Attractions and Sights in Jewish Prague

Attractions and sights in Josefov, Jewish District in Prague: synagogues, designer shopping and kosher dining. Elegant Josefov is sandwiched between the Vltava River and Stare Mesto, the Old Town district. Josefov was once a thriving Jewish ghetto. The six synagogues, the town hall, the ceremonial hall and the Old Jewish cemetery are still there. But, the original maze of narrow alleys and small houses made way ifor luxurious apartments blocks in the nineteenth century..

Today, Josefov is a trendy neighbourhood. Its main artery, Parizska, Prague’s answer to the Champs-Élysées is an elegant tree-lined avenue lined with high-end fashion stores, designer brand stores, fashionable bars and exclusive restaurants. Side streets brim with trendy boutiques of Czech fashion designers.

Jewish Prague

Attractions and Sights in Jewish Prague

1. Pařížská shopping street
Pařížská is chic and pricey. Here you will find top-end fashion houses – Armani, Burberry, Faberge, Boss, Chanel, Hermès, Vuitton – stylish cafes, bars and restaurants. The side streets brim with boutiques of Czech designers such as Hana Havelkova and Klara Nademlynska.

2. Stumbling Stones
Stumbling stones are a poignant reminder of places where Jewish families lived. In Prague there are about 300 of which many in Josefov. This is not surprising because many Jewish families lived in this neigbourhood. The Bergmann family with their daughter Růžena lived at number 3 in Maiselova Street and Ervín Fröhlich and Pavla Fröhlichová at 34 Pařížská as the stumbling stones show.

3. Kafka Monument
The bronze statue in front of the Spanish synagogue is the Franz Kafka monument. A small figure, probably Kafka, is sitting on the shoulders of a headless and armless giant wearing a large overcoat. The statue refers to one of Kafka’s stories: Beschreibung eines Kampfes (Description of a Struggle). The Kafka monument commemorates Kafka’s 120th birthday in 2003.

4. Franz Kafka Bookshop
A bookshop with mainly translations of Kafka’s works and also translations by other Czech authors such as Hrabal, Kundera, Havel, Čapek. The interior is worth a look; ceiling-high cupboards full of books and a library ladder to a gallery halfway also full of books. Address: Široka 14

5. Church of the Holy Spirit
The Church of the Holy Spirit (Kostel svatého Ducha) is a Catholic church in the Jewish quarter and belonged to the Benedictine monastery that stood next it. After a fire in the seventeenth century, the church was rebuilt in Baroque style. During Habsburg rule, the Jews of the district were obliged to attend mass here. In front of the church is a statue of John of Nepomuk. The church is open for Sunday mass. Address: Dusni Street, next to the Spanish Synagogue.

Discover the history of Prague’s Jewish Quarter on a 2.5-hour guided walk, including tickets to the Synagogues and Jewish Cemetery.

Jewish Prague

6. Siroka Street
Siroka Street begins at the Rudolfinum Concert Hall, leads past the entrance to the Old Jewish Cemetery, crosses Pařížská and ends at a five-way junction. Siroka is a narrow street with fashion and designer brands boutiques. Look up because the architecture of each building is impressive.
number 5: sleek building of raw materials so that the structure is clearly visible
number 7: opulent art nouveau front door surrounded by two naked female figures
number 11: neo-gothic building
number 12 and 14: textbook example of neo-baroque

7. Elisky Krasnohorske Street
Cubist architecture was an avant-garde style that enjoyed its heyday before and after the First World War. Cubist architecture in Prague has been limited to a small number of buildings. After the demolition of the Jewish ghetto, the neighbourhood was rebuilt mainly in Art Nouveau style. The building at the corner of Bílkova and Elisky Krásnohorské streets are different. They show repeated geometric motifs, typical of Cubism. This building at numbers 10, 12 and 14 in this street was built between 1919 and 1921 and is one of the few examples of Cubism in Prague. At number 7 of the same street there are two geometric figures supporting the bay windows.

8. Jan Palach Square and the Rudolfinum Concert Hall
In 1989, Jan Palach Square was named after the student Jan Palach who set himself on fire in 1969 in protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. The square’s original name was: Red Army Soldiers Square, to honour the Red Army soldiers who liberated Prague from the Nazis at the end of World War II.
The Vltava River and the Manes Bridge are on the west side of the square. The Rudolfinum concert hall stands on the north side opposite the Academy of Art, Architecture and Design and the building on the east side is part of Charles University.
The Rudolfinum is named after Crown Prince Rudolf of Habsburg. During the interwar period, the building served as the seat of the Czechoslovak parliament. Today, it is home to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the Rudolfinum Gallery which hosts temporary art exhibitions.

