Vltava River in Prague Image of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle at dusk

Vltava River in Prague

Explore the banks & bridges of the wonderful Vlava River in Prague

Exploring the Vltava River in Prague is one of the best ways to get to know the city.  The stunning Charles Bridge crosses it and mighty Prague Castle overlooks it, but there’s so much more to see besides. For a start, there are four castles in Prague, all within sight of the lovely river Vltava. 

The beautiful Prague river is also the national Czech river, rising near Cesky Krumlov and passing through much of Bohemia before flowing into the Elbe north of Prague at Melnik. We travel along it several times a week, seeing familiar and unknown Prague sights along the way. 

And we thought it was high time we put together a guide to things to see and do along the river in Prague. 

Image of a boat trip on the Vltava River near Kampa Island
A Prague Vltava cruise is a great way to see the city

We’ll show you all the Prague attractions along the way, and point out unique Prague architecture along the way. As well as seeing some of the great landmarks of Prague we’ll introduce you to some of the city’s amazing hidden treasures. We’ll also suggest different ways to enjoy your Prague river tour 

Our journey down the Vltava River Prague takes us from the southern boundary of the city at the pretty town of Zbraslav, continuing through Prague city centre and beyond to Troja Castle and Prague Zoo. We’ll also suggest ways to explore the river, places to eat and some of the best viewpoints in Prague from which you can appreciate the beauty of the river. 

The River In Prague – An Introduction 

Prague things to see Image of a tram crossing a bridge in Prague
A tram crossing the Manes Bridge over the River Vltava

The Vltava River – pronounced VUL-ta-va, with the stress on the first syllable – is 435 km (270 miles) long 

It also runs through the cities of Cesky Krumlov and Ceské Budejovice before reaching Prague 

It’s one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe, and one of its most scenic stretches is around 20 km south of Prague 

It’s known as the Moldau river in German 

There are 18 bridges in Prague crossing the Vltava River through Prague, from the iconic stone Charles Bridge to the massive concrete Barrandov crossing 

There are three ways to explore the Vltava – on foot, on some of the Prague trams and on a Prague river cruise 


We begin in the small, pretty Bohemian town of Zbraslav, which was once occupied by the Celts, who had a large fortress there. The town has some beautiful architecture, most notably Zbraslav Chateau (Zamek Zbraslav), a Baroque edifice built on the site of a Cistercian monastery meant to be the burial place of the early medieval Přemyslid monarchs. There are also several fine villas in the town. 

St John Nepomuk Church, Chuchelsky haj 

Prague points of interest Image of St John of Nepomuk church in the forest outside Prague
St John Nepomuk Church, in the forest high above the Vltava

North of Zbraslav, the Vltava passes some of the southern suburbs of Prague, while the left bank is mostly forested. The tiny Baroque church of St John Nepomuk is the only visible landmark in the area, usually only accessible only on foot. It’s such a charming little church,and one of the most intriguing churches in Prague, offering a wonderful journey back in time – there’s no electricity, so some services are conducted in candlelight. The Mala Chuchle Zoo is a short walk away, and has a small collection of forest animals, a great place to take the kids for an hour or two. 

Barrandov Bridge 

Even a city as beautiful as Prague has its corners of concrete brutalism. We’ve included the Barrandov bridge in our Vltava river guide for functionalist rather than aesthetic purposes – it is the busiest road junction in the Czech Republic, and if you’re planning any day trips from Prague by car, there’s a fair chance you’ll be passing over it.  

Žlute Lázně 

Prague Activities Image of sailing boats on the Vltava River Prague
Sailing is one of the main Prague activities along the river

Žlute Lázně is the nearest thing there is to a Prague beach. Therre is a sandy area, part of which is used for beach volleyball, and a grass beach on the Vltava. There are also restaurants and swimming pools ideal for kids. It’s always busy in summer, especially popular with locals. Outside the complex (entry 50 Kc per person over 1 metre tall – children’s area an additional 30 Kc per person the same height) a ferris wheel and dodgems are set up close by. 

