The Vltava river in Prague: places of interest and boat trips
The Vltava is the longest river in the Czech Republic. It runs from south to north for 430 kilometres across the country that was once Bohemia, from its source in the mountains of the Bohemian Forest to the point where it meets the Elba in Melnik. The Vltava is navigable and represents an important and historic river communication route across Central Europe.
The course of the Vltava passes through some of the most important cities in the Czech Republic such as Český Krumlov, České Budějovice and Prague. When it flows through the Czech capital the river becomes yet another tourist attraction in an already stunning city. The best buildings in Prague gaze out at the Vltava as if the city were showing off its finery to the river.
The Vltava, Prague’s river
The Vltava is Prague’s river and an important symbol of the Czech capital. Its course through the city centre forms a small meander with several islands where homes, gardens, sports clubs and the odd palace have been built.
The Vltava flows for 30 kilometres within Prague’s metropolitan area and it is spanned by 18 bridges, including the emblematic Charles Bridge. In this area the river and the city create a unique environment together, where the Old Town and Malá Strana neighbourhood meet Prague Castle at its highest point.
One of the most typical photos of Prague and the Vltava is definitely of the Charles Bridge area. Whether it’s day or night, one bank or the other, any view makes the perfect snapshot. It’s worth passing by at different times of day to admire this historical landscape. Sunset, for example, offers visitors some spectacular sights.
As the Vltava passes through Prague, a series of impressive monuments stand on its two riverbanks. The city looks out at the water with an air of respect and elegance thanks to Charles Bridge and the stately, well-preserved houses that line the Vltava.
You’ll find the following points of interest on the east bank, on the Old Town side:
- The National Theatre.
- The Dancing House.
- Naplavka market, a spectacular food market that sets up its stalls on Saturdays by the river.
- The Bedřich Smetana Museum.
- The Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design.
- Charles University faculties (Arts, Technology and Law).
- The Rudolfinum.
- The Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
In turn, the west bank (where the Malá Strana neighbourhood is located) is home to:
- Letná Park and the Prague Metronome.
- The Kramář’s Villa, official residence of the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic.
- The Straka Academy.
- The Franz Kafka Museum.
- Kampa Island.
- The Liechtenstein Palace.
- The Savoy Café.
Islands in the river
The Vltava river also has some other surprises. Seven islands mark the river’s course through the city, creating interesting spaces in the middle of the water. In June they become fantastic spots for listening to open-air concerts thanks to the United Islands festival, which attracts thousands of people.
One of the main islands is Archer’s Island (Střelecký Ostrov), which cuts through the Vltava as if it were a great ship sailing past. Surrounded by trees, the island has several restaurants and spaces for outdoor events. It’s a truly romantic spot where you can wander aimlessly and admire Charles Bridge from the centre of the river.
Detsky Island offers visitors the chance to observe the system of locks that make it easier for boats to navigate the river. There are also a few restaurants. Žofín Palace stands on neighbouring Slovansky Island and cultural events and concerts are held in this stately building.
Štvanice Island is to the north of the city and is the largest in the Vltava as it flows through Prague. This island has a close relationship with the world of sports because it is home to the club used for the Prague tennis championships, a skate park and a rowing channel.
Cruises and boat trips along the Vltava in Prague
The best way to see a river is definitely by boat and Prague has several boat trip options on the Vltava. If you’d like to keep things simple, you could take a straightforward hour-long round trip along the central section of the Vltava. It’s a good way to see the city from another perspective and find out more about the places of interest you see from the boat by listening to the live commentary during the river cruise. You can board the boat at the dock next to Čech Bridge and also at Kampa Island.
It’s also possible to hire a small boat to explore the river in greater detail and sail past the interior side of Kampa Island along the hidden Devil’s Stream channel.
If you’re looking for something more special, there are several options for taking a river cruise in Prague along the Vltava with lunch or dinner. Visitors with a romantic nature will love sailing along the river at sunset while they enjoy an excellent dinner on board a glass-roofed boat.
The magic of Prague at night from the river
Many different cruise boats travel along the Vltava; some can be hired for events and private parties, stag/hen parties, work events and even weddings. It’s also possible to see the New Year in from one of these boats and watch the famous New Year’s Eve fireworks while enjoying a delicious dinner.
Prague wouldn’t be the same without its river. The course of the Vltava through the Czech capital leaves countless beautiful buildings, bridges and islands in its wake, every one of which is worth exploring. Read our other articles to find out more tips for visiting Prague in a truly special way.