Jewish Quarter tour: Exploring the Jewish Heritage in Prague

the Prague Jewish Quarter 

No trip to Prague is complete without a visit to the Josefov, also known as the Jewish Quarter Prague. Since 1992, the Prague Jewish Quarter has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, serving as a reminder of the evils of fascism and the resiliency of the Jewish community.

A Brief History of the Prague Jewish Quarter 

Old Jewish Cemetery in Josefov, Prague
Old Jewish Cemetery in Josefov, Prague

Jews settled in the quarter around 1096 after fleeing from a pogrom or religious persecution. Eventually, they were segregated from the Christians and forced to live in a walled ghetto. After numerous pogroms spanning centuries, the quarter saw a bit of hope when Mordecai Maisel, a Jewish Mayor, became the Minister of Finance in the 16th century.

The Prague Jewish Quarter used to be called Jewish Ghetto or Jewish Town, but it was eventually renamed in honor of the Roman emperor Joseph II, who issued the Patent of Toleration. It granted religious freedom to non-Catholics, permitting Jews to live outside of the quarter. However, this glimmer of hope was short-lived.

Most of the structures in the Prague Jewish Quarter were demolished to fulfil a Parisian fantasy, but it never came to fruition because Prague was struck with the horrors of the Second World War. Starting in 1941, Jews were forced to wear the Star of David as an identifier. Merely a month later, they were forced into concentration camps across Europe. 

Prague’s medieval center survived the bombings of World War II, including a handful of synagogues in the Jewish quarter. 

Top Sights to see in Prague Jewish Quarter tour

A Jewish Quarter walking tour in Prague offers visitors a great sightseeing experience. Top Sights to see on a Prague Jewish Quarter tour includes:

Synagogues

Prague synagogue
Prague synagogue

There are a handful of synagogues in the Jewish quarter, but none are as ancient as the Old-New synagogue, previously known as the Great synagogue. It has been around since the 13th century. Pinkas Synagogue, which is equally famous, is the second oldest in Prague. Now, it is home to a memorial for the lives lost during the Holocaust. Listing the names of 78,000 individuals, this epitaph is said to be the longest in the world.

One of the more recent synagogues is the Spanish Synagogue. Resembling a Moorish palace, it features intricate stonework, curved windows, and elaborate floral patterns. A Jewish Quarter walking tour in Prague will allow you to take in the sheer beauty of all the Jewish Synagogues located at the Jewish Quarter in Prague.

Jewish museum Prague

Dr. Karel Stein proposed the idea of a museum to house the confiscated personal items of Jews, as well as artifacts from the Jewish Museums of Prague, Mikulov, and beyond. While some of the personal effects were returned to survivors, others were sold, looted, or destroyed during the communist regime.

Thankfully, many rare artifacts have survived over the years. Today, the Jewish museum, Prague has its own gallery, library and educational center. It welcomes many exhibitions—from temporary to travelling collections. It also hosts numerous cultural and educational events.

Jewish museum Prague tickets prices vary from one individual to another. While the tickets to Jewish museum, Prague cost CZK 250 for kids aged between 6 and 15, it costs CZK 350 for an adult. Also, while the Jewish museum Prague ticket only costs CZK 50 for a disabled person, it is free for children between the ages of 0 and 5. The same ticket also costs CZK 250 for students under the age of 26.

Old Jewish Cemetery Prague

Another remarkable site you’ll find in the Quarter is the Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague. With about 10,000 gravestones, some dating back to the 15th century, it is one of the most important Jewish landmarks in Prague. Significant figures in the Jewish Community were laid to rest here, including Loew ben Bezalell, commonly known as Rabbi Loew. According to legend, he created the Golem of Prague. A Jewish Quarter walking tour in Prague of the Old Jewish Cemetery is highly recommended if you intend to make the most out of your visit to Prague.

Franz Kafka Memorial

Josefov is the birth place of Franz Kafka, who authored The Metamorphosis and The Castle. His lived on the corner of Kaprova and Maiselova street before his family transferred to Wenceslas Square. 

Kafka’s bronze monument is located next to the Spanish Synagogue. Jaroslav Rona sculpted the statue, taking inspiration from the writer’s Description of a Match.

How to Get to the Jewish Quarter, Prague

Located between Old Town square and the Vltava River, the Jewish Quarter is just a stone’s throw away from the Old Town. It is a five-minute walk from the square. If you’re coming from Charles Bridge, you can reach the quarter on foot in 10 minutes or so. There is limited parking around in the neighborhood, so refrain from using private transportation during your trip. Goodluck and don’t forget to make the most out of your Jewish Quarter walking tour in Prague.

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