Josefov Walking Tour (Self Guided), Prague

Josefov, formerly the Jewish ghetto of the town, is completely surrounded by Prague Staré Město. Here you can find beautiful and historically important synagogues, as well as art galleries and museums. This tour will help you to explore the most interesting sites of the Jewish quarter.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

Josefov Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Josefov Walking Tour
Guide Location: Czech Republic » Prague (See other walking tours in Prague)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Maisel Synagogue
  • Pinkas Synagogue
  • The Rudolfinum Art Gallery
  • Jan Palach Square
  • The Museum of Decorative Arts
  • Ceremonial Hall
  • Klausen Synagogue
  • The Old New Synagogue
  • High Synagogue
  • Parizska Street
  • Spanish Synagogue
  • Jewish Museum
  • Jewish Quarter
1
Maisel Synagogue

1) Maisel Synagogue

South of the New Old Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter, you will find the Maisel Synagogue which belongs nowadays to the Jewish Museum and is used, as are many other buildings in Prague, as an exhibition hall.

The synagogue was built in 1592 by the Josef Wahl as a private place of prayer for Mordechai Maisel. This rich philanthropist also commissioned the Klausen and High synagogues and the Jewish Town Hall. Built on 20 pillars, the synagogue is the first in Prague to be accessible by women.

The synagogue was built in the Renaissance style but was badly damaged during the Great Fire in 1689. It was later rebuilt and was given a Baroque façade. Its present Neo-Gothic façade dates to the end of the 19th century.

The exhibition features details of how the Jews settled in the Czech lands, with artefacts from the 10th and 11th centuries such as Czech dinars. Medieval and early modern settlements are explained with manuscripts relating to the persecution of Czech Jews and anti-Semitism in Europe. On the central platform of the main nave is a stunning display of synagogue silver including a Levite laver and basin made in 1702 by Jan Jiri Lux. You will also see Bohemian and Moravian synagogue curtains and manuscripts of the work of 12th to 18th century scholars.

It is a fine exhibition and it is ironical to think that most of the precious artefacts on display where brought to Prague and stored here by the Nazis.
2
Pinkas Synagogue

2) Pinkas Synagogue

Built in 1535 next to the Jewish Cemetery, Pinkas Synagogue was commissioned by Aaron Mesullam Horowitz as a family place of worship. The synagogue was named after Aaron’s grandson the Rabbi Pinkas Horowitz. It has a reticulated vault and the southern tract and gallery for women was added in the 17th century. During an archaeological survey before reconstruction and renovation following water damage in the late 60s, vaulted spaces, a ritual bath and an ancient well were discovered under the basement.

Since the end of the 2nd World War the synagogue is the Memorial for the Jewish Victims of Bohemia and Moravia with over 80.000 names inscribed on the walls. The Memorial was designed and executed by Vaclav Bostik and Jiri John between 1954 and 1959 with the names, dates of birth and death of the Jews deported to the concentration camps.

On the walls in the main nave are the names of the victims who lived in Prague and the adjoining walls bear the names of those who lived in surrounding villages and towns. All are arranged according to village and in alphabetical order. There are also a number of children’s drawings from the Terezin ghetto.

It is an incredibly sad place to visit and you won’t be blamed if you leave there in tears. It is also, however, a moving memorial to the men, women and children who never came back from the camps and the ghettos.
3
The Rudolfinum Art Gallery

3) The Rudolfinum Art Gallery (must see)

If you want to visit a really fine gallery while in Prague, don’t miss the Rudolfinum Art Gallery in the Rudolfinum complex. This beautiful Neo-Renaissance building which opened in 1885 was used as the seat of the Czech Parliament for several years before the 2nd World War and became the home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in 1946. The Art Gallery was opened in 1994 and occupies 1500 sqm of well-appointed exposition space. The gallery doesn’t have its own permanent exhibition and specialises mainly in avant-garde paintings and sculptures by famous international artists and local Czech artists. It occasionally displays paintings from older epochs to demonstrate the changes in art over the centuries.

The temporary exhibitions are often organised by foreign institutions in and around Prague. The events taking place are always given a lot of publicity and they attract a great number of people. These events include evening viewings, special interest occupation for schools and seminars. When you have finished visiting the gallery, you can see the rest of the complex, including the Dvorak Concert Hall which has a magnificent pipe organ behind the stage. The complex café is a nice place to relax and have a cup of coffee and some very good cakes.

