The name of Ústí nad Labem is formed from the Old Czech ustie ("river mouth") and Labe (the River Elbe). It thus literally means "Mouth-upon-the-Elbe", in reference to its location at the Bilina's confluence with the Elbe. It is popularly known as Ústí for short.
The Czech name was Latinized as Usk super Albium and Germanified as Aussig or Außig. Prior to Czechoslovak independence amid the dissolution of Austria-Hungary following the First World War, the town was usually known in English as Aussig, but sometimes also referred to as Aussyenad, Labem, or Oustí nad Labem.
Ústí nad Labem was mentioned as a trading centre as early as 993. In the second half of the 13th century, King Otakar II of Bohemia invited German settlers into the country and granted them a German form of municipal incorporation, thereby founding the city proper. In 1423, as King of Bohemia, Sigismund pledged the town to Elector Frederick I of Meißen, who occupied it with a Saxon garrison. It was besieged by the Hussites in 1426: a German army of 70 000 was sent to its relief but the 25 000 besiegers defeated them amid great slaughter on 16 June; the next day, they stormed and razed the town. It was left derelict for three years before rebuilding began in 1429.
Ústí was again burned down in 1583 and was sacked by the Swedes in 1639 amid the Thirty Years' War. It also suffered grievously during the Seven Years' War and was near the 1813 Battle of Kulm between France and the alliance of Austria, Prussia, and Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. As late as 1830, its population was only 1400.
As part of the Kingdom of Bohemia, it was eventually incorporated into Austria and heavily industrialized over the 19th century. After the Compromise of 1867, it headed the Aussig District, one of Austrian Bohemia's 94 District Commissions (Bezirkshauptmannschaften). In the 1870s, with only 11 000 people, it was a major producer of woolen goods, linen, paper, ships, and chemicals and carried on a large trade in grain, fruit, mineral water, lumber, and coal. By 1900, large-scale immigration had boosted the population to nearly 40 000, mostly German, and added glassworking and stone to its trades. The local river port became the busiest in the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire, surpassing even the seaport in Trieste.
The factories of Aussig—as it was then known—were an early center of the National Socialism ("Nazi") movement. The German Workers' Party in Austria (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei in Österreich) was founded on 15 November 1903 and later gave rise to the Sudeten German Party and Austrian National Socialism. Their books continued to be printed in Ústí even after the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. During the 1930 census, Ústí nad Labem was home to 43 793 residents: 32 878 considered German, 8 735 Czech or Slovak, 222 Jews, 16 Russians, and 11 Hungarians. Ústí was ceded to Nazi Germany with the rest of the Sudetenland in October 1938 under the terms of the Munich Agreement. On New Year's Eve of that year, the Nazis burnt down the local synagogue; a meat factory was later raised in its place. The Jewish community in Ústí nad Labem was mostly exterminated over the course of World War II amid the Holocaust. In April 1945, the city was severely bombed by the Allies.
Under the terms of the Potsdam Conference and the Beneš decrees, the city was restored to Czechoslovakia and most of its German population expelled after Germany's defeat in World War II. In May 1948, the Communist government passed a new constitution declaring a people's republic. Communism continued until the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall set off a series of events which are now known as the Velvet Revolution. Today, Ústí nad Labem is a major industrial city of the Czech Republic with substantial chemical, metallurgical, textile, food, and machine tool industries.
The city gained notoriety in the late 1990s when a 150 metres (490 ft) long wall was constructed along part of the Matiční Street separating houses on one side from the tenement blocks on the other. Since the latter were homes mainly to Romani, it turned into an international scandal. Mayor Ladislav Hruška promised local homeowners' representatives that the wall would be finished by the end of September, 1998. Foreign journalists travelled to Ústí to investigate, and were told by councillors that the wall was not meant to segregate by race, but to keep respectable citizens safe from noise and rubbish coming from the opposite side of the street.
In September, city representatives announced that plans would be changed from a four-metre soundproof wall to a 1.8-metre wall of ceramic bricks, and a children's playground would also be constructed in front of the tenement blocks. Despite these changes, the Roma Civic Initiative and Deputy Prime Minister Vladimír Špidla vocally opposed the construction. The wall was criticised by U.S. Congressman Christopher Smith, and a delegation from the Council of Europe described it as a "racist" and drastic solution.
