The Charles Bridge (in Czech Karluv Most) is the charming trait d ‘union between the Old Town and the Lesser Quarter, the two historical quarters in the centre of Prague.
It is the oldest bridge in the Czech capital among those that have survived to this day and is undoubtedly the most famous, crossed by thousands of tourists and Prague residents every day.
Sometimes romantic, sometimes dark, this stone bridge built in the Gothic style is atmospheric in every season of the year: if in winter the snow gives it a fairy-tale atmosphere, the colours of autumn make it romantic and nostalgic, while in spring Charles Bridge comes alive with an irrepressible liveliness. Below it, the sly waters of the Vltava, the Czech national river, flow unstoppably.
In the past, cars and trams were allowed on the bridge, whereas today it is a pedestrian zone and is almost constantly crowded with people. Join the tourists who come here in search of romantic glimpses, postcard photos and breathtaking views. It will be an unforgettable walk, with your heart beating with excitement at every step.
Charles Bridge is one of Prague’s main tourist attractions and is also popular with local artists, musicians and souvenir sellers, who set up their stalls on both sides all year round. For this reason, the bridge is very crowded during daylight hours.
The most romantic time to visit the bridge is undoubtedly sunset, when you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire Prague Castle lighting up in the slowly darkening sky and this beautiful image is reflected in the waters of the river.
Unfortunately, even at sunset you will be in the company of many other tourists who, like you, want to enjoy the magical hours of sunset, but artists and vendors will probably have already left. To visit the empty Charles Bridge you must go late at night or in the early hours of the morning.
From 1683 until 1918, statues and sculptural groups were placed on both sides of Charles Bridge, which today total 30; many of them are only copies and the originals are kept in the Lapidarium of the National Museum in Vyšehrad.
Probably the most famous statue, as well as the oldest, is that of the Czech martyr St John of Nepomuk, who was executed and thrown from the bridge during the reign of Wenceslas IV for not wanting to reveal what the queen had told him during confession. The plaque on the statue has been worn by the huge number of people who have touched it over the centuries because it is said to bring good luck and ensure one’s return to Prague.
Other notable statues depict:
A statue was also dedicated to St. Jude Thaddeus, protector of hopeless causes. As you can see, anyone can have a valid reason to visit Prague’s most famous bridge!
At both ends of Charles Bridge there are towers on which you can climb and enjoy a spectacular view of the bridge from above.
The oldest of the Small Town Bridge Towers dates back to the 12th century, while the tallest tower is 300 years younger.
To discover all the stories and legends of Prague and the Charles Bridge, take advantage of a guided tour, perhaps by river!
The origin of the Charles Bridge is a simple footbridge of tied wooden logs, which was followed by a rudimentary wooden bridge. The first stone bridge on the exact site of the present bridge was built around 1170 by Vladislav II and was named Judith Bridge in honour of the king’s wife. In 1342 it was washed away by a flood of the Vltava River.
The construction of the present bridge was commissioned by Charles IV in 1357. Construction was completed as early as 1402, but the name Charles Bridge did not begin to be used until 1870, at the suggestion of the Czech writer Karel Havlíček Borovský.
Unlike its predecessors, Charles Bridge has survived many floods, the most recent of which occurred in August 2002 and was considered the worst flood in 500 years.
If you want to learn more about the history of the bridge as you cross it, you can rent an audio guide, available in several languages, at one of the towers located at each end of the bridge.
Charles Bridge has given rise to numerous legends. According to the most famous one, at night the statues on the bridge come alive to care for the children on the nearby island of Kampa.
Another famous legend concerns the construction of the bridge itself. It is said that egg yolks were added to the lime to make the bridge able to withstand the violent flooding of the Vltava River. The egg yolks were brought in from the surrounding villages, including the village of Velvary whose zealous inhabitants, worried that the eggs would break during transport, decided to send in hard-boiled eggs, thus earning the whole of Bohemia sarcasm.
On 16 May each year, the statue of St John of Nepomuk becomes a place of pilgrimage from all over the world. It is said that his tongue, still red with living flesh, was found in the waters of the river centuries after the Saint was killed.
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.