Karlovy Vary

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For other uses, see Karlsbad (disambiguation).
Karlovy Vary
Karlovy Vary Czech.jpg
A Bird's-eye view of Karlovy Vary
Coat of arms
Country Czech Republic
Region Karlovy Vary
District Karlovy Vary
Rivers Ohře, Teplá, Rolava
Elevation 447 m (1,467 ft)
Coordinates 50°14′N 12°52′E / 50.233°N 12.867°E / 50.233; 12.867Coordinates: 50°14′N 12°52′E / 50.233°N 12.867°E / 50.233; 12.867
Area 59.10 km2 (23 sq mi)
Population 49,781 (As of 2015[1])
Density 842/km2 (2,181/sq mi)
Founded around 1350
Mayor Ing. Petr Kulhánek
Timezone CET (UTC+1)
 - summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 360 01
Location in the Czech Republic
Location in the Czech Republic
Wikimedia Commons: Karlovy Vary
Statistics: statnisprava.cz
Website: www.karlovyvary.cz
A geyser in Karlovy Vary
Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary or Carlsbad (Czech pronunciation: [ˈkarlovɪ ˈvarɪ]; German: Karlsbad) is a spa town situated in western Bohemia, Czech Republic, on the confluence of the rivers Ohře and Teplá, approximately 130 km (81 mi) west of Prague (Praha). It is named after Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, who founded the city in 1370. It is historically famous for its hot springs (13 main springs, about 300 smaller springs, and the warm-water Teplá River). It is the most visited spa town in the Czech Republic.[2]


An ancient late Bronze Age fortified settlement was found in Drahovice. A Slavic settlement in Karlovy Vary is documented by findings in Tašovice and Sedlec. People lived in the close proximity of later Karlovy Vary as far back as the 13th century and they must have been aware of the curative effects of close thermal springs.[3]

Around 1350, Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor organized an expedition into the forests surrounding modern-day Karlovy Vary during a stay in Loket. On the site of a spring, he established a spa called the Horké Lázně u Lokte (Hot Spas at Loket). The location was subsequently renamed after him once he had acclaimed the healing power of the hot springs, at least according to legend. Charles IV granted the city privileges on 14 August 1370. Earlier settlements can be also found in the outskirts of today's city.

Due to publications produced by physicians such as David Becher and Josef von Löschner, the city developed into a famous spa resort in the 19th century and was visited by many members of European aristocracy as well as celebrities from many fields of endeavor. It became more popular after railway lines to Cheb and Prague were completed in 1870.

The number of visitors rose from 134 families in the 1756 season to 26,000 guests annually at the end of the 19th century. By 1911, that figure had reached 71,000, but the outbreak of World War I in 1914 greatly disrupted the tourism on which the town depended.

A political action of great importance took place in the town in 1819: the issuance of the Carlsbad Decrees. Initiated by the Austrian Minister of State Klemens von Metternich, they were intended to implement anti-liberal censorship within the German Confederation.

At the end of World War I in 1918, the large German-speaking population of Bohemia was incorporated into the new state of Czechoslovakia in accordance with the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919). As a result, the German-speaking majority of Karlovy Vary protested. A demonstration on 4 March 1919 passed peacefully, but later that month, six demonstrators were killed by Czech troops after a demonstration turned unruly.[4]

In 1938, the majority German-speaking areas of Czechoslovakia, known as the Sudetenland, became part of Nazi Germany according to the terms of the Munich Agreement. These areas included Karlovy Vary. After World War II, in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement, the vast majority of the people of Karlovy Vary were forcibly expelled from the city because of their German ethnicity. In accordance with the Beneš decrees, their property was confiscated without compensation.

Since the end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, there has been a steady increase of a Russian business presence in Karlovy Vary.

Panoramic views[edit]

A significant portion of the spa/historic section of Karlovy Vary is shown. Major sites in photo, from left to right, are: The dark grey, socialist-era Thermal Spring Colonnade (also called Hot Spring Colonnade or Sprudel) features a glass chimney. Directly above it sits the twin-steeple Church of St. Mary Magdalene. The large, stately building on the center hill is the Hotel Imperial. Below it, to the right of the square, is the Opera House. The Grandhotel Pupp is the large white building to the far right.


In 2012, the percentage of foreigners in the population of the Karlovy Vary region was around seven percent. After Prague, this is the highest proportion in the Czech Republic. The largest group of foreigners were Vietnamese, followed by Germans, Russians and Ukrainians.[5]

Year 1869 1900 1930 1939 1947 1961 1991 2001 2008 2013 2014 2016
Population[6][7] 14,185 42,653 54,652 53,339 31,322 50,034 56,291 53,857 53,708 53,737 49,864 49,326


Local buses and cable cars take passengers to most areas of the city. The city can be reached from other locations by inter-city buses and by train. The city is connected by expressway R6. International Karlovy Vary Airport is located 4.5 km south-east from the city, at the nearby village of Olšová Vrata.


Church of St. Mary Magdalene
Orthodox Church of Saints Peter and Paul


In the 19th century, Karlovy Vary became a popular tourist destination, especially known for international celebrities who visited for spa treatment. The city is also known for the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, which is one of the oldest in the world and one of Europe's major film events. It is also known for the popular Czech liqueur Becherovka and the production of the famous glass manufacturer Moser Glass, which is located in Karlovy Vary. The famous Karlovarské oplatky (Carlsbad wafers) originated in the city in 1867. It has also lent its name to the delicacy known as "Carlsbad plums". These plums (usually quetsch) are candied in hot syrup, then halved and stuffed into dried damsons; this gives them a very intense flavour.

The city has been used as the location for a number of film-shoots, including the 2006 films Last Holiday and box-office hit Casino Royale, both of which used the city's Grandhotel Pupp in different guises.



Notable people associated with Karlovy Vary[edit]


International relations[edit]

Carlsbad, New Mexico, United States[12] (after which Carlsbad Caverns National Park is named), Carlsbad, California, USA [13] Carlsbad Springs, Ontario, Canada, and Carlsbad, Texas, USA, take their names from Karlovy Vary's English name, Carlsbad. All of these places were so named because they were the sites of mineral springs or natural sources of mineral water.

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Karlovy Vary is twinned with:


Further reading[edit]

Published in the 19th century

Published in the 20th century

External links[edit]