|Note: The interiors of the buildings in the Jewish Quarter are closed as a precaution against coronavirus.|
However, the streets are still open to wander around and admire the buildings from the outside.----------------------------------------
The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) in Prague is located between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River.
The torrid history of the former Jewish Ghetto began in the 13th century, when Jewish people were ordered to vacate their disparate homes and settle in this one area.
Over the centuries, with Jews banned from living anywhere else in Prague, and with new arrivals expelled from Moravia, Germany, Austria and Spain joining them, ever more people crowded in to the quarter.
To add to this, inhabitants of the ghetto were forced to endure structural changes at the whim of the emperor or whichever ruler exercised control over them. The latest occurred in 1893-1913, when a number of buildings were flattened, and the layout of many streets remodelled.
Fortunately, most significant historical buildings were saved from destruction, and today they remain a testimony to the history of the Jews in Prague. They form the best preserved complex of historical Jewish monuments in the whole of Europe.
The Jewish Quarter has: six synagogues, including Maisel Synagogue, the Spanish Synagogue and the Old-New Synagogue; the Jewish Ceremonial Hall; and the Old Jewish Cemetery, the most remarkable of its kind in Europe.
The monuments even survived the Nazi occupation in the 20th century. Adolf Hitler decided to preserve the Jewish Quarter as a “Museum of an Extinct Race”.
To this end, the Nazis even gathered Jewish artefacts from other occupied countries, transporting them to Prague to form part of the museum.
Today, these historical monuments, all except the Old-New Synagogue, form what is called the Jewish Museum in Prague.
Visitors can gain entry to the museum monuments by purchasing a ticket or by taking a Jewish Quarter Tour (this is a guided tour with the entry ticket included).
The Old-New Synagogue requires a separate ticket. Built in the 13th century in early Gothic style, it is the oldest preserved synagogue in Central Europe, and is the main house of prayer for the Jewish community in the present day (if you sign up for the walking tour and wish to visit this synagogue too, your guide will arrange the ticket for you - just mention it on the day).
The Jewish Quarter is also the birthplace of the celebrated Bohemian Jewish novelist Franz Kafka, who is commemorated with a statue on Dusni Street.------------------------------------------
To discover more about the Jewish Quarter, we highly recommend taking the Jewish Quarter Tour. With such a turbulent history, and therefore with so many stories attached to the area, it is difficult to overstate how much a guide can bring to your understanding of the Jewish Quarter.
Our general Prague tours also include an introduction to the Jewish Quarter in their itinerary:
Prague Grand City Sightseeing Tour
Prague Grand City Sightseeing Tour & Boat
Prague All Inclusive Walking Tour & Boat
Prague Old Town & Jewish Quarter Tour.
Finally, no description of the Jewish Quarter is complete without a mention of Terezin (Theresienstadt), a concentration camp and Jewish ghetto located to the north of Prague. During the Nazi occupation, many residents of the Jewish Quarter were transported there, and the Terezin Memorial Tour is a sobering excursion to the camp.