Charles Bridge on the Vltava River is located in a historic part of Prague: it connects Staré Město and Malá Strana – medieval districts of the Czech capital. The imposing, half-kilometer-long structure, with its heavy arches and bronze statues of Catholic saints, is always packed with tourists. Here you can make wishes, buy souvenirs from local artists, and admire views of the river and coastal quarters from the observation decks on the bridge towers.
Save money on your trip!
Video: Charles Bridge at Dawn
Charles Bridge is a must-see attraction in Prague, and no tour of the historic center of the city is without it. This fact was confirmed in the movie “Spider-Man: Away From Home”: the climactic explanation of Peter and MJ took place on Charles Bridge – deep at night, when finally not a single tourist was left on it. At other times, the half-kilometer-long, almost 10-meter-wide structure is quite crowded.
History of the Charles Bridge
In the second half of XII century, Italian masters built Judith Bridge on the Vltava River, named after the wife of King Vladislav I. The strong multi-arched construction of spectacular red sandstone remained until 1342, when it was destroyed by a powerful flood. It was not reconstructed, only the surviving arches were connected by wooden bridges for pedestrians until the construction of a new bridge was completed. Charles IV, who came to the throne a few years after the disaster, was horrified and ordered the court astrologer Ben Baetzalel to draw up a horoscope for the construction work, so that the next bridge would not suffer the same fate. As a result of the predictions, the first stone of the future Charles Bridge was not laid until 1357, at the most favorable time, according to the predictions. The new bridge, named after Charles IV, was fully opened to riders and pedestrians at the beginning of the 15th century.
The construction consists of 16 heavy arches made of natural stone. For cladding was chosen light sandstone – the red stone deposit had already been exhausted by the time of construction. On the eastern bank of the Vltava River, at the beginning of the bridge, just by the water, stands the Gothic Old Town Tower. The western, unpaired Lesser Town towers are at first glance oddly located, far from the bank of the Vltava River, among the old houses. In fact, what appears to be the west bank is Kampa Island, separated from Malá Strana by a narrow arm of the Vltava River – the Čertovka River. That’s where the island ends, and there are the Malostransky Towers.
The most spectacular tower is the Old Town Tower, built at the end of the 14th century on the eastern bank of the Vltava River. Above its arch are coats of arms with an eagle and a lion next to the figure of St. Vitus. Originally the Roman martyr, boiled in boiling oil in the fourth century, had nothing to do with Bohemia, but in the tenth century part of his relics were presented to the ruler of the country. Since then, he has been the main saint of Bohemia. To the right of the saint is a portrait of Charles IV, who started building the bridge, and on the left is Wenceslas IV, the one who gave Catholics a new saint, Jan Nepomutsky. Below in a row are the coats of arms of the lands that were part of Bohemia by the 14th century. The tower was restored 150 years ago by adding small corner towers on top, and today it is an excellent observation deck. Tickets to it cost 90 crowns and are sold right inside the building.
The Malostranes towers were not built at the same time. The lowest one, the oldest one, dates back to the Judith Bridge in the 12th century. The second one, 40 meters high, was built in the middle of the XV century on the site of a Romanesque structure that had existed before it. Stylistically, it resembles the Old Town bridge, although it lacks its solemn décor. There is also an observation deck and in the lower part of the building is a tourist office, where you can get a free map of Prague.
Sculptures on the Charles Bridge
The decoration of the austere Charles Bridge began at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, when several Baroque statues of Catholic saints revered by the Czechs were erected on both sides of it. The authors of the first works were the German sculptor Rauchmiller and the local Brokof family. There are a total of 30 individual figures and sculptural groups on the bridge. The most revered statue is the image of the great martyr John of Nepomuk. He went against the will of King Wenceslas IV when he refused to reveal the secret of his royal wife’s confession and was thrown straight from Charles Bridge into the waters of the Vltava. Since then, the canonized saint has been considered the patron saint of all who work with fresh water: owners of ships and river mills, and fishermen. Several mills have survived on the Certovka River and can be seen from the Charles Bridge. Ironically, the sculptural portrait of the sadistic king is placed here, on the facade of the Old Town Tower.
One of the good tourist traditions is to touch the pedestal of the statue of Jan Nepomutsky on the north side of the Charles Bridge, making a wish. You can recognize the time-green bronze figure by its halo with stars, a giant golden feather and a large crucifix in its hands. The group of statues is important for the Orthodox Church; Cyril and Methodius are the penmen of the Slavs, with miniature human figures crouching at their feet.
Charles Bridge Museum
The Charles Bridge Museum is located on the west, Old Town bank. It is open daily, in low season from 10:00 to 18:00, from May to September until 19:00. The ticket costs 170 crowns, for those who purchase a comprehensive walking and boating tour of the Prague Venice, admission is free. The exhibition includes a model of the medieval Charles Bridge, the result of archaeological excavations – the original entrance to the Judith Bridge, elements of the former Gothic church and its restored model, clay sketches of statues of saints decorating the bridge. The museum shop sells figurines of saints, knights, cups, jewelry and books.
Restaurants and cafes near the Charles Bridge
There are dozens of cafes on both banks of the Vltava River for every taste. A miniature coffee house with local alcoholic beverages and sweets can be found right in the Charles Bridge Museum. John Lennon’s pub awaits guests on Kampa Island, to which you can go down the stairs behind the knight’s statue, and there is also the popular Kampa Park restaurant with a view of the river. Next to the Old Town Tower, on the south side, there is a restaurant of Charles Bridge with national cuisine in the medium price category and a rather expensive restaurant “Mlynec”. On the west side, at the very beginning of the bridge, there is Pod Mostem, a restaurant known for its abundance of beer and wine snacks. Finally, 100 meters west of the Malostranskie Towers is the inevitable McDonald’s.
How to get there
The nearest subway station is on the Old Town Square 500 meters to the north of the Charles Bridge. The Malá Strana Street will take you a little bit farther – about 800 meters. The best way to get there is to take the streetcar to Malostranské náměstí stop, which is 200 meters west of the Lesser Town Towers, or to the Karlovy Lázně stop, which is 200 meters south of the Old Town Tower.
Charles Bridge in Prague: history, fearsome legends, photos and tips from our experience
Sections: Czech Republic 13 518 3
Charles Bridge in Prague is the absolute record holder of the Czech Republic by the number of tourists per square meter! And it is not just because it is the most beautiful pedestrian bridge in Europe and even in the world. Charles Bridge is one of the most mystical places in Prague, it is shrouded in a halo of secrets and legends, funny traditions and terrible events that magnetically attract travelers here. In this article we will tell you the most interesting facts and stories about Charles Bridge in Prague and give you some tips on visiting this unusual sight.
Charles Bridge in Prague and what it is eaten with. Contents
- A brief history of the Charles Bridge
- Parameters of the bridge
- Charles Bridge Sculptures
- The Bridge Towers
- The Most Terrible Legends of the Charles Bridge
- How to make a good wish on the Charles Bridge
- Tips: What you can and should do on the Charles Bridge
- Location on the map, how to get there, 3 nearby hotels
- Useful information for tourists about Prague
Charles Bridge in Prague: Short History
Charles Bridge in Prague connects two historic districts of the Czech capital – Old Town (Staré Mesto) and Malá Strana. It is one of the world masterpieces of Gothic architecture. The architect is Petr Parlerz, he also built the famous St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV laid the first stone in the foundation of the bridge in 1357, on July 9 at 5:31 am.
These date and time were specifically chosen by astrologers: if you place these numbers one after the other (putting a seven instead of July), you get an ascending and then descending stream of odd numbers. Of course, laid down in a truly magical moment, the Charles Bridge simply must stand until the end of time!
Believe it or not – a personal matter of everyone, but as you can see, the Charles Bridge in Prague stands to this day and is not going to fall down. Even the terrible flood of 1890 in Prague, when part of Malá Strana (Lesser Town) and the Old Town went under the water, could not destroy it, only two of its supports were damaged. Now the elements do not threaten the bridge: the water level in the Vltava River is regulated by the dam.