Getting there – Dvorce tram stop (route 2, 3, 17) 

Vysehrad Castle 

Image of the view from Vysehrad Castle POrague down thre river to Prague Castle
From one Prague castle to another – Vysehrad to the more famous Prazsky hrad

Vysehrad Prague  doesn’t get anything like the number of visitors that Prague Castle does, largely because 2 or 3 days in Prague doesn’t give you the time to venture this far from the centre. Yet Vysehrad is one of the best places to visit in Prague. It’s the traditional home of the  Přemyslid dynasty, many a Czech legend and a great part of the Czech nation’s soul and psyche.   

Image of the view up the river Vltava from Vysehrad in Prague
Looking south up the Vltava from Vysehrad ramparts

The ramparts have some of the best views in Prague, the Basilica is a Gothic Revival and Art Nouveau treasure and the Vysehrad Cemetery and Slavin tomb are the last resting places of some of the foremost Czechs in history, including composers Dvořak and Smetana and artist Alfons Mucha. 

How to get there – Vyšehrad Metro (red line C) or trams 7 or 17 to Vyton. 

Prague Cubist Architecture 

The streets below Vysehrad fortress are unique architecturally, as they are one of the only places in the world to see Cubist architecture.  The Cubist art movement – including the likes of Picasso and Braque – had a huge impact, but Cubist architecture never really spread beyond Bohemian borders. The Kovaricova Villa on Libušina and the Trojdum (Triple House) around the corner on Rašinovo nabřeži are the best examples – look for features like the diamond shapes and decorations. There are other examples further down the river, past Vyton tram stop. In the Old Town, the Prague Cubist Museum reveals all. 


Smichov Prague is a busy suburb on the left bank of the river, a busy transport hub with Prague’s second largest railway station, Smichovské nádraži, and one of its largest bus stations the gateway to much of the rest of the Czech Republic. It’s not really one of the Prague tourist places, but it’s one of the most convenient areas of Prague to stay in because of its transport links. The Staropramen brewery is home to one of the most popular Czech beers, and its tall, tapering chimney is the most visible landmark of the area. Also look out for Portheimka, a small art gallery with a superb collection of glassware, and the Kinsky Gardens, on the southern end of Petřin Hill. 


Naplavka is the section of riverbank between the Smichov railway bridge and Palacky bridge a few hundred metres downstream.  It’s the epicentre of Prague nightlife in summer, the river bank lined with boat bars, restaurants and even a floating beach volleyball court. If you’re in Prague in springtime or summer, it’s one of the best places in Prague to hang out for an evening, enjoying outstanding Czech beer and watching the sights in Prague light up for the night. Naplavka is also the venue for the Saturday Farmers Market. 

Palackého náměstí and Palacky Bridge 

Image of Palackeho most or Palacky bridge Prague
Palacky bridge, which links Prague New Town with Smíchov

Palackého náměstí is the busiest junction on the right bank of the river, often crammed with trams running along the river and crossing it between Smíchov and Prague New Town. The square and bridge are named after Czech historian Frantisek Palacky, whose impressive Art Nouveau statue dominates the square. Walk down the hill to the flower garden from which you’ll see the eye-catching twin-spired Emmaus Monastery. These spires replaced the towers destroyed in 1945. The monastery, dating back to the 14th century, was the only Benedictine foundation in Slavic Europe, and some amazing wall paintings remain in the cloisters. 

Dancing House 

Image of the Dancing House Prague
Prague’s famous Dancing House

The Dancing House, partly the work of Frank Gehry (of Guggenheim Bilbao fame), is one of the most famous buildings in Prague, and is very much a fixture on the Prague sightseeing circuit. It resembles a man and woman dancing, especially from the Jiraskovo namesti side. You can drop inside for a coffee or upstairs to the roof terrace for something a little stronger, or stay there for the night. 

It’s on the corner of Resslova, on which you’ll find the Orthodox Cathedral of SS Cyril and Methodius. The assassins of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich made their heroic last stand in the cathedral crypt, which is now a national monument. 

