TE 4 – The History of Prague’s Bridges
Date: 3 October 2023, 9:00-13:00 EN, FR, ES, CZ / 13:30-17:30 EN, FR, ES, CZ
This tour will involve a boat ride to view selected bridges over the Vltava River.
This new road and tram bridge over the Vltava, which connects with the Blanka Tunnel Complex, was opened on 6 October 2014. The bridge is 262.1 m long, 36 m wide, its main span is 200.4 m, and the total height of the superstructure is 34 m above the maximum navigation height.
The original 221 m long and 16 m wide bridge (generally known as the Troja Bridge) was opened in October 1928, with its use for tram service eventually being added in January 1936. As part of the major efforts to tackle Prague’s transport problems during the 1970s and 1980s, a decision was made to demolish this bridge and build a new one. The lower parts of the river piers were retained as far up as the water’s surface. The newly constructed bridge has six road traffic lanes spread over a width of 33.5 m, and tram traffic is no longer permitted. The bridge was inaugurated on 28 November 1980.
Holešovice Railway Bridge
Holešovice Railway Bridge (below the Bulovka Hospital site) connects the Prague-Holešovice train station and the Rokytka branch line in Libeň, forming part of the route of the “Holešovice switchback”. This prestressed concrete bridge is 10 m wide and 387.5 m in length, divided up into 5 equal spans of 77.5 m. It has been in service since December 1976.
Libeň Bridge has joined the left-bank district of Holešovice with Libeň on the right since 29 October 1928, when it replaced the temporary wooden bridge originally built in 1903. It carries tram lines in both directions. The bridge itself is constructed from six component units, and is supposedly the only bridge in the world built in the cubist style. The bridge complex comprises a further five additional parts, so that the bridge structures themselves total 493 m in length, and 780 m if the earth embankment on the Holešovice side is included. In contrast to the bridges preceding it, this bridge was built with a width of 21 m.
The Negrelli Viaduct (also called the Karlín Viaduct) consists of a railway bridge over the Vltava River plus a viaduct in the Karlín district, and connects Prague’s Masaryk Train Station with the Prague-Bubny station by way of Štvanice Island. It is named after its builder Alois Negrelli. Historically, it was Prague’s very first railway bridge, and is the second oldest extant bridge over the Vltava in the city. At 1,110 m, it is also the longest railway bridge and overall the fourth longest bridge in the Czech Republic. It was put into service on 1 June 1850, and when finally completed had a total of 87 stone arches. The width of the deck between the stone parapets is 7.6 m. It has undergone several modifications over the years, and in 1871 was extended on the south side by the Karlín Connector Viaduct to create a direct link between the Bubny and Libeň districts without going via the main train station. The most extensive rehabilitation project began in 2017, with the bridge being reopened for rail traffic on 1 June 2020. This allowed a new track speed of 60 km/h on the viaduct, which significantly improved traffic flow conditions, with a greater number of trains passing over it.
Hlávka Bridge connects Wilsonova Street, on the boundary between Prague’s New Town and Karlín districts, with Bubenská Street in Holešovice. It consists of two differently constructed parts, which connect the banks of the Vltava by way of Štvanice Island. It was built between 1908 and 1911 in conjunction with a project to regulate the Vltava, during which the course of the river was changed. Between 1958 and 1962 the bridge was completely rebuilt and extended, resulting in the almost direct path that it follows today, and its iron parts were replaced with reinforced concrete. The northernmost end of the bridge has a total of seven arches, while its southern part is constructed without arches. Its total length is 297 m, with a width of 28 m, and tram lines run along the bridge in the middle of the road.
Štefánik Bridge connects Revoluční Street – the boundary between Prague’s Old and New Towns on the right bank of the Vltava – with the Letná Tunnel, Edvard Beneš Embankment and Kapitán Jaroš Embankment on the left, and also carries tram lines. The original Emperor Franz Joseph I Bridge, which was built here in 1865 – 1868 and rebuilt in 1898, was demolished in 1946 – 1947. The current bridge was built between 1949 and 1951, and has a reinforced concrete structure with three arches spanning 58.8 m, 64.4 m and 65.1 m. The bridge itself is 182 m long, plus approach ramps of 263 m in length. In 1953 the connecting Letná Tunnel was opened on the left bank of the Vltava.
