Czech name: Starý židovský hřbitov
The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague is a 15th century graveyard just north of the Prague Astronomical Clock (Staroměstský orloj) and the Charles Bridge (Karlův most). As the center of the Jewish area of Prague, the cemetery was loaded with bodies ten people deep in the 348 years it was in use. The oldest tombstone is from 1439.
Location & How to Get There
The Old Jewish Cemetery includes the Jewish Museum in Prague. Because this Prague cemetery is beside the Klausen Synagogue, areas of the cemetery are available at any time, while others need to be toured during visiting hours, generally from 9 to 4:30 in the afternoon.
While the cemetery and the museum are open every day, the synagogue is closed on Saturdays and on the Jewish high holy days. The cemetery is settled in the bend of the Vltava River as it heads straight south out of the city. From Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), it’s a 5 minute walk, and just 10 minutes from the Charles Bridge. One of the challenges for Prague sightseeing is that there’s really not space for cars; be prepared to leave your car outside the city center and walk a short way to this space. The closest bus stop is Bus 194, the U Staré školy stop.
Opening Hours & Entry
The cemetery and museum are open from 9 to 4:30 pm for most of the year and from 9 to 6 pm from 3/29 through 10/23. For the full tour, expect to pay 420 CZK or 15.67 Euro. There are smaller tour packages you can purchase for single visits.
Be aware also that there are many Jewish sites in Prague with a great deal of culture and history to explore.
What to Do & What to See
During your visit to the cemetery and to the historical Jewish region of Prague, be aware that there are four synagogues available for touring:
Prague was also the site of the Terezín Concentration Camp for children from 1942-1944. You can study Jewish history in Bohemia from the tenth century to the present day. Additionally, there is a monument to the Shoah victims from Bohemia and two spaces with information on Jewish traditions and customs.
The Old Jewish Cemetery is integral to the history of Prague, as a center of learning and enlightenment. While the Jewish community flourished here for centuries, as evidenced by the history of the headstones in the Old Jewish Cemetery, the attached museum wasn’t established until 1906. Even so, this facility is considered one of the older Jewish Historical Museums in all of Europe.
While the association that managed the collection was abolished in 1939 by the Nazi occupation, Jewish community of Prague took over the facility and the collection. They were able to able to create a Central Jewish Museum under Nazi approval in 1942. Communists nationalized the museum in 1950, and it wasn’t until October of 1994 that the museum was released from state control and returned to the care of the archivists and experts of the Jewish community.
Prague is a city that includes a great deal of history. As it was and is a center of learning, travelers have the option to see both well-curated culture and history in the making.