Getting there – Jiraskove namesti tram stop (tram 17) or Karlovo namesti Metro (yellow line B) 

Jirasek Bridge 

The Jirasek Bridge (Jiraskuv most) is named after Czech writer Alois Jirasek, whose statue sits surveying the square, Jiraskovo namesti, which is also named after him. This wide bridge was added between 1929 and 1931, ostensibly to carry trams, which it never did. It’s a useful crossing to Smichov, and one of the most popular islands in Prague.  

Getting there – tram to Jiraskovo namesti 

Šitka Water Tower and Manes Gallery 

Image of the Sitka water tower and river in Prague
The Sitka is one of the most prominent Prague landmarks on the right bank of the river

The functionalist Manes Gallery was built on the site of the Šitka Water Mills which were demolished in the early 20th century. The adjacent 16th century water tower was destabilised and started to tilt, but its decline was arrested. The new Manes building is one of the most important art galleries in Prague, an excellent exhibition space that is hosting a Banksy retrospective at the time of writing. The building is also home to the Manes Art Restaurant, one of the finest in Prague.   

Getting there – tram to Jiraskovo namesti 

Slavonic Island 

Image of the Zofin Palace on Slavonic Island Prague
take a pedal boat ride from Slovansky Island Prague

Slavonic Island – Slovansky ostrov in Czech – is one of the best places in Prague to sit back and chill for a while. The island got its name after hosting many pan-Slavic cultural events. There are two small parks, one either side of the pretty yellow Zofin Palace, a concert venue where the likes of Berlioz and Wagner have performed.  The park near the northern tip of the island is shady, whereas the more exposed one to the south has a brilliant children’s playground. It’s connected to Masarykovo nabřeži by two bridges. It’s also one of the best place to hire pedal boats in Prague for a foray on the Vltava. 

Children’s Island – Detsky Ostrov 

Image of the Malostranska water tower and Children's Island Prague
The Malostranska Water Tower and Children’s Island

If you’re wondering where to go in Prague to let your kids burn off some energy, welcome to one of our favourite hangouts.  Children’s Island is on the left bank (Smíchov) side, between Jirasek Bridge and Legion Bridge.  The medieval white Malostranska Water Tower was for centuries the source of water for the left bank area.  After crossing the steep footbridge, turn left down the hill for one of the biggest Prague playgrounds, with something for kids of all ages. There’s also an all-weather hockey pitch which is mainly used by local kids as a football pitch. The island also has great river views, and several Prague boat tours pass this way. 

Getting there – Arbesovo náměstí – in the northern part of Smichov – is the closest tram stop, and Anděl is the nearest Metro stop (yellow line B) 

Masarykovo nabřeži  

This elegant stretch of right bank embankment is one of the most beautiful of all Prague streets. It’s lined with a series of handsome Art Nouveau Prague mansions, best seen and appreciated from across the water on Slovansky Island. Look out for the Hlahol building, home to one of the oldest choirs in Prague, with its lavish Art Nouveau mosaic façade. 

Getting there – Narodni divadlo tram stop (tram 9, 17, 22) 

National Theatre 

Image of the National Theatre from under the Charles Bridge Prague
Narodni divadlo, the NAtional Theatre, framed by an arch of the Charles Bridge

Suddenly the top things to see in Prague come thick and fast. The National Theatre – Narodni divadlo – is one of the best performance venues in the country, and the home of Czech opera. The opulent original building, which looks out over the river, was completed in 1881, and the second stage building behind it was completed in the early 1980s. 

Getting there – Narodni divadlo tram stop (tram 9, 17, 22) 

Legion Bridge 

Image of boats near Legion Bridge Prague
Boats moored close to Legion Bridge

In any other city, the Legion Bridge (Legii Most) would be the most beautiful in the city. It’s a particularly beautiful bridge, with a pair of graceful domed towers at each end and Art Nouveau trimmings aplenty. It was built to honour the Czechoslovak Legion who fought for independence from the Habsburg Empire in its dying days. The views of Prague Castle are fantastic, and an elevator and staircase lead down to Shooters’ Island (Strelecky Ostrov), another lovely Prague summer hangout.  