The new plans slated construction to begin August 30, 1999, but a decision by the district office delayed the move because a wall that large would require a permit, and threatened to damage the root systems of trees along Matični Street. On October 5, however, construction began regardless of the opposition by foreign observers and members of the Czech government. The following day, 50 Roma physically blockaded construction of the wall and dismantled parts that had already been set up. Nonetheless, the wall was completed on October 13. Domestic and international pressure eventually convinced the city to dismantle the wall, and it was demolished six weeks after it had been erected. The local zoo uses parts of this ceramic fence as a wall around its main entrance to this today. The original wall was only 1.8 metres high and a few more rows of ceramic parts were needed to make it higher. Matiční Street is now uninhabited and its buildings are scheduled for demolition.
The Střekov castle is located in a southern suburb of the city. Ústí is a centre for tourism owing to the romantic landscape of the Bohemian Highlands (České středohoří) and the České Švýcarsko national park.
One of the most famous Bohemian artists, the painter Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779), was born in Ústí nad Labem. Among the city's other natives are the illustrator and designer Heinz Edelmann (1934–2009) and the writer Vladimír Páral (born 1932).
Modern sports figures born in the city include Milan Hejduk (born 1976), hockey player and former team captain for the Colorado Avalanche; Michal Neuvirth (born 1988), hockey player for the Philadelphia Flyers; and Jiří Jarošík (born 1977), association football player, formerly of Chelsea FC and Celtic FC player, currently of Deportivo Alavés. Goalkeeper Tomáš Černý was born in the city in 1985, he currently plays for Scottish Premiership side Partick Thistle.
The composer, conductor and pianist Viktor Ullmann (1898–1944) served for a brief time (1928–1929) as head of the city's opera company. The renowned mathematician Petr Vopěnka spent most of his teaching career at the city's Jan Evangelista Purkyně University.
Ústí is twinned with: Halton, United Kingdom
The city is connected to the international highway E 442 (Liberec, Děčín, Ústí, Dresden) and first class highways (I/8, I/30, I/13). It is also directly connected to the express highway D8 (Berlin – Prague) that intersects the western border of the city. Some sections of the highway are already in operation, with the completion of the entire highway in Czech territory currently planned for 2016.
The city has a network of mass transportation that includes bus and trolley bus lines.
Usti nad Labem is an important railway node with four railway stations that is intersected by international lines Berlin-Vienna and Berlin-Budapest-Beograd-Sofia (Baltic-Orient). The backbone international line is the national railway line No. 090 – I. transit railway corridor State frontier Decin – Usti nad Labem – Prague – Breclav – state frontier which is part of the IV. Trans-European Multimodal Corridor. The re-construction on the way and the modernisation of the line to meet the parameters of increased line speed will add quality to personal and commercial transportation. On the line section that intersects the city centre interregional railway transportation, suburban transportation and the backbone city mass transportation will come together. The Eurocity (EC) and Intercity (IC) trains connected to the European railway network stop regularly in Usti nad Labem Central Station.
The Elbe River Line is a junction with the West-European river lines opening access to Germany, Benelux countries, northern France and to important sea ports. The Elbe River Line is a part of the IV. Trans-European Multimodal Corridor. Freight transportation and pleasure cruises are run on the water line section Pardubice – Chvaletice – Usti nad Labem – Hřensko – Hamburg.
An airport for small sports planes (ICAO code LKUL) is located northwest of the city. The nearest airport for airliners is in Prague (92 km) or Dresden, Germany (75 km).
Mariansky Bridge was opened in 1998. The road bridge over the Elbe was built over a period of five years. The city has invested over CZK 750 million ($37,500,000) to build it. The bridge won an award of the European Association of Steel Structures - ECCS (European Convention for constructional Steelwork) European Steel Design Awards. International Association for Bridges and Civil Engineering ranked Mariansky Bridge between the 10 best structures of the world for the last decade.