Charles Bridge – Historic and Iconic Jewel of Prague
Strange that one of the Prague points of interest that most people know about or have read about is really only a place that you’ll use to get between other famous attractions in the city. When you first take a look at your Prague tourist map then you’ll see that a river runs through the city.
On one side is the Old Town and on the other is the Lesser Town leading up to Prague Castle. Between them is the Charles Bridge. One of the “free to enter” Prague points of interest, the bridge is the third properly constructed bridge to stand in this stretch of the river i.e. the Stone Bridge, the Judith Bridge and now the Charles Bridge. The 1890 flood caused some of the current bridge to collapse.
It might strike you as unusual that there are actually two gate towers on the Lesser Town side of the Charles Bridge. The gate towers themselves are also popular Prague points of interest as they give great views over the city but here you can only climb two of them. The third smaller tower on the Lesser Town side (left in the picture) was formerly the gate tower of the Judith Bridge.
How old is The Charles Bridge?
The Charles Bridge formally opened in 1357 some ten years after the coronation of King Charles IV after whom the bridge is named. There are several legends associated with the Charles Bridge like the people who are supposed to be buried in the structure, a little green guy who lives in the water under the bridge, the story of a town who delivered a load of boiled eggs by mistake (raw eggs were added to mortar to make it stronger and more binding), a bargain between the devil and a stonemason and not least it was the location where John Nepomuk was thrown from the Charles Bridge into the water.
This last one brings us to a couple of the other Prague points of interest on the bridge. Half way over you’ll find a single statue of a man with 5 stars over his head. This is Jan Nepomuk (Queens confessor) and he stands on a plinth that has two bronze plaques. Tourists consider it good luck to touch one or both the plaques and this has made them shiny over the years. Come further towards the centre of the Charles Bridge (two lamp posts) and you’ll find on the low wall is a piece of wrought ironwork surrounding a cross mounted into the wall. It is this cross that Czechs will touch and make a wish (pictured). You can now read more about him and how the statue has changed on the Jan Nepomuk post. You might also be interested to know that guides often say there are 30 statues on the Charles Bridge. In fact there are only 29, the other one is not a statue, it’s a cross and read more about it on the Calvary post.
Modern day Charles Bridge will also be one of the Prague points of interest if you like street bands and Charles Bridge Artists as you’ll find several plying their trade here. For the artists you can either sit and have a drawing done otherwise give them a photo and they’ll do it separately. I’m not a fan of the caricature artists though.
Why is it so busy?
As well has being one of Prague’s top tourist attractions you have to remember that for more than 500 years it was the only place where a horse and carriage/cart could cross the river. This has caused the streets on both sides to basically funnel people from Mala Strana and the Old Town onto it. It’s also part of the Royal Road and people are walking that as well so pretty much if you are exploring the historic centre of the city you cannot fail to use it.
Best time of the day/year to visit?
Spring and Autumn mornings can be very misty around the river but you’ll need to be up early to see it so sunrise around April/May time is my favourite time. You can also get some very nice pictures of the Charles Bridge glowing orange in the night light so photographers will include it in their own Prague points of interest for iconic pictures. Charles Bridge can be included as part of a Private Tour.
And now having seen all the pictures etc I bet you’re wondering how the hell they managed to build this in the 14th Century so here’s a 3 Minute Video to Show You how Charles Bridge Was Built.
Something Related or a Few Minutes Away
Attraction – Jan Nepomuk Statue
Activity – Charles Bridge Portrait Artists
Art and Culture – Karel Zeman Film Effects Museum
Services – Gas Lights in Prague
Memorial – May 9th (Pepik Smejkal)