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Charles Bridge


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Charles Bridge

Translated by Lottie Davies — one year ago

Original text by Maika Cano Martínez

Charles Bridge (Karlův most, in Czech) is one of the most well-known and most important monuments in the country's capital city, Prague. This bridge, which passes over the Vltava river, is the oldest one in the city that is still preserved to the present day, and the second-oldest if we consider all of the bridges in the Czech Republic. Construction was completed in the fifteenth century, although it has had to be renovated since then, due to some flooding and damage suffered during wars that have taken place. Its name, "Charles Bridge", comes from King Charles IV, as he was the individual who began the construction works.

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge connects the two most well-known areas of Prague, the Old Town (Stare Mesto) and Prague Castle (Malá Strana). Thanks to this strategic location, this bridge has been a very important thoroughfare since its construction. Besides, the views that it has of these two areas, especially the castle, are just breathtaking, as well as those of the river and the other bridges in Prague.

The characteristics of this bridge also make it unique: it measures more than half a kilometre long, ten metres wide, and is supported by 16 arches on its underneath section. It was built this wide because, as I have already mentioned, it was the most important linkway between the two areas. In fact, although it now exclusively pedestrianised, carriages and other forms of public transport have, at one point, crossed the bridge; some important battles have even taken place here, given the location that it has.

The bridge is of a Gothic architectural style, made with Bohemia sandstone, and there are two towers, one on either side, which give it a majestic touch and help to preserve its medieval style.

Another important characteristic comes in the form of the 30 statues situated along the sides of the bridge. Up until a few years ago, the original, Baroque-style statues were still in place. However, there are now replicas in their place, and the originals can be visited in the National Museum, Prague.

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Of all of these statues, the most famous one is that of Saint John of Nepomuk, on which you have to rest your left hand on the base, where his martyrdom is found, and make a wish. This statue was the first to be erected on the bridge, and it was apparently here that this man was thrown into the sea by the order of the King.

Charles Bridge

Other statues on the bridge include the Statues of Saints Norbert, Wenceslaus and Sigismund, which all sit together, and that of the Crucifix. However, it has to be said that all of them are worthy of being looked at during a visit to the bridge.

Charles Bridge

Thanks to all of this, the amount of tourists and citizens that travel across Charles Bridge on a daily basis is elevated - there is a lot of pedestrianised traffic. Besides, there are artists and street vendors that set up on the bridge to take advantage of this traffic of people, displaying their art or trying to make some money by selling their handicrafts and souvenirs; they are normally not too irritating or insistent.

The towers that sit on either side of the bridge and act as entrances are also monuments in their own right. Given their relevance, I am going to talk about them in a little bit more detail:

The tower that sits between the Charles Bridge and the Old Tower, known as the Old Town Bridge Tower (Staroměstská mostecká věž, in Czech), is one of the Gothic jewels of both Prague and the entire world. It served as a triumphal gate that the Kings passed through during the Royal Route, which ended at Prague Castle.

Charles Bridge

The Old Town Bridge Tower measures 47 metres in height, has three horizontal floors and a roof. The lower level has a large, arch-shaped walkway in the centre for pedestrians; the middle level is home to sculptures of Saint Vitus, Charles IV and Saint Wenceslaus, separated by two shields; and, on the upper level, there are two sculptures that represent Saints Sigismund and Adalbert, who are the country's patron saints, some windows and decoration on the stone.

You can go into this tower, as it has a lookout with some great views of both the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. It's not free to visit, but I cannot remember the exact prices they were charging to tell you. What I do know, however, is that there is no elevator to take up to the top of the tower; don't worry though, it's not that far to climb up. Amongst all of the towers that I saw in Prague, this one is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite: it's extraordinary and was the first monument that I saw upon my arrival in the city.

On the opposite side of the bridge, arriving into Malá Strana, you will find two towers joined together. The smaller tower is called the Judith's Tower: it is of an Romanesque style, has been standing and preserved for much longer than the Charles Bridge, and originally sat where the bridge can be found today.

Charles Bridge

The two towers are joined together by a walkway, as it was also another of the gates to the city.

Charles Bridge

The second tower is much larger and is of a Gothic architectural style. Its designed was inspired by the Old Town Bridge Tower, and has a stark resemblance; although, the other tower is more beautiful and impressive. The Powder Tower also inspired this tower, so it's fairly possible that you mix the two up. Within this tower, there is an exhibition dedicated to the history of the Charles Bridge, as well as an area from which you can admire both the bridge and the Old Town. The entrance to this tower isn't free either, costing around €2 to €3 per person. If you are interested, there is a pass that you can purchase for 400 Kč, which allows you access to all of the towers in Prague (I am not sure if it includes admission to other monuments though).

The bridge is not only a public walkway, it's a collection of artwork that makes you feel like you have gone back in time: you are fortunate enough to see all of this architectural beauty whilst walking through Prague, and it is like a little open-air museum. Of course, don't forget to admire the Charles Bridge from another of the parallel bridges that the city is home to, or from another area close to the Vltava River - like the Vltava beach, for example. Don't miss out on walking over the bridge at sunset, as seeing the sun go down and the street lamps being turned on at the same time is a unique experience.

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

The closest metro station to the Charles Bridge is "Staromestska", situated on line A, and the closest tram stop is "Krizovnicke namesti", served by lines 17 and 18.

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