Charles Bridge in Prague was opened in 1380, but some elements of the structure, as well as the towers of the bridge were built until the early 15th century. And sculptures of saints, which decorate Charles Bridge in Prague, were installed even later – in the XVII and XVIII centuries. Originally the bridge was called the Prague bridge, and in 1870 it changed its name in honor of its founder – Charles IV.
Today, the Charles Bridge in Prague is purely pedestrian. But it was not always like this. Since the opening and until the early 20th century carriages sailed over it, in 1905 a streetcar route was built on the bridge, but in 1908 it was cancelled. Automobile traffic on the Charles Bridge was prohibited in the mid-1960s.
Charles Bridge in Prague is the easiest and most beautiful way to get from the Old Town to Prague Castle.
- Length: 520 m
- Width: 9.5 m
- Height: 13 m
- Number of arches: 16
- Number of statues on the bridge: 30
- Number of people passing over the bridge per year: 12 million.
Charles Bridge in Prague is the main attraction of the city. Number of tourists per square meter is the highest in the Czech Republic.
Sculptures of Charles Bridge
Along the entire length of the Charles Bridge in Prague there are 30 sculptures. Now there are copies on the bridge, and the original statues are kept in the National Museum on Wenceslas Square.
Basically, the sculptures of Charles Bridge were made in XVII-XVIII centuries by the best Czech and foreign masters of that time. The oldest sculpture is Crucifixion (1657), above which you can read the real name of the god in Hebrew.
The Crucifixion sculpture is the oldest on Charles Bridge in Prague.
The sculptures on the Charles Bridge in Prague are mostly statues of saints: Jesus, the Virgin Mary, St. Thomas Aquinas and Bernhard and many others. There are exceptions – for example, a Turk guarding captive Christians.
All of the sculptures of the Charles Bridge are made of stone or marble, and only one of them is made of bronze. It is the sculpture depicting St. John of Nepomuk, the most popular with tourists. Jan Nepomucký (John of Nepomuk) is one of the most revered saints in Bohemia. In 1393 he was killed on the order of King Wenceslas IV – according to historians, the monarch was angry with Nepomuk because he refused to give him the secret of the Queen’s confession.
The priest’s body was thrown from the Charles Bridge into the river, and according to legend, at that moment a glow of five stars appeared over the water. That is why Jan Nepomutsky is always depicted with five stars above his head, the sculpture on the Charles Bridge is no exception.
And Wenceslas IV with his father Charles IV, for whom the Charles Bridge in Prague is named, sits quietly in a niche on the Old Town Bridge Tower. He wears a crown, next to St. Vitus, and is clearly satisfied with his life. By the way, at one time he was the king not only of Bohemia, but also of Germany, but was dismissed from this post with the official wording “for drunkenness”.
The most famous sculpture on the Charles Bridge in Prague is St. John of Nepomuk.
As already mentioned, Charles Bridge in Prague connects the two historic districts of Stare Mesto and Malá Strana. On each bank of the Vltava River the entrance to Charles Bridge is guarded by beautiful Gothic towers – Old Town and Lesser Town respectively. It’s easy to distinguish them from each other – the Old Town Tower has black guys in sailor suits selling river cruises, and the Lesser Town Tower doesn’t.
Just kidding. There are other differences as well.
The Old Town Bridge Tower is one of the most beautiful in Prague. It was built at the same time as the Charles Bridge and was opened in the same year 1380. The tower is 47 meters high. The tower is richly decorated with images of animals and birds, coats of arms of the Czech lands and the Holy Roman Empire and of course, sculptures of saints and kings, including St. Vitus, Charles IV and his son Wenceslas.
In the photo below, father and son are at the very center of the tower, with St. Vitus between them. As many buildings in Prague, the Old Town Tower of Charles Bridge has seen its share of horrors. Once it was used as a prison, and from 1621 to 1631 the heads of Czech noblemen executed for rebellion against the Holy Roman Emperors were hung there.
The Old Town Bridge Tower of the Charles Bridge is also an excellent viewing platform. Read more at the end of the article!
