This study analysed the alleviating effect of elevated CO2 on stress-induced decreases in photosynthesis and changes in carbohydrate metabolism in two wheat cultivars (Triticum aestivum L.) of different origin. The plants were grown in ambient (400 μl l−1) and elevated (800 μl l−1) CO2 with a day/night temperature of 15/10 °C. At the growth stages of tillering, booting and anthesis, the plants were subjected to heat stress of 40 °C for three continuous days. Photosynthetic parameters, maximum quantum efficiency of photosystem II (PSII) photochemistry (Fv/Fm) and contents of pigments and carbohydrates in leaves were analysed before and during the stress treatments as well as after 1 day of recovery. Heat stress reduced PN and Fv/Fm in both wheat cultivars, but plants grown in elevated CO2 maintained higher PN and Fv/Fm in comparison with plants grown in ambient CO2. Heat stress reduced leaf chlorophyll contents and increased leaf sucrose contents in both cultivars grown at ambient and elevated CO2. The content of hexoses in the leaves increased mainly in the tolerant cultivar in response to the combination of elevated CO2 and heat stress. The results show that heat stress tolerance in wheat is related to cultivar origin, the phenological stage of the plants and can be alleviated by elevated CO2. This confirms the complex interrelation between environmental factors and genotypic traits that influence crop performance under various climatic stresses.