Visiting the Jewish Quarter of Prague can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be logistically overwhelming. Here’s the easiest way to visit Prague’s Jewish Quarter and a bit of background on this little neighborhood with lots of history.
Prague is home to one of the oldest recorded Jewish communities and, depending on the era, Jewish life thrived and suffered within the walls of what is now called Prague’s Jewish Quarter (Josefov).
The first pogroms targeted against the Jewish community here date all the way back to 1096. The area was established as a ghetto in the 16th century and at times it was a walled ghetto with its inhabitants facing persecution. At other times it was a thriving community with a town hall and multiple synagogues.
You can imagine the layers of history here. And you can imagine the number of artifacts that existed in Prague’s Jewish Quarter when the Nazis arrived.
When the Nazis occupied and annexed Czechoslovakia they sent much of the Jewish population to the Terezin Ghetto outside of Prague. You may remember from my post on visiting Terezin that this was the place where the Nazis took the Red Cross to view a “model concentration camp”.
Much of what the international delegation saw as “culture” in the ghetto was as faked and posed as the 1,200 rose bushes hastily planted at Terezin before the Red Cross visit, but there was a structure of self-governance in Terezin that was respected – even by the Nazis – throughout much of the war.
Though few would survive Terezin and the Holocaust, the leaders of the Terezin Ghetto did preserve Jewish history. They actually convinced the Occupiers to save Jewish artifacts for a “Museum of an Extinct Race,” before they were deported.
Artwork and artifacts were sent to Prague and stored – exhibitions were even staged for Nazis to review what they saw as the remains of the Jewish community.
Today, many of those artifacts are displayed by the Jewish Museum in Prague at permanent exhibitions around the Jewish Quarter – which is once again thriving.
Your first stop is the Reservation and Information Center at the Jewish Museum in Prague (Maiselova 15, 110 00 Josefov, Czechia). There you can purchase tickets to see all of the sites within Prague’s Jewish Quarter.
For just over $20 USD, there is a ticket providing access to the Maisel Synagogue, Pinkas Synagogue, Old Jewish Cemetery, Klausen Synagogue, Ceremonial Hall, Old-New Synagogue and the Robert Guttmann Gallery. (Note: The Spanish Synagogue is closed for repairs until the end of 2020.)
The ticket is good for seven days and each site can be visited one time.
Bundled tickets are also available for purchase at the Klausen Synagogue and the Pinkas Synagogue. Or online at the museum’s e-shop here.
Check hours for each individual site before you go, remembering that the sites will be closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays and will have limited hours on Fridays.
The hardest site to visit is the Old-New Synagogue, which gets really crowded due to its popularity and its small size. Get here when it opens at 09:00 to beat the crowds. (Remember that Prague is a late-night city and you’ll have the streets to yourself before 10:00!
It’s worth the early morning for this remarkable synagogue that was built in 1270 and represented the center of Jewish life in Prague for 700 years. It is the oldest still-active synagogue in Europe, having served the Jewish community continually since its inception, except during the years of WWII.
This post is part of my Never Forget Series to encourage visitation of sites related to WWII and the Holocaust.