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Bridging Centuries: How to Visit Prague’s Charles Bridge

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Place Details

Name: Charles Bridge

Rating: 4.5 / 5

City: Prague

Country: Czechia

Address: Karlův most, 110 00 Praha 1, Czechia

Location

About Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge in Prague, a historic stone arch bridge spanning the Vltava River, dates back to 1357. Commissioned by King Charles IV, it was the sole river crossing until the mid-19th century. Adorned with 30 statues, mainly of saints, it’s a top attraction offering panoramic views. Connecting Lesser Town and Old Town’s two climbable towers provides a deeper glimpse into Prague’s past. Visitors enjoy early morning walks for a less crowded experience.

Regional Guides

History of the Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge from Prague Castle
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Steadfastly watching over Prague, careening over the Vltava River, is the Charles Bridge or Karlův most. Long before it was one of the city’s top tourist attractions, the bridge was the only means of crossing the river until the mid-19th century. Construction on the stone bridge began in 1357 when the then kingdom of Bohemia was ruled by King Charles IV, hence the name.

Construction took roughly 50 years with Petr Parléř, the famed architect, behind it. He was one of the great architectural masters of the time. He is known for several other Prague buildings, like St. Vitus Cathedral, the Church of Our Lady before Týn, and Golden Lane.

The bridge connects Lesser Town (Malá Strana) and Old Town (Staré Mesto). At each end, two bridge towers stand. Visitors can climb up both towers if they wish. Both have relatively inexpensive tickets and if you visit during the first hour of the day, they are even 50% off.

The Statues

Prague's Charles Bridge Gothic statues against atmospheric skies
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Although not original elements of the bridge, the 30 statues along the Charles Bridge are its most famous sights. They were added starting in the 17th century. The first statue, dated to 1683, is that of Saint John of Nepomuk, who was martyred in 1393 when King Wenceslas IV had him thrown from the bridge.

There is a brass cross marker on the bridge where the saint was thrown; it’s believed that if you place your hand upon one of the stars on the cross, your wish will be granted.

It is said that one of the bridge’s arches collapsed after St. John of Nepomuk’s death. The legend goes that no one could repair the broken arch, so one of the masons made a deal with the devil. It’s believed that the deal was that the soul of the first person to step on the bridge after the repair was successfully done would go to him.

The statues are all being replaced by replicas to protect the originals. That’s no surprise since visitors can often be seen touching the statues for luck — or just touching them to pose for photos. Most of the statues depict saints, though there is also The Crucifix and Calvary, the Madonna(s), and the Lamentation of Christ.

Gothic statue on Charles Bridge, Prague, against stormy sky
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Here’s a photo of Kyle Kroeger (contributor of photography for this piece) and Editor-in-Chief of ViaTravelers on Charles Bridge with a very sleepy baby.

Father and baby on Charles Bridge with historic statue, Prague Castle in the background (source: [MB Bryant Images](https://mbbryantimages.com/2022/10/27/image-alt-text-how-photographers-should-be-using-it-correctly/))
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

How to Visit the Charles Bridge

Tourists walking on Charles Bridge with Prague Castle in skyline.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

You will hear the advice to visit the bridge in the early morning over and over again. I’m here to double down on that advice. Once 10 or 11 a.m. hits, the bridge will be a mass of chaotic tourists for the rest of the day until nightfall. For the best experience (and the chance to actually look at the statues), you should arrive early.

If you want photos with a specific statue, you may need to wait a while. Many folks visit the Charles Bridge for the same reason. In my experience, other tourists are generally polite enough to be done with photos in a minute or two. That said, if you’re there to get a photo of the most famous bridge statue (St. John of Nepomuk), you might be waiting a while.

See Related: Is Prague Safe? Important Safety Tips for Travelers

Advice Before You Visit

Scenic View of Vltava River and Historic Bridges, Prague - Serene river scene with iconic bridges and cityscape
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers
  • Because it’s such a popular tourist attraction in Prague, be forewarned that sellers are usually on the bridge. They’ll lay out a blanket for their wares and try to get your attention as you go by, but they’re polite enough. If you aren’t interested in what they have, move along.
  • As with many tourist attractions, you need to be aware of pickpocketers. When walking in a throng of people on the bridge (as seen in the first photo above), always watch your surroundings. Have your belongings in front of you or front pockets, and keep your phone close to your body when you can. No need to be paranoid, just cognizant.

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