Since 1841 the first of Prague chain bridges, a unique construction of that time, used to stand in this place. It became a new essential arterial road over the river of Vltava, next to the insufficient Charles Bridge. Author of the design was ing. Bedřich Schnirch. Subsequently there was constructed the present Smetana’s embankment. Both constructions were realized by company of Vojtěch Lanna. In 1898 the bridge served out and near there was constructed a wooden temporary bridge and construction of new, stone bridge was started.
Before, the city of Prague had announced an open tendering for design processing. A design, submitted with title „Future“, by authors ing. Josef Janů, ing. Jiří Soukup and arch. Antonín Balšánek, won. The jury took into consideration whether a work of relevant architectural and art level would rise in a place very close to the National Theatre.
Construction of the bridge was started symbolically on 3rd August 1898 by laying the foundation stone. A case with memorial document was put into one already completed river pier. Budapest company G. Gregersen and sons was charged with realization of building work. As the bridge spans over a popular place of short-term recreation for the Prague inhabitants, Střelecký Island, wide access stairs were built from the bridge deck. Stones pylons with cupolas covered with copper were built above the last pillars on both sides; they served as stations for the bridge toll collectors. The utility lines were laid under the pavement surface.
The new bridge, 343 m long and 16 m wide, was ceremoniously handed over for operation on 14th June 1901 with attendance of Emperor Franz Joseph I. It got its name after his throne predecessor Emperor Franz I. In 1919-1940 it was called the Legion Bridge, in 1940-1945 the bridge of Smetana, after World War II the Legion Bridge again and since 1960 the bridge of 1st May. In March 1990 the previous NVP Commission decided on returning the name of The Legion Bridge.