The 13th century Charles Bridge is a popular attraction in Eastern Europe, especially during the spring and summer months. Early morning is the best time to have the bridge by your own since it’s always filled with tourists. A romantic evening walk through the beautifully-lit streets of Prague by night is an awesome idea too.
The famous Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava River in Prague, connects the Old Town and Malá Strana (Lesser Quarter). Before Charles Bridge was built, there was once a wooden bridge on the same spot, and then the first stone bridge. They both collapsed due to floods hundreds years ago. Charles Bridge is no exception, it has many times been the victim of floods. Nevertheless, it is still standing and hopefully it will still survive many years after.
The 502-meters long stone Gothic bridge was originally called the “Stone Bridge” but has been the Charles Bridge (named after King Charles IV) since 1870. The architect in charge of the construction was Petr Parléř, whose other works include the St. Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle. Resting on 16 arches, it is nearly 10 meters wide and was wide enough for 4 carriages to cross at the same time while it served as the only permanent link between both riversides. It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side.
On the Lesser Town end of the Charles Bridge are two bridge towers. The smaller one is a 12th century remainder of the first stone bridge – Judith Bridge. The taller, Late Gothic tower – Old Town Bridge Tower, which was erected in the 15th century, is considered as the most beautiful bridge tower in Europe due to its beautiful sculptural decoration.
Until 1683, there was no statue on the bridge. Around 1700, 30 Baroque-style statues were placed on either sides of the bridge. The statue of St. John of Nepomuk (no. 8 from the right as you cross towards the castle) was the first one placed on Charles Bridge. Most of the statues have been polished to a shine by countless tourists who had touched them over the centuries. Touching the statue is believed to bring good luck and ensure the return to Prague. Due to damage caused by various floods and catastrophes over the centuries, now the original statues are kept in the Lapidarium, while the statues on the Charles Bridge are replicas.
Depending on your own preference, the best time of the day to visit the bridge is at sunset, which offers a breathtaking view of the fully-lit Prague Castle against the evening sky; whereas, if you want to have it all by yourself, go there very early in the morning.