One of the must-see neighborhoods in Prague, Czech Republic is Josefov, the old Jewish Quarter in the north of the Old Town. Mom and I had planned to simply wander around the area while we were in Prague, but when we spotted the first synagogue, we decided to buy a ticket that would allow us entry to many of the monuments in the Prague Jewish Quarter and we spent about an hour or two immersing ourselves in Jewish history, culture, and architecture.
Here's a look at the places you can visit in Josefov, Prague's Jewish Quarter.
- Places to visit at Josefov, Prague's Jewish Quarter
- Sites at Josefov we didn't visit
- Josefov with a guide
- Where to stay in Prague
- How to get to Prague
- Other things to do in Prague
- Save money on your trip to Prague
- Pin for later
Places to visit at Josefov, Prague's Jewish Quarter
1. Maisel Synagogue
The Maisel Synagogue was rebuilt several times after its erection in 1592. It hosts a permanent exhibition about the history of the Jews in the Bohemian Lands, including historical objects, explanation panels and a virtual tour of the old Prague.
The building itself is nice, but not really impressive. While the exterior is nice, the synagogue lies squished in between two other buildings and behind a fence of black metal bars. The interior looked really well-maintained but rather simple.
Entry to the Maisel Synagogue is included in the Prague City Card.
2. Pinkas Synagogue
I found the Pinkas Synagogue to be more impressive. The interior wasn't that rich, but one room has the names of the nearly 80,000 Jewish victims of the Shoah from Bohemia and Moravia on its walls and that does something to a person. It did to me, anyway.
The Synagogue was turned into a memorial in the late 1950's and it was then that the names were painted. With the arrival of communism in 1968, the memorial was closed to the public. It wasn't reopened until 1995 after it had undergone serious renovation works.
If the names don't move you, the children's drawings certainly will. One room of the Pinkas Synagogue holds an exhibition of paintings made by Jewish children who lived in the Terezin ghetto during the Second World War. Most of them died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Entry to the Pinkas Synagogue is included in the Prague City Card.
3. Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague
The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague was founded in the first half of the 15th century, which makes it one of the oldest still existing Jewish burial sites in the world. National Geographic has listed it in its Top 10 Burial Sites to Visit and I have to agree that it's a pretty special place.
There's only one narrow path that runs through the cemetery and, unfortunately, when we were there, so was tour group and a school. It made it impossible for us to visit the cemetery at our own pace, but we managed to sneak past some groups and take everything in any way.
The cemetery was in use from 1439 until 1787. There were so many bodies and so little room, that graves were layered on top of each other going up to 10 layers. We obviously couldn't see the layers, but both mom and I were struck by the seeming randomness of the placement of the gravestones. They stuck out of the ground everywhere, often crooked and almost falling over.
We also noticed how visitors had left little pieces of paper with a stone on them on top of the tombstones. I later read that the papers contain wishes written on them as some people believe the death can fulfill wishes. However, the stone you use must be from the place you are from. It's considered disrespectful to the death if you take a stone from the graveyard.
Some stones didn't have papers under them, though, and a little further digging told me that it's a Jewish tradition to leave the stones as a sign that you've visited and remember the deceased.
Entry to the Old Jewish Cemetery is free with the Prague City Card.
4. Spanish Synagogue
The Spanish Synagogue was definitely the most impressive of the Jewish historical monuments we visited. Or maybe it was simply the most ornate. The interior contains Moorish elements based on the design of the Alhambra in Granada, which is also where the synagogue got its name from.
Inside, there's an exhibition about the history of Jews in Bohemia and Moravia, as well as one of over 200 silver artifacts coming from those regions.
I've tried taking some good photos, but it was hard with all the people in the room. To get a small glimpse of what I mean, check out the short video below and the 360° tour of the Synagogue on the Jewish Museum website.
Entry to the Spanish Synagogue is free with the Prague City Card.
Sites at Josefov we didn't visit
5. Klausen Synagogue and the Ceremonial Hall
The Klausen Synagogue is located close to the Old Jewish Cemetery. It's the largest synagogue in Josefov and the second main synagogue of the Jewish community in Prague. Inside, there's an exhibition on Jewish traditions and customs, with a lot of attention for religious customs and the role the Klausen Synagogue played in those.
You can see the second part of that exhibition at the Ceremonial Hall, located right next to the Old Jewish Cemetery. It focuses on the history and work of the Prague Burial Society that used the mortuary that was once located in this building.