Café Slavia

Kavarna Slavia is across the street from the National Theatre, and was long frequented by performers from the latter. One of the best cafes in Prague, it was opened in 1884, and originally decorated in Art Nouveau style, later undergoing a refurbishment, making it one of the finest Art Deco Prague interiors. Its mirror walls and Art Deco chandeliers are its signature. It was for many years a haunt of Prague intellectuals, including former President Vaclav Havel, who campaigned for its reopening after the Velvet Revolution. They also do a fine roast duck.  

Getting there – Narodni divadlo tram stop (tram 9, 17, 22) 

Petřin Hill and Tower 

Image of the view over Mala Strana from Petrin Hill Prague
The view over Mala Strana from Petrin Hill in springtime

Petřin Hill dominates the landscape of the left bank of the Vltava, stretching all the way from Smíchov to Malá Strana, the district below Prague Castle. The Petřin lookout tower is located near the highest point, and commands extraordinary views of Prague and the Vltava river. It was inspired by the Eiffel Tower, which was built two years before it. The summit area – which can be reached by funicular from Újezd, also has a lovely Old Catholic cathedral and a Mirror Maze. The Gardens lower down the hill are an incredible sight in spring, with hundreds of trees covered in white blossom.   

Kampa Island 

Still on the left bank, tiny Kampa Island is one of the best places to visit in Prague, especially if you like things a little quieter. It’s an artificial island created to provide water for several mills along what is now the Čertovka Canal, or Devil’s Stream.  There are several charming Baroque back streets to explore, and Kampa Park and adjoining Museum Kampa, with its popular David Černy Babies sculptures. It’s also one of the best places to stay in Prague, a quiet area despite its immediate proximity to Charles Bridge Prague. 

Image of the Vltava waterfront at Karlove lazne Prague
The Vltava riverfront at Karlovy Lazne, on the right bank near Charles Bridge

Smetana Museum 

Image of the Smetana Museum in Prague
The neo-Renaissance Smetana Museum seen from Charles Bridge

Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) is one of the great Czech composers, honoured with a concert hall named after him, a tomb in the prestigious cemetery in Vysehrad in Prague and this Museum, in a neo-Renaissance building on the right bank next to the Charles Bridge. It’s a branch of the Czech National Museum, housed in a rather marvellous 19th century waterworks, complete with sgraffito that wouldn’t look out of place up the hill in Prague Castle. There is a permanent exhibition on the composer’s life and works, and space for additional temporary exhibits.  

Charles Bridge 

Image of the Charles Bridge and Old Town in silhouette at dawn in Prague
Sunrise on the stunning Charles Bridge

One of the most popular things to do in Prague is, of course, to take a walk on the Charles Bridge.  It’s one of the most beautiful bridges in Europe, its parapets lined with Baroque-era statues of saints and mostly religious figures.  The views in either direction are jaw-dropping, to Prague Old Town and Mala Strana (see below), each with its cluster of spires, domes and towers making one of the most beautiful city skylines in the world. 

Image of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle in stormy light
Dramatic winter storm light on the Charles Bridge

Old Town Bridge Tower 

Image of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle from the Old Town bridge Tower Prague
One of the enchanting views from the Old Town Bridge Tower

If you’re only going to climb one of the many towers in Prague, make it this one. It’s a fortified 15th century tower, its intricate sculpture full of fascinating symbolism. I first climbed the tower just before dusk on a cold, clear Prague winter evening, and the 360° views from the (crowded) gallery at the top blew my mind. The views over the Old Town and across the Charles Bridge to Mala Strana and Prague Castle are astonishing. 

Getting there – Metro to Staroměstská, or tram to Staroměstská or Karlovy Lazne 

Mala Strana  

Image of St Nicholas Church Prague in Mala Strana and the Tyn church behind Prague
St Nicholas Church is the main Mala Strana landmark

Located on the left bank, Mala Strana is the Czech name for Lesser Town Prague. It was the third ‘town’ of what was to become the city of Prague, and developed from the 15th century onwards. The skyline is dominated by the graceful dome and tower of St Nicholas Church, and it’s packed with Prague tourist attractions, from the Baroque Vrtba Garden and Wallenstein Garden to the Franz Kafka Museum, a few steps from the river near the Manes Bridge. It also includes Kampa Island.  

