Stepping foot on Charles Bridge, you will experience the marvel of history, culture, splendor, and authenticity all in one place.
History of Charles Bridge
Bringing Prague together across the Vltava River since the 15th century, Charles Bridge has had quite a rich history behind it. The bridge was not always called Charles Bridge, nor was it the first bridge built in that location. Before Charles Bridge, there was a wooden bridge that collapsed in 1157, and later the Judith Bridge which collapsed in 1342. Regarding the name, it was called Stone Bridge in the past and later Prague Bridge. Only in the early 19th century during the Czech National Revival movement did it come to be known as Charles Bridge in honor of King Charles IV.
Until 1841, Charles Bridge was the only link between the two coasts of the Vltava River in Prague. Thus, Prague was an important trade route connecting Eastern and Western Europe. That being said, Charles Bridge wasn’t always as elegantly decorated as it is now back then. It was more oriented towards its function as a trade route as the design was much simpler. Only in the late 17th century, with the rise of Baroque culture, was the elaborate statues added to the bridge.
The 30 statues that line up the Charles Bridge today are not the originals from the Baroque period. Rather, the frequent flooding of the Vltava River prompted the city to replace the originals with replicas.
The Charles Bridge wasn’t always a place for business or artistic affairs. In 1393, Saint John of Nepomuk was thrown off the bridge into the Vltava River, and that exact location is remembered with a statue of the saint on the bridge. Furthermore, the Charles Bridge was used as the setting for executions and punishments of criminals.
There is a custom at the statue of Saint John of Nepomuk where people rub the grille to bring good luck. Tourists usually wrongly rub the plaque instead of the grille. The idea is to rub the grille with the left hand to actually bring good luck. On the other hand, many wrongly believe the grille to be a place for “love locks”. It is not. This exact location is where Saint John of Nepomuk was thrown off the Charles Bridge after being tortured and killed. Locking your love locks at the memorial is insensitive and diminishes the significance of the statue.
The crowdedness always ruins the vibe of any place. Charles Bridge is one of the most famous tourist sites in Prague, so it does get crowded throughout the day. Go early in the morning because that is the only time you can enjoy the views from the bridge without the crowd.
The bridge can be crowded even late at night, but do pay a visit at night too because the night view of Prague is spectacular.
Charles Bridge is probably one of the places in Prague with an abundance of pickpockets because of the crowds. Remember to always keep your bag close to you.
How to get to Charles Bridge
By tram: tram stop Staromestska
By metro: station Staromestska (Green line A)