Čech Bridge links Curie Square, on the right bank, with Edvard Beneš Embankment on the left. It is 169 m long (i.e. the shortest of Prague’s Vltava bridges) and 16 m wide. It is the Czech Republic’s only ornamented bridge structure of such a scale dating from the Art Nouveau period, and is classified as a protected technical monument. Tram lines run along the bridge in both directions. It was built between 1905 and 1908, and today it is the only steel arch bridge in Prague.
Mánes Bridge is 186 m long, 16 m wide, and is used for tram transport. It connects Palach Square in the city’s Old Town (near the Staroměstská metro station and the Josefov district) with the Klárov area on Prague’s Malá Strana side (near the Malostranská metro station). The bridge was inaugurated on 11 March 1914, originally as the Archduke Franz Ferdinand Bridge, before receiving its present name in 1920.
Charles Bridge (originally the “Stone Bridge”) is the oldest extant bridge over the Vltava River in Prague, and the second oldest surviving bridge in the Czech Republic. It was built to replace the earlier Judith Bridge, dating to 1172, which was destroyed by snowmelt flooding in the spring of 1342. Construction of the new bridge began in 1357 under the patronage of King Charles IV and was completed in 1402, and since the end of the 17th century a total of 30 statues and sculptures have been added, mostly in the Baroque style. Connecting Prague’s Old Town with its Malá Strana side, Charles Bridge is 515.76 m long, 9.40 – 9.50 m wide, and its roadway is 13 m above the normal level of the river. It has sixteen arches, with spans of between 16.62 m (the Old Town bank) and 23.38 m, and has three bends in it, making it slightly convex in the upstream direction. The bridge was damaged several times during heavy flooding in 1432, 1655, 1784, 1845 and 1872, and in 1890 this caused two arches of the bridge to collapse, along with damage to three of its piers. In 1965 – 1978 it underwent a complete renovation, and in 2007 – 2010 its superstructure was repaired. The bridge was formerly used even for public transport vehicles, but this was stopped at the end of WW2, and in 1965 car traffic was also banned. Since then the bridge has been reserved for pedestrians only.
Legion Bridge connects Národní Street with the Újezd district and Prague’s Malá Strana side by way of Strělecký Island, and is used for tram transport. The original chain bridge was built in 1839 – 1841 and was in use until 1898, until it was replaced by the current stone bridge in 1898 – 1901. The bridge has nine very flat arches with spans from 26 m to 42 m, and is 16.4 m wide. Both ends have two towers, at which tolls were collected in the bridge’s olden days.
Jirásek Bridge connects Jirásek Square in Prague’s right-bank New Town with the left‑bank Smíchov district. Its construction began in 1929. It is built of reinforced concrete, and its five river piers, which are 4.6 m wide, are lined with granite blocks. The bridge is 310.6 m long, 21 m wide, and has six arches with spans from 45 m to 51 m. It was opened in two stages – first its central section with tram tracks in 1931, then the rest of the bridge on 18 October 1933. The tram route was later found to be superfluous, and the tracks were removed. However, the bridge was subsequently used for Prague’s only trolleybus route connecting both banks of the Vltava.
Palacký Bridge was built in 1876 – 1878 to provide access to the rapidly developing industrial district of Smíchov. It was opened for use on 22 December 1878, and is now the third oldest surviving bridge across the Vltava in Prague, as well as the first to carry a tram line. The bridge is made of stone, has seven arches, and was the first bridge in Prague to use caisson foundations for its piers. It was built with the expectation that it would be widened in the future, but this was only carried out after WW2 in 1950 – 1951, when its overall width was increased from 10.7 m to 13.9 m. It is 228.8 m long.
Vyšehrad Railway Bridge
Vyšehrad Railway Bridge crosses the Vltava in Prague near the district of Výton (formerly Podskalí) below Vyšehrad Castle, on one side, and Smíchov on the other. The original bridge at this site was built in 1871 – 1872, and formed part of what was then called the “Prague Connector Railway”, which ran through the Nusle Valley. However, by the end of the 19th century, the old single-track bridge was no longer adequate, and a new bridge was therefore built in 1900 – 1901. Two new stone piers were set in the river bed, and three parabolic truss girders, 72 m long and weighing 560 tonnes, were assembled on a wooden structure next to the original bridge near the Vyšehrad side. The structures were then swapped over during a two-day closure. Electrical service was introduced on the railway bridge in 1928 as part of the overall electrification of Prague’s railways. Its total length is 298 m, and there are pedestrian walkways on both sides.
Barrandov Bridge is a road bridge across the Vltava River in Prague that was built in 1978 – 1988. It connects the districts of Hlubočepy, on the left bank, and Braník on the right, and its name comes from the district of Barrandov. It has four lanes in each direction, and is also used by pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge forms part of the Prague Inner Ring Road, and is Prague’s biggest and busiest road, with around 140,000 vehicles crossing it daily. Half of the bridge – the southern side – was opened on 20 September 1983, with the northern side opening in 1988. It is constructed as a six-span continuous beam of prestressed concrete, with a width ranging from 40 m to 55 m and a total length of 352 m. Its deck stands 15 m above the river, and the spans between the piers are 34 m + 61 m + 71 m + 72 m + 66 m + 45 m. The bridge is built at a sharp angle to the river (53 degrees).
Braník Bridge is a railway bridge with a pedestrian walkway that spans the Vltava valley in the southern part of Prague, between the Malá Chuchle and Braník districts. It was built in 1949 – 1955 and put into service for rail transport on 30 May 1964. It has 15 spans of 53.5 m each, is 14 m wide, rises 6 m between its ends, and has a structural height of 19 m above the Vltava River. The walkway has lighting and is situated in the middle of the bridge between the tracks, from which it is fenced off. The bridge forms part of the “southern” or “Braník” rail link (Radotín – Vršovice) that allows freight traffic to bypass the centre of Prague. At 948 m in length, it has the potential to be the longest double‑track reinforced concrete railway bridge in Europe. At present, however, only one track is laid on it. Its second track will finally be laid in 2023 – 2024.
Radotín Bridge consists of a pair of bridge structures on the Prague Outer Ring Road, spanning the valley of the Vltava and Berounka rivers just upstream of their confluence. Although the two structures seamlessly connect to form a single bridge, from an official perspective they are two different constructions, each involving a different structural design and built by a different contractor. This is officially the longest bridge in the Czech Republic, and was put into service on 20 September 2010. Its first part is a 236 m bridge, which extends from the Komořany side to span railway line 210, the Vltava River, and the northern tip of the protected natural heritage site Krňák. Its second part is a 2,045-meter long elevated roadway with 37 spans, which continues from the motorway intersection to pass above the site of the planned Radotín Lagoon, the Berounka River, Výpadová and Vrážská Streets and railway line 171. It ends at the boundary of the Radotín and Velká Chuchle districts, rising as high as 40 m above the ground on its western side. Both sections were designed as R 27.5/100 (width and speed) category roads. Where it spans the Vltava the bridge also has a suspended footbridge below its deck for pedestrians and cyclists to cross from Komořany to Lahovice, which was opened on 12 April 2014.
09.00 – 09.30
transfer from the Prague Congress Centre to the boat dock Císařský ostrovin Troja
09.30 – 12.30
boat cruise from Troja upstream with slowdown or short stops at the most interesting bridges with interpretation; Radotín Bridge will be visible only from a distance, so that it is not necessary to cross the stage in Modřany
12.30 – 13.00
end of the cruise in Braník at the exit point at km 59.4, disembarkation from the boat, transfer from Braník to the Prague Congress Centre
13.30 – 14.00
transfer from the Prague Congress Centre to the boat dock in Braník at km 59.4,
boarding the boat
14.00 – 17.00
boat cruise from Braník downstream with slowdown or short stops at the most interesting bridges with interpretation; Radotín Bridge will be seen only from a distance, so that it is not necessary to cross the stage in Modřany;
end of the cruise at the Císařský ostrov boat dock in Troja
17.00 – 17.30
transfer from Troja to the Prague Congress Centre