St Francis of Assisi Church

St Francis of Assisi Church is one of the most prominent Prague landmarks, its green dome such a familiar sight to anyone who has walked on the Charles Bridge.  It should be one of the must visit places in Prague,  but is unfortunately seldom open. The Church is owned by the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, and occasionally hosts classical music concerts. The door is usually locked but you can see inside, the fresco of the Last Judgment by Wenzel Lorenz Reiner in the dome a tantalising glimpse of the outstanding art inside.  The impressive statue of King Charles IV, who commissioned the Charles Bridge, stands outside in the small square. 


Image of St Salvator's church in the Klementinum Prague
St Salvator’s Church is part of the Klementinum complex near the Charles Bridge

Prague is known as the City of 100 Spires, and a good number of them adorn the church of St Salvator, across Křižovnická náměstí from the Charles Bridge and Old Town Bridge Tower. The Klementinum is a complex of buildings which includes the splendid Baroque library, which was opened in 1722. The guided tour is a little disappointing, as you only get to stand in the corner of it for a couple of minutes, but it’s a memorable sight nonetheless. The Astronomical Clock Tower is one of the best towers in Prague, commanding awesome views over the Old Town and across the river to Prague Castle and Petřin Hill. 

Prague Castle

Image of Prague Castle and the river Vltava at night
Prague Castle from Karlovy Lazne tram stop

It’s a bit further from the river than the other Prague attractions featured in this article, but omitting Prague Castle is like writing about Venice without San Marco. It’s one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, and the largest in the world by area. It contains St Vitus Cathedral, the national church of the Czech Republic, sumptuous palaces, gardens and much more. Hradčany, the surrounding Castle district, is also one of the most beautiful areas in Prague – there’s enough up there to drag you away from the Vltava for at least a day.


The riverside Rudolfinum Concert Hall is one of the main things to visit in Prague for music lovers. The venue is home to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and the neo-Renaissance concert hall is one of the best classical music venues in Prague, along with the National Theatre, Smetana Hall in the Municipal House and the Estates Theatre.  If you wish to sample the traditional Prague café experience, head for the Cafe Rudolfinum, located in the elegant Column Hall. 

Manes Bridge 

Image of a tram crossing the Manes Bridge in Prague
A tram crossing the Manes Bridge below Prague Castle

The Manes Bridge – Manesuv most – is named after 19th century Czech painter Josef Manes. It enjoys an especially scenic setting, linking the Old Town and Mala Strana, with awesome views up the hill to Prague Castle. Try taking a trip across it on the tram – the charming old single carriage number 2 crosses it, as does the sleek modern 18 – to appreciate the view upstream to the Charles Bridge. 

Straka Academy 

The handsome building on the left bank with the prominent dome is the Straka Academy (Starkova Akademie). It’s one of the most beautiful buildings in Prague that you can’t visit, unfortunately – it’s the seat of the Czech Government. It’s a fine neo-Baroque building with a hint of Art Nouveau in its dome, and it’s best seen from across the river or from the viewpoint above in Letna Park.  

Cechuv Most 

Image of the Art Nouveau Cech bridge looking to Prague Castle
The Cech Bridge – Cechuv most – looking to Prague Castle

Cechuv Most – the Svatopluk Cech Bridge – is a gorgeous Art Nouveau bridge at the northern end of the Old Town. Many Prague boat trips depart from the embankment either side, and the bridge offers a great view of Prague Castle.  

Getting there – Staromestska Metro or Pravnička fakulta tram stop 

Letna Park and Metronome 

Image of the Prague Metronoime at Letna Park
The Prague Metronome overlooks the Vltava River and Old Town

Letna Park is one of the best Prague parks, and it’s also home to one of the best beer gardens in Prague, offering wonderful panoramic views. The Hanavsky Pavilion, at the other end of the Park, is somewhere you’ll wish to seek out if you’re keen on photographing Prague, as this is where you get the amazing view of several Prague bridges, including the Charles Bridge. 

