The Jewish Quarter in Prague, known as Josefov, is located between the Old Town Square
and the Vltava River
. Its torrid history dates from 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, more and more people were crowded in.
To add to this, inhabitants of the Jewish Quarter, or the Prague Jewish Ghetto as it also became known, were forced to endure structural changes. The latest occured between 1893-1913, when a number of buildings were flattened, and the layout of many streets remodelled.
Fortunately, most of the 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.
There are six synagogues, including the famous Spanish Synagogue and Old-New Synagogue, plus 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 himself decided to preserve the Jewish Quarter as a “Museum of an Extinct Race”.
Indeed the Nazis 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 Walking Tour (which is a guided tour with the ticket included in the price).
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 take the walking tour and wish to visit this synagogue too, your guide will arrange the ticket for you. Just ask them on the day).
Interestingly, the Jewish Quarter is also the birthplace of the celebrated writer Franz Kafka, who is commemorated with a statue on Dusni Street.-------------------------------------
If the Jewish Quarter interests you, we highly recommend taking the Jewish Quarter Walking Tour. It is difficult to overstate how much a guide can bring to your understanding of the Jewish Quarter. With so many stories attached to it, its history is really quite unique.
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
Best of Prague Walking Tour
Prague All Inclusive Walking Tour & Boat.
Finally, no description of the Jewish Quarter can be complete without mention of Terezin (Theresienstadt in German), a concentration camp located to the north of Prague. During the Nazi occupation many residents of the Jewish Quarter were transported there. The Terezin Memorial Tour is a sobering excursion to visit the camp.