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Medieval Prague and The Charles Bridge: When to Visit and What to See

by Halle Rasco

August 01, 2019

3 minute read

The Czech Republic’s capital can only be described as magical. Founded in the 9th century – the “Golden City of 1000 Spires” is a feast for the eyes as you walk through cobbled streets and take in the medieval and baroque architecture, much of it still original or beautifully restored. Prague was my first introduction to Central & Eastern Europe; this romantic city sparked my obsession with the region.

While exploring Prague, your trip won’t be complete without a visit to the famous Charles Bridge. King Charles IV began constructing the bridge in 1357, which was finished in 1402. Lined with baroque statues of important Catholic figures, the bridge connects the Old Town and the Lesser Quarter, and is the starting point for much of the sightseeing in the city.

 St Vitus

When to Visit the Charles Bridge:

Prague is stunning in every season, but off-season travel when the crowds are away will give you the best chance to explore the bridge at your own pace. No matter what time of year you visit, try to make it to the bridge before 10AM or after 3PM for a bit more solitude. If you’re especially interested in the construction of the bridge (according to some sources, King Charles laid the first brick himself!) or the religious history behind the statues, consider a guided tour across, I loved learning about each statue in-depth! Most were completed by notable artists in the 1700s, but today, all of the statues on the bridge are replicas. The originals are still viewable at the Lapidary of the National Museum or at Gorlice Hall.


Exploring Around the Bridge:

Lesser Quarter

Just a 20-minute walk from the Lesser Quarter Bridge Tower is Hradcany Square, the castle complex that houses Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. If you’re a history buff, you’ll love the well-preserved architecture and learning about the more contemporary uses for the castle. There are also numerous museums and artifacts inside the sprawling grounds. On your way from the bridge to Hradcany, you can find even more medieval architecture and the graffiti-covered Lennon Wall–there aren’t many Instagram spots better than this one!

 St John of Nepomuk

Old Town

On the Old Town side, I’d highly recommend climbing the Old Town Bridge Tower for an iconic aerial view of the city – you’ll pay a few Euro and have to hoof it up the stairs, but the view is well worth it. Roam through the Old Town Square for plenty of gothic architecture and lots of shopping, but steer clear of the tourist traps! Explore the Jewish Museum, a collection of historic sites that tell the long and storied history of Jewish people in the Czech Republic. Especially notable is the Pinkas Synagogue and the Old Jewish Cemetery, one of the most important Jewish cemeteries in Europe. See the famous Church of Our Lady Before Tyn and stop by the Astronomical Clock for an hourly show. A bit further out you’ll find Wenceslas Square—Prague’s contemporary business and shopping center was the site of the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

No matter how you choose to explore the city, I think you’ll find that Prague is truly one of the gems of Europe. End your trip with a magical night stroll across the Charles, and don’t forget to stop at the statue of St. John of Nepomuk – legend goes that if you rub the bronze plaque, you will be destined to one day return to Prague.

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