St. Charles Bridge is a must-see if you travel to Prague. It is, in fact, the most popular place in the Czech capital with permission of its castle. So much so that in this pedestrian bridge is difficult to walk due to the large influx of people. And that is almost 10 meters wide.
In addition to its historical value, being the oldest bridge in the city and the one that linked the old part of Prague with the castle, its popularity has been earned by its architectural beauty and its legends among many other virtues. In this post you will discover everything to see and do on the St. Charles Bridge and its surroundings.
Learn about the history of Charles Bridge
Whenever we visit a monument it is advisable to know its history, as it gives us a different perspective when we visit it. And so we will briefly review the history of Charles Bridge. At its current location on the Vltava River was the Judith Bridge that was demolished by a flood in the late twelfth century. It was Emperor Charles IV who ordered the construction of a new bridge and entrusted that mission to the architect Peter Parler who was already directing the construction of the city's cathedral.
The emperor himself laid the foundation stone of the bridge in 1357, but its construction took until 1402. Once finished, the bridge had a span of 500 meters and was the only point that crossed the river through the city so it quickly became a main artery. It remained so for over 400 years until other bridges were built.
It has survived 5 major floods although it has been refurbished several times to keep it standing. To prevent its deterioration, vehicle access was prohibited in 1965 and in 1992 it was recognized as a World Heritage Site.
Logically, the bridge has a much longer history and hides numerous secrets and legends. If we want to discover them all the best thing to do is to hire a guided tour with a professional guide who will reveal everything about the bridge of San Carlos, for example by minibus.
Contemplate its statues and make a wish
One of the main charms of the Charles Bridge are its famous statues. Along the bridge we can admire more than 30 statues that escort pedestrians crossing the bridge. All of them are of baroque style and religious themes and represent saints venerated at that time. The vast majority are copies of the originals kept in the National Museum in Prague. The oldest original statue preserved on the bridge and also the most famous is that of St. John of Nepomuk.
This is the protector saint of floods and his statue is located at the place where he is said to have been thrown into the river. It is tradition for tourists and locals to place their left hand on the left side of the base of the statue, as it is said that this way you will either return to Prague or be granted a wish. You will know where to place your hand, as the wear and tear caused by touristswho take advantage of this belief is very noticeable.
Another of the original sculptures on the bridge is that of the crucifixion and Calvary of Jesus Christ. This scene is represented in great detail and as a curiosity the cross that was used in this statue was made of wood and has been replaced many times due to flooding and humidity. The current cross dates from 1657.
Discover the legends and stories surrounding the bridge
There are many legends and stories surrounding Charles Bridge. The first of them is related to St. John Nepomuk and is that Emperor Wenceslas IV ordered to throw him into the river in 1393 from this same bridge that was still under construction. His statue is in the same place where this happened and there is a brass cross that marks what they say was the exact point where they were thrown into the river.
The other best known popular legends have to do with its construction. The first tells that the emperor Charles IV commissioned different astrologers and numerologists to study the exact date on which to start building the bridge so that it would resist and not suffer the same fate as the Judith Bridge, which sank after flooding.
They determined that the first stone should be laid on July 9, 1357 at 5:31 a.m. and so did the emperor himself. This date can be represented as 135797531 and forms a capicua number formed by ordered odd numbers.
Another legend tells that eggs were used in its construction and mixed in the mortar, believing that in this way it would favor the luck and resistance of the bridge. There are studies on this subject and some confirm it while others deny it. These are the best known stories and legends, but there are many more to discover.
Visit the towers of the bridge
At both ends of the Charles Bridge there are three towers that give entrance to the bridge itself. The first and best known is the Old Town Tower, so called because it is on the side of the old part of Prague. It is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and can be visited inside. Inside there are exhibitions about the construction of the bridge and the best part are the views it offers. The entrance fee is only 60 czk, which at the exchange rate is about 2.50 euros.
At the other end are the two towers on the Malá Strana side. The smaller one is the older one from the same period as the original Judith Bridge. The other tower is similar to the tower in the old part also in Gothic style. Both are connected by a gallery that you can climb and have a good view of the bridge.
