Karlovy Vary in West Bohemia, better known outside the Czech Republic by its German name, Karlsbad, is the most famous Bohemian spa. It is named for Emperor Charles (Karl) IV, who allegedly happened upon the springs in 1358 while on a hunting expedition. As the story goes, the emperor’s hound, chasing a harried stag, fell into a boiling spring and was scalded. Charles had the water tested and, familiar with spas in Italy, ordered baths to be established in the village of Vary. The spa reached its heyday in the 19th century, when royalty came here from all over Europe for treatment. The natural hot springs together with other natural healing resources (gaseous carbon dioxide, mud and peat) play an important role in a wide range of spa procedures.
There are numerous luminaries among the visitors of the town: Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Alexei Tolstoy or Antonín Dvořák, to name just a few.
Visitors may receive “treatment”, including carbon-dioxide baths and massage, or just stroll the streets and parks and enjoy the vast variety of things the peaceful town has to offer: tall 19th century houses with decorative and often eccentric facades, marvelous promenades and colonnades (the most beautiful is the Mlýnská kolonáda, a neo-Renaissance pillared hall), the white Church of Mary Magdalene, designed by Kilian Dientzenhofer, hot sulfuric water of some of the twelve hot springs (the largest spring, Vřídlo, shoots its scalding water to the height of some 12 m), Moser crystal, Thun porcelain, Becherovka Liqueur, Mattoni mineral water, spa wafers, souvenirs made of mineral sediments, open-air heated pool (Termál), and many others.
Today, the old town is a place where various festivals are held (e.g. the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival).