Why visit Charles Bridge in Prague?

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Karlův most, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic

GPS: 50.089334563218, 14.414264637313

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Why visit Charles Bridge Prague with its many statues and the landmark iconic bridge itself which is one of the main Prague tourist attractions. An opportunity to learn about the history is one reason, built from 1357 by Charles IV, King of Bohemia and German-Roman Emperor, it was intended to replace the old Judith crossing built in the 12th century and heavily damaged by floods in the spring of 1342 when the snow melted. It was the ancient Ponte Sant’Angelo, one of the most famous of Rome, built in the first half of the 2nd century and decorated with about ten angel statues, which was chosen to serve as a model. It took 15 years of study and preparatory work before the new structure was erected in the early 15th century. For more than 400 years, Charles Bridge in Prague remained the only way to cross the Vltava River, the most important river in the Czech Republic (it originates in the mountain range of the Bohemian Forest). It remains the second oldest bridge in the country and played an important role on European trade routes and was a landmark in Prague and the history of Prague to many who enjoyed the walk across it.

Also known as Karlův most in Czech, Charles Bridge is the oldest bridge in Prague, over 515 metres long and 9.5 metres wide, it connects Prague’s Old Town (Staré Město) with the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) on the left bank of the Vlatava River with the Lesser Town bridge tower. It is dominated by the Prague Castle, a 9th-century fortified complex which served as the political seat of various kingdoms and republics in the region (dukes and kings of Bohemia, emperors of the Holy Roman Empire and presidential regimes of Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic). Of the 14 structures now spanning the Vltava River, this iconic crossing retains the best location and a breathtakingly beautiful view of the city’s historical and cultural heritage at this must visit location in Prague where you can enjoy stunning views on a stroll or walking tour on busy Charles Bridge near to the Prague castle complex and attractions and restaurants that consistently earn great reviews and are ranked within the top 10.

As a place of inspiration and artistic creation, this river crossing attracts many artists some of whom do beautifully done on-the-spot caricatures, photographers, poets, musicians and painters every day, who come from all over the world to walk along it (car traffic has been banned since 1965). This Gothic jewel is decorated with some thirty statues and sculptural ensembles, most of which are Baroque in style. These Charles Bridge Prague statues depict religious saints lining each side at regular intervals. The oldest of these Prague tourist attractions is the bronze statue of John of Nepomuk (end of the 17th century) which is believed to bring luck and happiness to all those who would touch it. Perhaps you would consider an early morning run to attractions in Prague like the old town square, the old town hall, the Prague zoo, the astronomical clock or the old town end, where along the way you will notice the streets are cobblestone. The early morning will allow you to move freely before in the daytime some areas get very busy with vendors and tourists and, in times as bad as summer, get very crowded with many little stalls, some selling knick-knacks which are expensive and unnecessary making you think you can’t trust anyone. Alternatively you can take public transport if you are prepared to get to many different locations or even try the scooter option or take metro line or boat trips underneath the bridge to get around with absolutely no problems, although sometimes it is just a minutes walk to get to your destination.

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  • A magnificent monument in one of the most beautiful cities in the world from an architectural, historical and cultural point of view
  • The fortified Gothic towers at both ends of the bridge (gateways to the Old Town and the Lesser Town); the collection of 16 arches and baroque statues; the sandstone stones
  • The Charles Bridge Museum (Muzeum Karlova mostu) telling the history of the site
  • The panoramic view of the city and Prague Castle; the view of the bridge and the Old Town from the Petřín Lookout Tower (this small Eiffel Tower can be reached by funicular or on foot via a 300-step staircase)
  • The carved stone head called Bradáč (meaning “bearded man” in Czech) adorns the bridge and sets the flood warning level
  • A constantly lively place reserved for pedestrians; the mist that surrounds the bridge in the early morning; the Christmas atmosphere in winter
  • The narrow alleys and cobbled passages in the historical centre of Prague (Malá Strana on the left bank of the Vltava River) and the Old Town (Staré Město on the right bank of the river); boat trips on the Vltava River; the Old Town Square with its colourful old buildings and the Prague Astronomical Clock of Old Town Hall in Staré Město (dating from 1410, it is the third-oldest of that kind in the world); the Baroque Church of Saint Nicholas in Malá Strana (early 18th century); the charming Kampa Island (including a modern art gallery and old watermills)
  • The density of cultural and leisure sites within walking distance from Charles Bridge (museums, churches, parks, theatres, operas, palaces, concert and performance halls, bars, restaurants, shops, discotheques, escape games…); the majestic ensemble of Prague Castle (the changing of the presidential guard is also worth a visit), St. Vitus Cathedral (Gothic style) and St. George’s Basilica (Romanesque style) in the Hradčany district overlooking Charles Bridge
  • The Prague Marathon (in May); the Prague Spring International Music Festival (beginning on 12 May)
  • According to one of the many legends surrounding Charles Bridge, eggs, wine and milk were used in the construction process of the building to bind the mortar. The architect in charge of the completion of the bridge, Petr Parléř, also participated in the construction of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague (the construction of this monument took almost 600 years and was only completed in 1929, compared to 45 years for Charles Bridge).
  • Remains of the Judith Bridge, whose foundations rest on an oak frame and sandstone blocks, have been uncovered in the Vltava River. 13 pillars and arches remain on both sides of the river. Oak logs were recently installed in 2019 in the Vltava River to protect the bridge pillars. This is part of a structural renovation of Charles Bridge that will take place over the next 20 years.
  • Until 1816, a right of way was required to have the authorization to use and cross Charles Bridge (a tram line crossed it at the beginning of the 20th century). Traders had settled on the bridge before being excluded in 1828. It was not until the 1990s that artists, photographers and musicians were again allowed to work on Charles Bridge.
  • The artist Joseph Rudl (publisher, writer and copper engraver from Prague) was the first to use the name Charles Bridge to describe Stone Bridge in one of his works in 1870.
  • Charles Bridge has been damaged several times by flooding. The flood of 1890 saw the river level rise by almost 3 metres and caused extensive damage to arches and pillars. This prompted the city authorities to move the original statues to protect them (they are exhibited in the National Museum in Prague).
  • The statue of John of Nepomuk pays homage to the Catholic priest, martyr and the most venerated saint in the country (saint of Bohemia). He was tortured and thrown into the Vltava River from Charles Bridge in 1393 by order of the son of King Charles IV, Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia (nicknamed “the Idle”, this monarch was in opposition to the Prague Archbishops Arnošt of Pardubice and Jan Očko of Vlašim).
  • During the Advent season (before Christmas), a person in historical costume is responsible for lighting the gas street lamps on Charles Bridge manually with a large stick. This old tradition disappeared in 1985 before the municipality revived it to enhance the district (at the beginning of the 20th century, about 130 lamplighters worked daily in Prague). This spectacle can be seen at around 4 pm before nightfall.
  • Plan a minimum of three to five days to explore Prague’s incredible heritage in depth. Do not hesitate to wander around without a guidebook, map or itinerary and let yourself be surprised by the many districts and unusual places that make up this capital, away from the main tourist flows.
  • Charles Bridge being one of the most popular attractions in Prague, it can be crowded in the middle of the day (pickpocketing can even happen there). To fully enjoy its special and romantic atmosphere, it is best to stroll along it at dawn, at the end of the day or after dark.
  • In Prague’s Old Town, a stone’s throw from Charles Bridge, the Clementinum (or Klementinum) houses one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It has an amazing view from the Astronomical Tower.
  • The city of Prague is part of the Castle Road (Burgenstraße in German), a 1,200 kilometres route linking the Czech capital to the German city of Mannheim. This road passes through a total of 70 medieval castles, manor houses and feudal residences as well as numerous historical and heritage sites. It can be travelled by car, bus, bicycle or train.
  • Before you can get to Prague, you can take a virtual tour of the Charles Bridge.

Where to eat

  • Bakeshop Little Bakery
    (small gourmet establishment)
  • U Parlamentu
    (Czech specialities)
  • Kampa Park Restaurant
    (romantic to the core)

Where to go

  • Prague Castle
    (gigantic historical site)
  • Letná Park
    (superb views of the city)
  • U Kunstatu
    (bewitching beer bar)

Where to stay

  • Charles Bridge Economic Hostel
    (impeccable hostel)
  • Mooo Downtown
    (well-kept flats)
  • Four Seasons Hotel Prague
    (constant attention to detail)