9. Jewish Town Hall
The Jewish town hall is unique because there is no other ghetto in the world that had its own town hall or could elect its own mayor. At the end of the seventeenth century, the Jewish community in Prague was given the privilege of having a clock tower built on the town hall. This was a reward for fighting the Swedes on Charles Bridge during the Battle of Prague in 1648. The ornate building in late Baroque style has a striking green spire with a bell tower. On one of the facades of the town hall you can see a clock with Hebrew numbers that clock hands rotate from right to left

10. U Stareho hřbitova
A small street leading to the Ceremony Hall, part of the Jewish Museum, and brimming with stalls selling Jewish souvenirs.

Jewish Prague

Museums in Josefov

1. Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum in Prague consists of: Maiselova, Pinkas, Klausova and Spanish Synagogues, the Old Jewish Cemetery and Ceremony Hall. Combination tickets for these six attractions are available at the entrance of each attraction. Free entrance with Prague City Card

2. Old New Synagogue, Maiselova 18
This is the oldest synagogue in Central Europe and still in use as a place of worship for the Jewish community in Prague. It dates back to the thirteenth century and has beautiful interior: chandeliers, a pulpit and a Torah shrine. The columns and vaults are decorated with reliefs with plant motifs. Closed on Friday afternoon and Saturday.

3. Museum of Applied Arts 17. Listopadu Street 2
The museum collection provides an overview of European and Bohemian applied arts and crafts: glass art, ceramics and porcelain, graphic arts and photography, furniture, fashion and toys. The first floor offers a free view of the old Jewish cemetery.

5. Agnes Monastery, Anezska 12
St Agnes Monastery is one of the most important Gothic buildings in Prague. A visit includes the Oratory of St. Agnes, the Shrine of the Saviour, and the Church of St. Francis, where King Wenceslas lies buried. The monastery garden is also open to visitors.

6. Alchemy Museum Speculum Alchemiae Prague, Haštalská 1
Visit is on a guided tour only, in Czech or English. The ground floor hall is home to ancient books containing secret recipes for elixirs. A secret door leads to subterranean vaults containing items used by the alchemists to practice their trade.

Jewish Prague

Gastronomy in Josefov

1. La Casa Argentin, Dlouha 35
* Not typically Czech but known as ‘Argentina in Prague’. The menu includes steak, rib eye or tenderloin, as well as pasta dishes and salads.

2. Nostress, v Kolkovne 9
* French-Asian fusion specialties and also strong Italian coffee, Czech wines and delicious desserts. Great breakfast menu served all morning.

3. King Sololmon, Siroka 8
* King Solomon Glatt Kosher Restaurant is kosher fine dining. Solomon specializes in Eastern European Jewish cuisine and is one of the few 100% kosher restaurants in Prague with separate dishes and cutlery for meat and dairy dishes. Come here for lunch, dinner or a Sabbath meal.

4. Shalom Kosher Restaurant, Maiselova 18
* Shalom offers a fixed daily menu including soup, main dish and dessert more moderately prices than Kong Solomon.

5. Les Moules, Parizska 19
* The Czech chef prepares Belgian dishes. Les Moules is famous for shellfish. The drinks menu features a choice of more than a hundred Belgian beers.

Jewish Prague

Self-guided City Walk

City walk Josefov, Prague Jewish Quarter is a self-guided walk with clear walking instructions and description of the sights. The route is about three kilometers. Find the description here

Jewish Prague

Josefov: the Jewish quarter in Prague

The Josefov district is named after Emperor Joseph II (1741-1790), who abolished many strict rules that Jews had to comply with.

From the Middle Ages, Jewish merchants settled in Prague. When they came from Byzantium, they settled in the area around today’s Dusni Street, where the Spanish synagogue now stands, and Jews from the west settled near the current Old New synagogue. Their presence was tolerated because those in power needed Jews for their skills and especially as moneylenders.

The Jewish quarter was walled and gradually turned into a slum. That’s why from the mid-nineteenth century, wealthy Jews moved to other parts of Prague. At the nineteenth century all the old houses were demolished and replaced by Art Nouveau buildings . The most beautiful are in Parízská, Brehova and Siroka streets.

Josefov’s main artery is Parízská, a chic shopping street with trendy cafes and exclusive restaurants. This leafy avenue cuts Josefov into two and ends at the Art Nouveau Cechuv Bridge, the Vltava River and the green hill of Letna beyond.

During the Second World War, the Jewish community was moved to Terezín (Theresienstadt). Normally, the Nazis would have razed Josefov to the ground in order to erase all Jewish traces. But Hitler spared this area because he wanted to establish an Exotic Museum of an Extinct Race.

After the war, Jewish art treasures from central Europe and Bohemia were collected here. Now Josefov and the synagogues are the memorial site of many centuries of oppression. With about 100,000 visitors a year, the Josefov district with the Jewish museum, synagogues and cemetery is one of the main attractions of Prague.


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