Image of the Vltava river and Prague bridges from Letna Park
The bridges of Prague from Letna Park one amazing summer morning

The other Letna Park landmark is the Prague Metronome, which is on the site of a gargantuan statue of Josef Stalin that was demolished in 1962. 

Getting there – Čechuv most tram stop then a brief, steep uphill walk 

St Agnes Convent 

The Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia really should be considered one of the Prague top attractions. The medieval convent has been beautifully repurposed as a branch of the National Gallery Prague, showcasing some of the country’s amazing medieval art. Its gardens and the surrounding streets are also a blissfully peaceful haven from the hubbub of Prague in full tourist mode, the cobbled streets around there and the church of St Catullus a joyful step back a few centuries or so. 


Image of the Art Nouveau Industrial Palace in Holesovice Praguie
The Industrial Palace at Vystaviste Holesovice

Holešovice is the next area on the left bank of the Vltava. It’s one of the most intriguing areas of Prague, with new art galleries and restaurants springing up in old industrial and port buildings. Thrre are some great bars like the Cross Club and Hole Point, both very close to Holešovice station. Holešovice is also home to Veletržni palac, a vast early functionalist building that’s home to a branch of the Czech National Gallery. The Art Nouveau Industrial Palace is 300 metres away, the centrepiece of the exhibition grounds built for the 1891 Jubilee Exhibition. 

Stromovka Park 

Image of the Governor's Summer Palace above Stromovka PArk Prague
Stromovka Park

Holešovice is also home to Stromovka Park, a stone’s throw away from Veletržni palac. It’s one of the best parks in Prague, a huge green area with forest, lakes, playgrounds, restaurants, bars, a Palace and more. This was once a royal Obora, or hunting ground (like nearby Hvezda Park Prague), and the Letohrádek (Governor’s Summer Palace) on the hill above offers another great panorama of Prague, looking across to our final two locations. Stromovka is enormous, with attractions including a small historic tramway and the Prague Planetarium.  If you’re looking for places to go in Prague with kids, look no further. 

Troja Castle 

Image of Troja Castle Prague and its Baroque garden
The Baroque Garden at Troja Chateau

Troja Castle Prague is an exquisite Baroque chateau across the Vltava from Stromovka, on the right bank. This handsome Palace is so overlooked, even though it’s right across the street from one of the main Prague tourist spots, the Zoo. It’s surrounded by one of the most beautiful Prague gardens, decorated with Baroque statues and ornamental vases. If you visit Prague in springtime, be sure to make a beeline for Troja Castle as it has one of the best displays of cherry blossom you’ll see anywhere. 

Getting there – bus 112 from Holešovice 

Prague Zoo 

Image of a Tasmanian Devil at Prague Zoo
One of the new residents of Prague Zoo, a Tasmanian Devil

Zoo Praha is one of the top attractions of Prague, and is considered one of the best zoos in the world. Until becoming a Dad I wasn’t a zoo person, but after many visits with my son, I’ve come to really appreciate Prague Zoo. You could spend a whole day there (I know – with over 20 visits under our belts!)  – a full circuit of the Zoo will take several hours, with some moderate climbs and descents. There are so many highlights – we always drop in on the wonderful orangutans, and also the elephants and giraffes. Some Tasmanian devils recently moved in – try to catch them around feeding time, as they’re nocturnal. 

Getting there – bus 112 from Holešovice 

Exploring the Vltava River By Prague Trams 

Image of a tram crossing the Manes Bridge in Prague
The trams crossing the Manes Bridge offer a stunning view upriver to the Charles Bridge

There’s no contest – the best tram route to explore the river is the number 17. It runs north from the Modřany district of south Prague, passing all of the sights along the way to Holešovice except for the town of Zbraslav. If you sit on the left-hand side you’ll have river views from Podolska vodarna – the stop before Vyšehrad – as far as Čechuv most, where you leave the Old Town.  

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David Angel
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years.  His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.