Karlovy Vary history

Karlovy Vary


Karlovy Vary

The city was started in the second half of the 14th century under the baton of King Charles IV. However, its major construction and balneological boom came 200 years later. In the 17th century, Karlovy Vary faced the hardships of the Thirty Years War as well as natural disasters. The city quickly managed to remove the consequences of catastrophes and was thus able to continue with its pursuit of balneological, architectural and cultural plans. In the course of time, the spa facilities gained more and more popularity. The prosperity of the town was aided, amongst others, by the fact it became a favorite spa destination for rich aristocrats. Without doubt, the most prominent patient who stayed in Karlovy Vary in the 18th century was Russian Tsar Peter the Great.

The expansion of balneology indirectly gave rise to new social and special-purpose buildings. At the beginning of the 18th century, the first public spa house was built along with the baroque church of St. Mare Magdalene. Further, primarily Art Nouveau development took place in the second half of the 19th century when the Mill Colonnade, the Thermal Spring Colonnade, Emperor’s Baths or today’s theater were erected. Some construction works were financed from the proceeds of thermal spring salts sales or from spa taxes, others were funded by generous benefactors from abroad.

Karlovy Vary continually became a frequent place of significant gatherings. The spa hosted the great names of science, politics and art of the 19th century, including Beethoven, Franz Josef I., Dobrovský, Paganini, Chopin, Mozart, Gogol, Tyl, Barrande, Purkyně, Freud and many others. Nearly every celebrity’s name lives on here since it was used to name a monument or to a forest walk path.

In the early 20th century, Karlovy Vary was the most famous spa metropolis in Europe. Both world wars, however, drastically reduced the number of guests to a fraction of pre-war numbers. After World War II, Karlovy Vary did not rejoice over restored peace too long because the year 1948 brought the nationalization of all springs and sanatoriums. The spa clientele recruited almost exclusively from the citizens of the then Soviet Union. It was only after the Velvet Revolution of 1989 that Western tourists began coming back to Karlovy Vary again. The number of spa tourists has been increasing ever since.