Charles Bridge at night
During the day thousands of pedestrians and tourists cross the bridge, making it difficult to contemplate its beauty and its sculptures. But when night falls it is completely transformed. The lighting of the bridge highlights its sculptures and towers and gives it a unique charm.
Added to the fact that at night the traffic of people decreases a lot makes it an almost obligatory activity if you want to see the Charles Bridge in all its splendor. It is one of the essential monuments to see in Prague at night.
River cruise under the bridge
Another option we have to see the bridge from another perspective is to do it by hiring a ride on the Vltava River. The itinerary of these cruises always passes under the bridge and gives us the opportunity to take a different picture than usual.
They usually have a duration of one hour and include a guide who will tell us the history of the monuments we see during the ride. Prices start at 15 euros. We also have the option of hiring a night cruise through Prague with dinner included.
Panoramic view from the bank of the Mala Strana quarter
If you want a free alternative to see a panoramic view of the bridge the best option is to do it from the shore of the Malá strana neighborhood. Near the Kafka museum you can access the shore and take a walk in which you will stop several times to photograph the bridge. It is also common for the swans that swim along the river to approach us asking for food.
Getting close to the church of St. Nicholas
Just 500 meters from the Charles Bridge is the church of St. Nicholas. This spectacular baroque building of the eighteenth century welcomes us to the Malá Strana district and is one of the most beautiful buildings in Prague. It is worth visiting it in its entirety, from the facade to the interior, but especially to climb to its bell tower. From it we have some of the best views of Prague and we can see the Charles Bridge from the top as well as the castle.
Entering the church of St. Nicholas will cost you 4 euros and to climb the bell tower will have to pay another 4 euros. It always opens at 10:00 and the closing time changes according to the months. It closes at 18:00 from November to February, at 20:00 from March to October and at 22:00 from April to September.
Visit the Prague castle complex
Crossing the Charles Bridge you will see in the distance and at the top a spectacular building that crowns the city. It is the Prague Castle. Although it is known as a castle, it is not really a castle as such. It is a complex of buildings that includes St. Vitus Cathedral, the former royal palace, St. George's Basilica and the Dalibo Tower among many others.
These buildings are located 1 kilometer from the Charles Bridge on a hill and is a must for all travelers arriving in Prague. The complex can be visited on your own or hiring a guided tour of Prague. The latter is a good option if we want to know all the history, and there are many, that exists around this unique complex in the world. Here you have all the information about tickets to Prague Castle.
Take a picture next to the kissing wall and John Lennon's wall
For Instagram lovers there are two murals in Prague that are two of the most recurring photos in the city. The first one known as the kissing wall depicts a couple kissing passionately with the city of Prague in the background. It is located under the first pillar of the Charles Bridge in the Mala Strana district.
The second is the mural of John Lennon. Located on Velkopřevorské náměstí square, opposite the Buquoy Palace very close to the bridge, this mural about the artist became a symbol. Shortly after the murder of the best-known Beatle this colorful mural appeared with Lennon's face surrounded by phrases against the communist regime that ruled the Czech Republic in the 1980s. Today it has become a symbol of freedom and one of the most photographed places in Prague.
Visit the spectacular library of the Prague Clementinum
The Clementinum was originally the former Charles University and now houses Prague's national library. It is a huge complex, the second largest in the city after the castle, whose main attraction is its impressive Baroque library. It is one of the most spectacular places in the capital and a must-see.
The complex is located just 200 meters from the bridge, leaving from the Old Tower. It is open every day from 10:00 to 19:00, from April to October, and until 18:00 the rest of the year. Admission costs 9 euros for adults, 5 for students and children under 7 years old are free.
The Old Town Square and its famous clock
The last point near the Charles Bridge that we must visit is the Old Town Square. This emblematic square is one of the neuralgic points of Prague and houses several churches and emblematic buildings of the city.
It is in this square where we find the famous astronomical clock of Prague. Located on the south facade of the old town hall this clock represents, in addition to the 24 hours of the day, the positions of the sun and the moon, a circular calendar with the months of the year, a zodiacal ring and different astronomical elements that have made it one of the most special clocks in the world.