Let’s have a look at Charles Bridge, the most famous bridge in Prague, its history, interesting facts and hotels near.
Karlův most is not just a famous bridge in Prague, it’s also the second oldest Czech bridge, the oldest bridge on the river Vltava and one of the most iconic sights of the country.
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What is Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge is a 515 meters-long and 9,5 meters-wide sandstone bridge connecting the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) and Olt Town (Staré Město) of Prague. It consists of 16 arches and is adorned with 30 statues and sculptural groups. At the side of the Lesser Town there are two towers – the smaller Lesser Town Tower and the larger Lesser Town Tower. On the side of the Old Town there’s the Old Town Tower. One side of the bridge has starling structures installed.
A little bit of History
It’s the year 1357 and the workers are preparing to start the construction of what would become one of the most visited sights in Prague. Fifteen years after the previous Bridge of Judith was destroyed by the melting ice. The construction was initiated by the order of the Czech king and Holy Roman emperor Charles IV. The works under the supervision of Petr Parléř started in 1357.
The construction of the bridge took 45 years and it was originally called the Stone Bridge or the Prague Bridge. The bridge was the only bridge over the Vltava river until 1841 when the Bridge of Francis I. was built. It was the writer K. H. Borovský who renamed the bridge to Charles bridge in the 1870s.
When you think about the Charles Bridge in Prague, you’ll immediately imagine the statues on both sides of the bridge. Charles IV. didn’t get to see his bridge in the same way we know it today as the statues (most of them Baroque) were added more than 300 after the construction started. The authors are Matyáš Braun, Jan Brokof and Maxmilian Brokof. In the 20th century the statues started being replaced by copies. The originals can be found in the Lapidarium of the National Museum and in the Gorlice hall of Vyšehrad.
The bridge was seriously damaged during floods in 1784 and in 1890. It went through general reconstruction in 1965 – 1978. After 2000 an analysis revealed severe problems with this reconstruction and that another reconstruction would be needed. Some works were done in the first decade of the 21st century and the bridge is undergoing more work currently (they should take approximately 20 years).
One legend says that eggs were added to the mortar because it was believed that the eggs would make the mortar more solid and the construction more stable. However, the University of Chemistry and Technology performed an analysis in 2010 and found out that the legend is sadly just a legend. There are no eggs but wine and milk were added to the mortar.
Another legend says that the construction started on July 9, 1357, at exactly 5:31 am, which was the moment calculated by the royal astrologists as the most convenient.
If you look closely at the stone handrail of the bridge, you’ll find a small metal cross. According to a legend, Jan Nepomucký (John of Nepomuk) was thrown into the river here after being tortured. He was the confessor of Sofia of Bavaria, wife of king Wenceslaus IV. As a confessor, he refused to betray the seal of confession of the queen and the king decided to punish him. Another version of the legend says that the reason for his punishment was his statement “only the one who rules properly deserves the name of king” directed at king Wenceslaus.
Charles Bridge Museum
The Charles Bridge Museum has expositions on the history of this unique sight in Prague. You’ll learn some things about the process of construction and the history of connecting the two shores. There are scaled models, including a model of the city from the year 1000 and many unique pieces that you will not see elsewhere.
- The lights were added in 1723 (oil lanterns)
- The heads of 12 men beheaded in the Old Town Square Execution in 1621 were placed in baskets hanging on the bridge as a warning to any people who’d want to revolt. And they were hanging there for several years!
- In 1883, a tramline was introduced to the bridge. The trams were pulled by horses. It was replaced by electric tramline in 1905
- Prague banned cars from the bridge in 1965.
- There’s a sitting statue of Charles IV on the Old Town Square Tower. It’s made according to the king’s true looks.
- Charles Bridge appeared in many famous movies. Its construction was the base for the Czech animated movie Goat Story
- The bridge is depicted on two Czech coins – 5 CZK and 50 CZK
Where to stay in Prague near Charles Bridge
If you want to stay close to the Charles bridge, there are plenty of hotels to choose from. The closest one is probably Hotel Pod Věží, which is right next to the Lesser Town Tower, so it doesn’t get any closer than that. It’s an absolute charming place that offers delicious breakfasts.
To give you a recommendation from the other side of the bridge, Charles Bridge Palace is a very popular choice.
Here’s a map of the hotels near Charles Bridge: