Although the town itself is only about 200 years old, the locality has been inhabited much longer. The first written record dates back to 1273, when there was a village of Úšovice. The springs first appear in a document dating from 1341 where they are called "the Auschowitzer springs" belonging to the Tepl Abbey. It was only through the efforts of Dr Josef Nehr, the abbey's physician, who from 1779 until his death in 1820 worked hard to demonstrate the curative properties of the springs, that the waters began to be used for medicinal purposes. The place obtained its current name of Marienbad in 1808; became a watering-place in 1818, and received its charter as a town in 1868.
By the early 20th century, approximately 1,000,000 bottles of mineral water were exported annually from Marienbad. The water from the Cross Spring (Kreuzquelle, Křížový pramen) was evaporated and the final product was sold as a laxative under the name of sal teplensis. The modern spa town was founded by the Tepl abbots, namely Karl Kaspar Reitenberger, who also bought some of the surrounding forests to protect them. Under the guidance of gardener Václav Skalník, architect Jiří Fischer, and builder Anton Turner the inhospitable marshland valley was changed into a park-like countryside with colonnades, neoclassical buildings and pavilions around the springs.
The name Marienbad first appeared in 1786; since 1865 it has been a town. Then a second period of growth, the town's Golden Era, came. Between 1870 and 1914 many new hotels, colonnades and other buildings, designed by Friedrich Zickler, Josef Schaffer, and Arnold Heymann, were constructed or rebuilt from older houses. In 1872 the town got a railway connection with the town of Eger (Cheb) and thus with the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire and the rest of Europe.
The town soon became one of the top European spas, popular with notable figures and rulers who often returned there. Among them were such names as Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Frédéric Chopin, Thomas Edison, Richard Wagner or Prince Friedrich of Saxony, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, the Russian Czar Nicholas II, and Emperor Franz Joseph I and many others. At those times, about 20,000 visitors came every year.
Marienbad remained a popular destination between World War I and World War II. After World War II, the ethnic German population of the town was forcibly expelled according to the Potsdam agreement, thereby emptying the town of the majority of its population. After the communist coup-d'état in 1948; it got sealed off from most of its foreign visitors. After the return of a free republic and a free market economy in 1989 much effort was put into restoring the town into its original character. Today it is not only a spa town but also a popular holiday resort thanks to its location among the green mountains of the Slavkovský les and the Český les, sport facilities (the town's first golf course was opened in 1905 by the British King Edward VII) and the proximity to other famous spa towns, such as Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary) or Franzensbad (Františkovy Lázně).