Karlova – Charles Street
Anybody who visits central Prague at some point in their trip will walk along the road called Karlova. It’s the road that links Charles Bridge with the Old Town Square. To be accurate, Karlova links the square on the Old Town side of the Charles Bridge (Křižovnické náměstí – the square of the Knights of the Cross) with the Little Square next to the Old Town Square. This has always been an important route bearing in mind that where the Charles Bridge stands today and all the other bridges that came before it were the primarily vehicular method of linking both sides of the river so it was a busy trade route.
There’s a strong chance that in the 14th Century the street was simply called Bridge Street i.e. like the current name of the street on the other side of Charles Bridge.
Publicly accessible German maps from the 17th/18th Century and even the famous Juttner map of 1816 refer to the street as the Jesuiten Strasse or Jesuit Street. The reason for this is that a part of the present-day Karlova borders the historical site called the Klementinum. The Jesuits arrived here in 1556 and took up residence in the Dominican Monastery of ST Salvator in 1578. As their importance grew they took over more and more land in the area which now forms what we call the Klementinum.
Empress Maria Theresa dissolved the Jesuits in 1775 but it’s clear from the Juttner map of 1816 that the official name of the street was still the Jesuit Street. By 1842 in the reign of Emperor Ferdinand V, maps offer an either/or where they show Jesuit/Karlova. By 1869 and the reign of Emperor Franz Josef, Jesuit has disappeared and all maps now refer to the street as Karlova.
Famous Places in Karlova
The Klementinum houses the National Baroque Library plus an observatory tower which you can see on their organised tour. The Klementinum contains a concert venue called the Mirror Chapel. Karlova Street also hosts the other Cathedral in Prague called ST Clements (Greek Orthodox), the Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace which often opens to the public and the Ta Fantastika blacklight theatre.
Karlova was the location of the first stall in the city that sold Trdlo (chimney cake) with an ice cream filling.