The old Jewish quarter of Prague, also known as Josefov, is located in the Old Town in the north of the capital and is one of the main tourist attractions of Prague. It really is no longer a neighborhood itself, but it preserves its essence and its history dating from the tenth century to the twentieth century when this neighborhood was affected by the sanitation of the city and lost much of their houses.
Today the most important vestiges of the history of the Jewish community, which became one of the largest in Europe, are preserved. What remains is the Jewish cemetery and the six synagogues that are still standing, many of them are still active. To know this piece of history of the city of Prague it is best to take a guided tour and for this I leave you all the information below.
Prague Tour: Jewish Quarter
Discover the second most visited place in Prague and the history of the Jewish people in this city with a guided tour.
A specialized guide leads this two and a half hour tour during which you will visit different synagogues as well as the Jewish cemetery in Prague. The advantage of doing this tour in an organized tour instead of deciding to visit these places on your own is clear: you will put into context everything you see.
This tour is offered in English and includes entrance fees to the synagogues visited during the activity.
- Recommended if you like history and in particular if you are interested in learning more about the Jewish people and their historical trajectory.
How much does it cost to take a tour of the Jewish Quarter in Prague?
Guided tours of the Jewish Quarter start at 44 euros if you book online and include a professional, accredited guide who will accompany you on a tour of the most important places in the Jewish Quarter.
The itinerary includes entrance to the historic Jewish cemetery and the 6 remaining synagogues of the Jewish quarter that form the Jewish museum. They can all be visited on the same tour except for the Old-New Synagogue, which has a separate entrance fee.
Is it worth taking a guided tour of the Jewish Quarter?
Of course. The Jewish quarter has a lot of history and it is essential to know it if you want to discover Prague, since the city and the quarter are closely linked. Several historical events took place in this place and there are also many legends and curiosities of the Jewish quarter that we will surely overlook if we visit it on our own.
The guides are professionally accredited and have specialized studies in Jewish culture and history. Their explanations will give you a totally different and more interesting perspective than you would have if you visit on your own.
How to get to Prague's Jewish Quarter
The old Jewish quarter is located in the old city, specifically in the northern part. Getting to it is quite easy since we have several transportation alternatives. As a reference, the Jewish cemetery is only a 5 minute walk from the central square of the old city. The other options to get there by public transport are:
- By metro: Take the A line and get off at the Staromestska stop, which is the closest one.
- By streetcar: Lines 17 and 18 stop nearby at Staromestska.
- By Bus: Bus 207 and 194 also stop at Staromestska near the Jewish quarter.
- By car: You can go by car putting Široká, 110 00 Josefov in the Gps but parking in the area is complicated. Another alternative is by Taxi or Uber.
Is it advisable to go to the Jewish Quarter with children?
Although it is not the best itinerary for children, since the history of the Jewish quarter is related to the holocaust and other dark events, they can make the tour perfectly. Whenever there are little ones on the tour, the guides adapt their explanations to them to make them more enjoyable and understandable. In fact the separate entrance to the synagogues of the Jewish quarter are free for children under 6 years old and up to 15 years old they have a discount.
What not to miss in Prague's Jewish Quarter
All the basics of the Jewish Quarter are included in the tour. But to know more in depth what you are going to see I will review below the most important points of the Jewish Quarter:
- Jewish Cemetery: This is the centerpiece of the visit. The Jewish cemetery is one of the most unique cemeteries in the world for its shape with hundreds of stacked tombstones and, above all, for its history and legends. In this link you can discover all the secrets of the famous Jewish cemetery of Prague
- Pinkas Synagogue: This is the synagogue that gives access to the cemetery and inside is the longest epitaph in the world. Its walls are covered with the names of some 80,000 Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust.
- Spanish Synagogue: So called because of its Moorish decoration similar to that found in the Alhambra in Granada, it is considered the most impressive of all the synagogues in the Jewish quarter.