On the left bank of the Vltava River the entrance to Charles Bridge in Prague is guarded by two Malostransky towers connected by an arch. They are also very beautiful, but still look simpler than the Old Town.
The lower one is called Judith Tower, its height is 29 meters. It was built in XII century – at that time in place of the Charles Bridge there was an older Judith Bridge. In XVI century the tower was rebuilt, but part of the old construction remained in its place.
The second tower is called High Bridge Tower, it was built in 1464. The height of the tower is 43.5 meters, it is very similar to the Old Town and it even has special niches, where the sculptures should stand too. But they were never installed.
In the Middle Ages the dungeons of these towers were also used as a prison, and heads were hung there after execution. As far as I know, this tradition has not survived until today. But I could be wrong.
Tourists on the Charles Bridge kindly parted to allow me to take a picture against the backdrop of the Malostransky towers.
The scariest legends of the Charles Bridge
Do you think that just for the sake of it Charles Bridge in Prague stands for so many centuries and more to come? Well, that was not the case. According to legend, the architect of the Charles Bridge made a deal with the devil himself. The devil promised to use magic to make the Charles Bridge incredibly strong, and in exchange he received the soul of the one who first crossed the bridge. The horny man kept his part of the bargain, but the builders outsmarted him: they let the rooster crow first on the bridge – and the devil disappeared. So the devil acted honestly, and the architect tricked him. And after that, who is the devil?
One more (or may be the same) devil allegedly sits on the bridge parapet on cloudy weather and distributes his portraits to passers-by. How do you distinguish the street artist on the Charles Bridge from the devil? Very simple: the artist will ask for money.
Charles Bridge in Prague is a favorite place of artists, musicians and other street performers. Without an experienced guide is very difficult to understand which of them is the devil.
The old-timers say that in the past under one of the piers of the bridge a waterman liked to smoke a pipe with the Prague potters and chat about life. The Czech law “On Restriction of Smoking” of May 31, 2017 put an end to this tradition.
And of course, many people believe that the Charles Bridge is haunted. The ghosts of executed Czech noblemen (we wrote about them above), whose heads have been hanging on the Old Town Bridge Tower for 10 years, are allegedly often heard whispering here. Many more Prague residents are willing to swear that they saw a glowing male figure in white robes on the bridge, and it was none other than the martyr Jan Nepomutsky. And there is no doubt that they are not lying, because there are several glorious beer gardens near the Charles Bridge.
What is the right way to make a wish on the Charles Bridge
Perhaps the most famous tradition associated with the Charles Bridge is to make a wish on it. But in order for it to come true, you have to work a little harder. What is the right way to make a wish on the Charles Bridge in Prague to make it come true? To do this in the middle of the bridge you need to find the place where they threw the body of John of Nepomuk – there is a metal sculpture with a cross and the image of the saint with five stars above his head on the parapet of the bridge.
The palm of the right hand should be placed on these stars, the left hand on the feet of Jan Nepomutsky, and the right foot (it is obligatory to be right, otherwise everything is lost!) stepped on a nail that protrudes nearby from the sidewalk. The places to touch are easy to find: over the years, they have been polished to a shine by sufferers from all over the world.
But in the age of smartphones and the simplification of everything and everything, such instructions seem an impossible task for tourists, especially those under fifty. What to do if you want to make a wish on the Charles Bridge in Prague? Eureka! Especially for you the best minds came up with a much easier way, no more need to spread out on the bridge in a spider’s pose. Here the instruction on making a wish on Charles Bridge looks much easier.
Find the sculpture of John of Nepomuk (if you walk from the Old Town, it is the eighth on the right), just touch the bas-reliefs under the statue and make a wish. Where to put your hand, you can easily understand by the characteristic shine. You can usually put your hands on the dog (left) and the woman and child (right), but if you’re in a hurry, you can simply touch one of the bas-reliefs, as the Eastern tourist kindly shows us in this photo:
How to make a wish on the Charles Bridge in Prague? The easiest way: put your hand to one of the images at the statue of Jan Nepomuksky.
