City Walk: A Tour of Franz Kafka in Prague

The German-speaking Czech writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He did not receive recognition during his lifetime and his books were published posthumously. All his books have been translated into English and many other languages.

His most famous works are: The Trial, The Castle and The Transfiguration, works that are characterized by an ominous atmosphere. He describes a world where bureaucracy is increasingly gaining the upper hand.

Since he lived in Prague almost all his life, the city often appears in his stories and novels. Kafka’s first language was German. He was also fluent in Czech. At the time Prague was a city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire where German was the lingua franca.

Kafka’s Prague

To get an idea of the Prague that figures prominently in Kafka’s works, but is never explicitly mentioned, a tour of the buildings and places where Kafka lived or worked is a pilgrimage for Kafka’s fans.

Prague remained virtually unscathed during the Second World War and if Kafka were still alive, he would instantly recognize his city, but not the street names because they had German names.

He moved house many times and often changed jobs. That is why there are many places in Prague that remind of him.

Franz Kafka self-guided walk

START: Franz Kafky Namesti
FINISH: Malostranska metro station
LENGTH: 6.7 km

1. Franz Kafky Namesti: Kafka’s birthplace
2. Old town Square: House U Minuty at No. 2, Oppeltův dům at No 5, Kinsky Palace at No 12
2. Statue Franz Kafka (Dušní)
3. Celetná Street Nos 2 and 3
4. Na Poříčí 7, the office where Kafka worked, now Hotel Century Old Town
5. Café Imperial, Na Poříčí 10
6. Kavarna Arco, Dlážděná 6
7. Café Louvre, Národní 22
8. David Cerny’s sculpture: Kafka’s Head, Charvatova Square (behind Quadrio Shopping Centre)
9. Tržiště 15, Schönborn Palace (Schönbornský palác)
10 Kafka Museum, Cihelna 2b
11 Malostranska metro station

Take the metro line A from Malostranska metro station to Zelevskeho to visit Kafka’s grave at the New Jewish Cemetery (Nový židovský hřbitov)

photo: Kafka’s birthplace


1. Kafka’s birthplace in Prague
Franz Kafka was born on 3 July 1883 into a Jewish family who lived in Staroměststké náměstí (old Town Square) in the Stare Mesto (Old Town) district of Prague. He was the first child of Hermann and Julie Kafka. Their house was next to Saint Nicolas Church on Old Town Square.
The house is located at Franz Kafka Square 1, Náměstí Franze Kafky
A few years after the family had moved on, a fire destroyed the house where he was born but the front door survived. The relief on the façade represents Kafka and was made by the sculptor Czech Hladík

photo Dum U Minuty

2. The houses where Kafka lived
The Kafka family moved house frequently but always stayed within the Old Town boundaries. The next house where they lived was U Minuty at No. 2 Staroměststké náměstí (Old Town Square). It is easy to spot as it is next to the Astronomical Clock and decorated with sgraffito. This is also the house where Kafka’s three sisters were born. During this time Franz attends the German High School located in Kinsky Palace, the pink rococo building in the middle of Staroměststké náměstí, a museum today. On the ground floor his parents ran a haberdashery shop.

Next Kafka lived at Celetná Street 2 but after one year he moved next door to Celetna Street 3 U Tří králů (At the Three Kings). His apartment was on the second floor. It was in this house in 1904 that Kafka wrote his first story ‘Beschreibung eines Kampfes’, (Description of a Struggle).

photo: Golden Lane 22

Kafka moved to number 22 in the Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička) near Prague Castle. He rented this little cottage together with his sister Ottla. While there, he wrote almost all of the stories that were published in the 1920 anthology. Today, the house has been transformed into a bookshop dedicated to his literary works.

Next he rented a two-room apartment in the Schönborn Palace (Schönbornský palác, Tržiště 15) which today houses the United States Embassy and where he fell ill with tuberculosis. The last place where he lived was in the Oppelt House (Oppeltův dům), Staroměststké náměstí 5, at the corner of Old Town Square and Pařížská Street. He lived on the top floor of this building.

3. Kafka’s favourite cafes in Prague
Franz Kafka frequented Café Louvre (Národní 22), Café Imperial (Na Poříčí 10) and Kavarna Arco (Dlážděná 6) often together with his friend Max Brod. These cafes were meeting place for writers, poets, artists and philosophers. It was here that he met Milena Jesenská, one of the women in his life. All three cafes can still be visited today The Kavarna Arco sign is still prominently displayed. Today, the kavarna belongs to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which runs here a cheap self-service lunch restaurant.

4. Kafka’s office has become a hotel room
From 1908 to 1922, Kafka worked for the Insurance Institution for the Workers of the Kingdom of Bohemia. His task was to limit the risks incurred by workers who worked on often dangerous machines. Having to fight compensation claims sometimes gave him a bad conscience, but his work was appreciated and he was promoted several times. The office was located at Na Poříčí street 7, today Hotel Century Old Town

At the entrance of Hotel Century Old Town Prague stands a bust of Kafka and, next to the bar is a library with Kafka’s books but also novels of the greatest Czech writers. His former office, it is now room number 214.

Photo Kafka’s Statue near Spanish Synagoge

5. Kafka’s statue near the Spanish Synagogue
A bronze statue has stood next to the Spanish Synagogue since 2003: Franz Kafka riding on the shoulders of a decapitated figure in an empty man’s suit. It refers to Kafka’s story ‘Beschreibung eines Kampfes’ (Description of a Struggle) in which he says “With unusual agility I sprang upon my friend’s shoulders and, thrusting my fists into his back, brought him into a light trot. Location: Dušní street

6. Kafka’s statue by David Černý
Hlava Franze Kafky (2014), the head of Kafka is an 11-meter high kinetic sculpture consisting of rotating discs powered by solar energy that, when they fall into place, represent Kafka’s head. The sculpture is located at the back exit of the Quadrio shopping centre at Charvatova Square

7. The Kafka Museum
Opposite another provocative statue by David Černý (the “Piss” statue) and on the site of the former Hegel brickyard, is the Kafka Museum. This museum exhibits works of Kafka in original edition as well as his correspondence, his diaries, his manuscripts, photographs and drawings.
Franz Kafka Museum, Cihelna 2b, Mala Strana

8. Kafka’s Grave
The New Jewish cemetery is the final resting place of Franz Kafka. Although he died in a sanatorium in Kierling near Vienna, his remains were buried in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague. His parents are also buried in the same plot. On the grave is a white obelisk with his name and the names of his parents. In addition, a memorial stone for his sisters who died in concentration camps during the Second World War. The tomb is in sector 21.
New Jewish Cemetery, Israeliska 1, Žižkov

How to get to the New Jewish Cemetery
Take the metro line A from Malostranska metro station to Zelevskeho to visit Kafka’s grave at the New Jewish Cemetery (Nový židovský hřbitov)
It is the last resting place of Franz Kafka in Prague after his death in a sanatorium near Vienna in 1924 at the age of 40. He suffered from tuberculosis all his life and went into early retirement due to illness in 1922.

next article: City Walk: an abandoned cemetery and an housing estate

photos: Marianne Crone

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