- Klausen Synagogue: This synagogue adjoins the cemetery and its main attraction is its library which preserves several copies of Hebrew books of great value. It also houses exhibitions on Jewish customs and traditions.
- Maisel Synagogue: On the outside it is a simple building but inside it houses a collection of objects of Jewish tradition and of great historical value. It was originally built as a private synagogue for Mordecai Maisel, mayor of the autonomous part of the Jewish quarter at the end of the 16th century.
- High Synagogue: This name is due to its Renaissance style, which tends towards the top and is therefore the only one with two floors. It was for a time part of the town hall of the Jewish quarter.
Apart from these synagogues included in the tour, the one known as the old-new synagogue can also be visited. This is the oldest active synagogue in Europe and, according to legend, the home of the Prague Golem.
Brief history of Prague's Jewish Quarter
The origin of Prague's Jewish quarter dates back to the 10th century when the first Jews arrived. Shortly after their settlement, the first crusade of the Catholic Church took place, which resulted in the marginalization of non-believers. The Jewish population was forced to settle in what was known as the old quarter, which became the Jewish quarter. They were forbidden to travel and move outside the old quarter, so the Jews were forced to establish their own rules within that part of Prague.
It was already in 1270 when they built the first synagogue, currently known as the Old-New Synagogue, and in 1292 they were officially granted administrative independence. Over the years the neighborhood prospered and increased its population substantially until it became one of the most important Jewish neighborhoods in Europe. However, even with the repression and limitations imposed on them. It was not until 1850 that the city of Prague began to open up to this neighborhood. It changed its name to Josefov district as a tribute to the figure of Joseph II who, under his rule, began to integrate the Jewish people in the city.
It was the beginning of a more open era in which Jews began to be allowed to move to other neighborhoods and worked for a more tolerant environment with religious beliefs. Only the most orthodox and those with the least resources remained in the neighborhood, which meant the beginning of the end of the Jewish quarter as it was known. It was not the end of the repression since in the Second World War they were victims of the Holocaust and many Jews from Prague were taken to concentration camps such as Terezín, which can be visited from the Czech capital.
What today is known as the Jewish quarter are the synagogues that are preserved and are part of the Jewish museum and the famous Jewish cemetery.
How long are the guided tours of the Prague Jewish Quarter?
The duration of these tours is 2 and a half to 3 hours. This is more than enough time to see all the interesting points of the quarter in detail. More or less you will spend 20 minutes in each of the synagogues of the itinerary and an extra half hour to visit the Jewish cemetery.
Schedules of tours and monuments in the Jewish Quarter
The guided tours usually start in the morning a little later than the opening hours of the monuments. The synagogues and cemetery open their doors to visitors at 9:00 and the tours start around 10:00. If there is anything you want to revisit after taking the tour you should know that in the winter schedule (October to March) they close their doors at 16:30 and in the summer months both the cemetery and the synagogues remain open until 18:00.
As the tour lasts about 3 hours, you will have plenty of time in the afternoon to continue exploring Prague. Please note that on Saturdays, or Sabbath, they are closed as it is the holy day of Judaism. On Jewish holidays they are also closed.
Tips for visiting the Jewish Quarter in Prague
- There is no specific dress code for visiting the synagogues but as they are religious places it is recommended to dress more or less correctly. This means not wearing sports or very short clothes as a sign of respect for Jewish traditions.
- During the tour you will not have to walk much as all the synagogues and the cemetery are very close to each other, but you will spend several hours on your feet so it is important to wear comfortable shoes.
- The cemetery and the Jewish quarter is one of the most visited places in Prague so it is advisable to book your tour or tickets in advance so you don't run out of them.
- If you have to choose the best time to visit the Jewish quarter is at the beginning of the week, as Saturdays are closed and at the end of the week there are more visitors, and in the spring months as temperatures are pleasant and there is not as much affluence as in summer.
- If you choose to take a tour it is recommended to be at least 15 minutes in advance at the meeting point.