Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), as the name itself suggests, was named after the Emperor Charles IV. According to a popular tale, he had it built in the latter half of the 14th century, after the discovery of a hot spring with a magical curative power.
However, the spa and construction development of the city located in the basins of the Ohře and Teplá Rivers only began in the 16th century. The city flourished due to its world-wide fame as a spa. However, the golden times did not last long. Two natural disasters in the form of a fire and a flood shook up the busy tourist traffic. Another hit for Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) was the Thirty Years' War which brought poverty and hunger to the city, and, for a long time, stopped the promising economical boom. The period when balneology was not doing so well gave rise to the traditional Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) trades such as tin production, gunsmithing, needle-making, and cutlery.
Karlovy Vary's (Carlsbad's) balneology experienced its renaissance in the 17th century, when rich aristocrats from Saxony, Poland, and Russia started to come to the famous spa again. The most honored visitor, without any doubt, came at the beginning of the 18th century - Peter I the Great, who visited Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) twice.The 18th century was a period of wealth for the city. Thanks to the favor of the monarchy and the visits of rich patrons, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) quickly began to grow. One of the most important church monuments - the baroque Church of St. Mary Magdalene (1736) - comes from this period.
The fame of Karlovy Vary continued to grow. That is why the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century is characterized mainly by the foreign clientele. Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) became an important cultural and social city. Some of the visitors were, for example, Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, Chopin, Paganini, and many other important personalities of that time.
Only the 19th century gave Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) its existing appearance. Also the majority of the spa and church buildings were built:
- Mlýnská kolonáda (The Mill Colonnade) (1881)
- Tržní kolonáda (The Market Colonnade) (1883)
- Císařské lázně (The Emperor's Spa) (1895)
- Městské divadlo (The Municipal Theater) (1886)
- pravoslavný kostel sv. Petra a Pavla (St. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church) (1897)
- anglikánský kostel sv. Lukáše (Anglican Church of St. Luke) (1887)
- And many others...
The intense construction activities were completed before World War I with the building of the international Hotel Imperial (1912).
The 19th century and the spirit of the industrial revolution brought the Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) railroad. This, along with great successes in the treatment of diabetes, ensured the city an even greater visitor rate. The treatment and various scientific, cultural, social, and political assemblies attracted guests of note: Gogol, Lizst, Freud, Barrande, Fontane, Dvořák, Marx, Brahms, and many others.
Just before World War I, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) was at its peak. The city treated more than 70 thousand patients. However, the conflict severely harmed the development of balneology. After the war, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) never achieved visitor rate like before.
After World War I came other economic disasters, such as the world crisis, World War II, and normalization. No wonder the spa life in Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) almost stopped. The city development in the 2nd half of the 20th century was according to the spirit of socialist realism. The following, and many other buildings, were built:
- The Thermal Hotel (1977)
- Vřídelní kolonáda (The Thermal Spring Colonnade) (1975)
- The Švýcarský dvůr Hotel (The Swiss Court) (1971)
- The Sanssouci Hotel (1970)
After the Velvet Revolution (1989), the Karlovy Vary Spa (Carlsbad) started to dust off its world fame. The spa therapy was enhanced by modern procedures, hotels, and important architectural buildings were reconstructed, and Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) started to once more open its arms to visitors from the entire world.
Also in the 21st century, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) owes its fame mainly to its natural wealth - thermal springs, which have already been bringing people health for 650 years.