'Charles Bridge' needs no introduction to people familiar of it's existence. I remember when I first researched for my trip, the top 2 things in Prague to see was the Astronomical Tower Clock and the Charles Bridge. Photographs of these places of interest were aplenty but I knew I had to see it for myself to have a taste of this place that encompasses a huge part of Prague's history.
The most famous bridge in Prague and the whole of Czech, it spans 520 metres over the Vltava River, and used to be the only bridge connecting Prague Castle to the old town. It was known as Karlův Most to the locals, was once called Stone Bridge/ Kamenný Most, then Prague Bridge/ Pražský Most, and was name after King Charles IV only after 1870, with it's current moniker and what we know of it, Charles Bridge.
It was built with 16 arches and 3 towers, 1 at the old town/ Stare Mesto side and 2 of which located at Lesser Quarter/ Mala Strana. The bridge sits near to the waters, seemingly floating just above it, and have since been prone to floods and damage, which cost 3 of it's arches. Along both sides of the bridge are a set of around 30 statues that were erected back in the 17th - 18th century. Currently, the original statues are removed and preserved in the National Museum, while replicas take their place. These statues are actually that of Saints and Veteran Saints of that time.
The Charles Bridge is held in high esteem because it encompasses almost wholly of the medieval town, as it fell almost unscathed during World War II to the Germans and Russians.
So where exactly and what time is the best time to view the Charles Bridge?
Avoid the crowd at Sunrise
At sunrise, the bridge and it's surrounds could be viewed with a rosy blush engulfing the architecture, casting shadows all around, leaving mysterious looking silhouettes of the statues on the surfaces. We were reluctant to get up (due to the cold - it was so nice and cozy in bed!), but did so anyway because we just knew it would be a fantastic time to see the bridge without too many other people.
Admire the bridge and bird watch on Smetanovo nábřeží
The view from Smetanovo nábřeží allowed for a different view of the bridge. Approaching the bridge is a museum - Bedřich Smetana Museum - it had a perch that had a small cafe for people to drink coffee and be outside. You don't have to spend a single cent if you don't want to, as the area consisted of many people who were just admiring the view and are not patrons of the cafe. We spotted some bird playing in the water and flying around in formations, which was quite deslightful. We visited Tancici Dum - the dancing building - before walking down here as it wasn't too far off.
Make use of bridges parallel to the Charles Bridge
Mánesův most is a bridge that is parallel to the Charles Bridge. From this view you will be able to see all the arches and one of it's tower. This bridge is mainly for cars and trams and there are walkways on both sides of the road. From here, continue walking down náměstí Jana Palacha and Křižovnická, making your way towards the Muzeum Karlova mostu which is just beside the start of the Charles Bridge. There are a couple of benches to sit on and just relax and watch the world go by.
Explore the stalls set up on the bridge on a weekend
Though crowded, it is still an experience to be on the bridge on a weekend to see the stalls that are set up. They usually sell their craft - drawing caricatures, watercolour landscapes, as well as what we noticed as a small handmade instrument (think ocarinas) and other assortments of postcards and posters. And of course, in the day time it is better to take a close look at the statues (if it was too dark at dawn to see it properly).
Cross over to Malá Strana, climb up 299 steps up Petřín Tower
Take the challenge and climb up 299 steps to get to the Petřín Lookout Tower (Petřínská rozhledna). It is a 63.5m tall, steel-framed tower that resembles the Eiffel Tower (and is taller too!). You can either hike up the Petřín hill, or take the furnicular to get to the tower. It offers 2 observation decks and a 360 panorama view of the city. Try spotting famous landmarks like the Charles Bridge and the Prague castle. You might also be able to spot the old town square and the Church of Our Lady before Týn, the iconic church standing in the old town.
At night, when the lights under the arches light up at Malá Strana
On the bridge Mánesův most on the Malá Strana side near the Vltava River, watch as a flock of swans waddle to the shore in search of food. We spotted a mysterious lady in black bringing a bag of bread (which seemed to be unsold from a bakery) to these swans. She patiently tears us to bread and throws it in all directions for these hungry birds, in case they are unable to break it down into smaller pieces - all this happening with the illuminated Charles Bridge as a backdrop. As the night slowly gets deeper, it gets quieter. And that's where the bridge looks ever so curious and enigmatic.
Where is your favourite place to see this bridge?