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Charles Bridge is a 14th century stone bridge linking the two sides of Prague. Not only is this magnificent structure one of the city's finest attractions, it is also the main pedestrian route connecting the Old Town with Mala Strana, and onto Prague Castle.

From Charles Bridge visitors enjoy fairytale views of the Prague skyline. The wide expanse of the river flows beneath it, flanked on both sides by elegant buildings. Prague Castle towers above in its eminent position. Here you are truly in the centre of the city.

Charles Bridge throngs with people during the day. Street artists sketch and musicians play; look out for the jazz band, who are particularly entertaining. But for a truly romantic and less crowded stroll, try early morning or any time in the evening.

King Charles IV commissioned the bridge. The foundation stone was laid in 1357. Charles IV's favourite architect and builder, Peter Parler, oversaw the majority of the work. The initial idea was to build a functional construction for knight tournaments, and for many years the only decoration on the bridge was a simple crucifix. Later, the Catholic desire for ornamentation resulted in 30 statues being erected between 1600 and 1800.

There are now 75 statues, but most are copies, as floods and catastrophes over the centuries damaged the originals. Perhaps the most interesting, as well as the oldest, is that of John of Nepomuk (8th from the right as you cross towards Prague Castle).

The entrance to Charles Bridge is marked at both ends by towers: the Old Town Bridge Tower and the Mala Strana Bridge Tower.

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Additional Photos by Zorica Helach (zhelach) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 225 W: 55 N: 832] (3626)
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