The Czech Republic’s longest river, the Vltava begins in southern Bohemia before meandering 270 miles (430 kilometers) northward toward Prague. The river has shaped the Czech capital over millennia, splitting Malá Strana (Lower Town) in the west from Staré Mĕsto (Old Town) and the modern city to the east.
As it runs through Prague, the Vltava River’s most famous sight is the 14th-century Charles Bridge, lined with looming statues, buskers, and souvenir sellers. Many city tours include river cruises, which afford the perfect vantage point for views of hilltop Prague Castle, the church spires in Malá Strana, and the towers of the Staré Mĕsto. Most cruises start from beneath the Charles Bridge.
Turning north through the heart of the city, cruisers pass the Rudolfinum and National Theater, the Strahov Monastery (Strahovský klášter), and the giant metronome in Letná Park (Letenské sady). Small open-topped wooden barges also venture into the Devil’s Canal (Čertovka), once a millrace around Kampa Island and now a sleepy backwater lined with baroque townhouses. Even if you don’t take a cruise on the Vltava, a stroll along the riverbank affords some excellent city views.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Many Vltava River cruises include lunch or dinner, sometimes with live musical accompaniment.
- A cruise along the Vltava offers excellent views of Prague’s skyline.
- River cruises are sometimes included as an add-on to a city tour.
- A total of 107 bridges span the river, and 17 of these are within Prague.
How to Get There
Cruises typically start close to the Charles Bridge, a 10-minute walk from the heart of Old Town. Staromĕtská metro station is a five-minute walk away. Some tours pick guests up from the center of Prague or directly from their hotels.
When to Get There
Evening cruises typically include dinner and offer views of Prague at its most atmospheric, as the castle is lit up by floodlights. Summer is the city’s busiest tourist season. If you want to skip the crowds but avoid the cold of winter, visit in spring or fall.
The Musical River
Vltava (The Moldau), the symphonic poem by Bedřich Smetana, is a musical interpretation of the river’s course through Bohemia and one of the best-known classical works by a Czech composer. It is part of a set of six symphonic poems called Má vlast (My Country).