Charles Bridge in Prague: 4 tips for visiting it from us
1. It is no secret that Charles Bridge in Prague is the most popular attraction and there is always a crowd. The most convenient time to visit the bridge – 3 am in the morning until dinner. The most uncomfortable – at sunset, when the bridge from the first to the last meter is occupied by tourists, artists, musicians and sellers of junk.
2. If you want to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Prague, ascend to the observation deck of the Old Town Tower of Charles Bridge. From there you can enjoy a 39 meters high view of Prague Castle, Malá Strana and Hradčany, the Vltava River and of course the Charles Bridge. It costs only 100 CZK, you can enjoy the pictures from the Old Town tower of the Charles Bridge in our article . The same cost to climb the High Malostranska Tower, but the view from it is less picturesque.
From the Old Town there are canonical photos of Prague: Prague Castle, Lesser Town, Vltava River and Charles Bridge!
Be sure to go down to Kampa island – there is a staircase from the exit of the Charles Bridge into the Lesser Quarter. Even in the evenings, when there are huge crowds on the Charles Bridge, it’s much quieter and cozier. Here you can just stroll and enjoy the architecture, feed the ducks and swans, or walk under the arch of the bridge, where your steps will be mystically echoed by the ancient vaults. The feeling is simply magical!
You can explore the Charles Bridge not only with our guide, but also on one of the many excursions. I can recommend three interesting excursions from Tripster.ru, where local guides will tell you a lot of interesting things about Charles Bridge and other sights in Prague:
Where is Charles Bridge on the map of Prague, how to get there + hotels
Here’s where Charles Bridge is on the map of Prague:
Charles Bridge on Google Maps
You can get to Charles Bridge from the right bank of Vltava (Staré Město) or from the left bank (Malá Strana). The closest metro stop on the right bank is Staroměstská (green line, 350 m walk to the bridge). The closest stops by public transport are Karlovy lázně (streetcar No. 2, 13, 14, 17, 18, 93) and Staroměstská (the same streetcars and bus No. 194). The closest metro station on the left bank is Malostranská (green line, 650 m walk to the bridge). The nearest stop on the Malá Strana side is Malostranské náměstí (streetcar No. 5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15, 20, 22, 23, 41, 97 and bus No. 192).
The architect of the Charles Bridge has provided special niches in front of the sculptures, so that tourists could easily take pictures.
And if you live in the Old Town or Lesser Town, you can walk to the Charles Bridge. There are many hotels and apartments within walking distance of it. On average, they are more expensive than hotels in some other areas of Prague. But first of all, this is the center of the city. Secondly, you can find great value for money options here as well.
1. For example, a room in the apartment hotel – Charles Bridge Premium Apartments – in mid-May on Buking only costs 60 euros per night, and is located almost directly to the Charles Bridge. The kitchen design is just like from magazines, the furniture is solid and the highlight of the room is a real old stove. The kitchen is just right for the magazines and the furniture is solid, the highlight of the room is an authentic old stove.
2) Similar in price (from 65 euros), but more sophisticated – mini-hotel Hotel Residence Retezova, which was renamed the Chateau 8. Take Deluxe version, it has a balcony and barbecue facilities. We thought there might be some hidden costs, because an apartment with such a location and interior can’t cost that much – but no hidden costs. If for your dates it will be free, then you are luckier than us. Near the Charles Bridge dozens of hotels costing from 100 euros per night, but they are not so close to the charm.
And the last recommendation – fancy hotel Hotel U Zlateho Stromu. For us it is a bit expensive (from 120 euros per night), but for the room – no. Painted ceilings, lacquered furniture design of the last century (a plus, if anything), candle chandeliers and picture frames weighing 10 kg. Once in a lifetime is worth to live in such a room.
As you see, dear readers, to come to Prague and not to visit the Charles Bridge – is inexcusable! And maybe even dangerous, given that Prague – the city of mystic and sometimes vindictive)))). We hope that our small… or rather large, but interesting article will make your walk to this unique place even more interesting. Happy travels to you, we are waiting for your feedback about Charles Bridge in Prague!