hotel Imperial