Entry to the Klausen Synagogue is free with the Prague City Card.
6. Robert Guttmann Gallery
The Robert Guttman Gallery is located in a former Jewish Hospital, right by the Spanish Synagogue, and was named after the Jewish painter Robert Guttman. Because of the quality lighting, temperature and air conditions of the gallery, you can often find highly sensitive and fragile historical objects on display here.
The exhibitions at the gallery are temporary and always focus on aspects of Jewish culture, life, history, and art.
Entry to the Robert Guttman Gallery is included in the Prague City Card.
7. Old New Synagogue
The Old New Synagogue in Josefov is Europe's oldest active synagogue, dating back to 1270. It was first called the “New Synagogue”, but as newer synagogues were erected in Prague in later years, its name was changed to “Old New Synagogue”.
Entry to the Old New Synagogue is included in the Prague City Card.
Josefov with a guide
If you'd like to learn more about the Jewish history of Prague from an expert while exploring Josefov, consider booking a tour. This one has great reviews.
Where to stay in Prague
Boutique: Prague Inn
We spent three nights at the Hotel Prague Inn, a small hotel in the heart of the city, right by the famous Wenceslas Square. We had a very spacious room, an elaborate breakfast included and good working wi-fi. It actually was an ideal base for our trip.
Budget: Hostel Damiell
Damiell is a simple but effective what-you-see-is-what-you-get hostel. It’s situated on the western side of the river in the old town, not far from Prague Castle and picture-postcard views of river Vltava. Dormitories range from one to four beds, with free WiFi, a 24-hour reception desk and a fully furnished kitchen on each floor. Amenities are nearby, with a restaurant and supermarket just yards from the door.
Chain: Clarion Hotel Prague City
This modern Clarion Hotel is centrally located, at just a five minute walk from Wenceslas Square and with a tram stop right outside taking you all round the city. Rooms include a coffee-maker, air-conditioning, flat-screen TV, minibar and WiFi, and guests are treated to a varied breakfast.
Luxury: BoHo Prague Hotel
The BoHo Prague has a central location with easy access to all the most popular landmarks. The rooms are large, elegantly furnished and spacious that spare no expense, from stunning artwork to comfy modern furniture. Guests can visit the luxurious restaurant or wellness centre for a surcharge. Everything about this hotel spells ‘sophistication’.
Apartment: Remember Residence
Just a couple of minutes from the stunning Charles Bridge, on the castle side of the river, lies the Remember Residence. This placce offers great value with its airy and bright apartments are airy and bright that come with large windows and soft furnishings. They even have a hammock! Guests benefit from a kitchenette including a stovetop, coffee-machine, microwave, toaster, fridge and more. One of its best features, however, is the charming garden area for taking a breather from busy city life.
For more apartment options, I recommend looking on Airbnb. While I use Booking for hotels, I always check Airbnb for apartments as they have such a large selection.
If you'd like to try Airbnb but don't already have an account, I can give you a discount on your first booking if you book through my link. This is at no cost to you.
If you already have an account and found this post useful, please consider making your next Airbnb through my link. The price stays exactly the same for you, while I'll earn a small commission. Income like this helps me travel independently and create new content for you.
How to get to Prague
We flew from Brussels Airport to Prague and then had a transfer to our hotel that we had booked beforehand.
Check Skyscanner for the best overview of your flight options.
If you also want to book a private transfer from the airport straight to your hotel, you can do so here.
For a more budget-friendly option, check out this shared shuttle service.
There is no direct train or metro line from Prague Airport to the city center but you can take one of the regular buses that each go to a specific metro stop in the center.
- Bus 119 runs between the airport and the Dejvicka metro station.
- Bus 100 runs between the airport and Zlicin metro station.
- Bus 179 runs between the airport and Nove Butovice metro station.
There's also an Airport Express bus which runs between the airport and Hlavni Nadrazi, Prague’s main train station which is located in the heart of the city. The bus takes about 35 minutes to get there.
When traveling through Europe, you can also get to Prague by train.
Click here for train options and prices.
Other things to do in Prague
If you want to learn more about Czech Republic in general, check out my list of fun facts about the country.
Save money on your trip to Prague
Aside from getting the Prague City Card, there's another way to save money on your trip in Prague. Prague expert Jiri Moravic has written a book that allows you save on anything from meals to taxis, currency exchange, and shopping.
He's so certain his tips will help you save at least $60 that he offers a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you're not satisfied with the book.
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