Why You Should Visit:
Great combination of gallery, concert hall, and café.
Prices for exhibitions fall in the average range.

Opening Hours:
Tue–Wed, Fri–Sun: 10am–6pm; Thursday: 10am–8pm; closed on Mondays
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Jan Palach Square

4) Jan Palach Square (must see)

Jan Palach Square is a ‘new’ square when compared to other squares in Prague. In 1945 it was named the Square of the Red Army in commemoration of the Russian soldiers who died liberating Prague. Between 1969 and 1970 it was rather tentatively renamed Jan Palach Square after the young student committed suicide by self-immolation as a protest of the Soviet occupation of his country. The name was officially adopted at the end of 1989 after the communist regime came to an end.

You can find the square in the Old Town on the right bank of the river not far from the Jewish Quarter. The West side of the square is adjacent to the river and affords a great view of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. The square is connected to the Lesser Town by the Mάnes Bridge.

To the North of the square, you can see the Rudolfinum Concert Hall and Art Gallery and to the South, the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design. On the East side stands the Charles University Faculty of Arts.

In front of the Rudolfinum there is a statue of the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak and by the river you will find a statue of Josef Mάnes the Czech painter who is best known for the beautiful images he painted of the months that were added to the Astronomical Clock in 1870. If you wish to see a commemorative plaque for Jan Palach, you will find it in Wenceslas Square.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
The Museum of Decorative Arts

5) The Museum of Decorative Arts

Located in the Jewish Quarter, the Museum of Decorative Arts is housed in a 19th century Neo-Renaissance building and displays examples of international historical and contemporary arts. The aim of the museum is to leave samples of art and crafts throughout-the-ages for future generations.

The ground floor of the museum holds exhibitions that change every month of art students and renowned artists. On the first floor are the permanent exhibitions of objects from the 14th century to the present day.

The Story of Fibre Exhibition has a wonderful collection of wedding dresses dating from the 14th to the 19th century and miniature dresses for porcelain dolls. In the Print and Image section you will find books and prints made on the first printing presses, photos, public notices and books on graphic arts from the late 19th and early 20th century.

The Treasury Exhibition displays metals and assorted metal objects: jewellery, candlesticks, statues, etc. The Time Machine gallery features clocks and watches from the 15th to the 20th century. In the Glass and Ceramics gallery you will find 16th – 19th century ceramics, 18 – 19th century porcelain and 20th century glass and ceramics.

There is also a small gift ‘area’ at the entrance and a very good café that is often frequented by local artists. There is a small entrance fee to the museum and a little extra for an audio guide.

Opening hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Ceremonial Hall

6) Ceremonial Hall

Just next to the Klausen Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter you will come across a building that resembles an old castle or perhaps a grand manor house. This is the Ceremonial Hall and you’ll probably ask yourself what wonderful history is connected to this impressive building.

Sadly, the answer is: not much. The Hall was built in 1912 from designs by the architect J. Gerstl in a pseudo-Romanesque style. It was given to the Jewish Burial Society and was once a ceremonial hall and mortuary, where important members of the Jewish society were taken to be prepared for burial. It is one of the buildings in the area that the Nazi’s left untouched during their occupation and was destined to become a part of their “Museum to an Extinct Race”.

Today it belongs to the Jewish Museum and holds permanent exhibitions, one devoted to illness, death and graphic descriptions of ancient burial rites, along with examples of gravestones, tombs, memorials and paintings donated by the Burial Society.

The other exhibition is less morbid; it is Part II of the Jewish Customs and Traditions Exhibition (Part I is to be found in the Klausen Synagogue) and deals with the everyday life of Jewish households over the centuries. It is a very interesting, instructive exhibition and well worth visiting.
7
Klausen Synagogue

7) Klausen Synagogue

The Klausen Synagogue stands near the entrance of the Jewish Cemetery in the Jewish Quarter. It is particularly worth visiting for its permanent exhibitions.

The synagogue was commissioned by Mordechai Maisel, a rich philanthropist, in honour of Emperor Ferdinand III who visited the area in 1573. Originally it consisted of three buildings and named “Klausen” which is the plural of “Klaus” and means “small buildings”. The 1st building was used for religious ceremonies, the 2nd was a Talmud School where Rabbi Lowe (of the Golem of Prague fame) taught and the 3rd building housed the ritual baths.

The original Klausen was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1689 and rebuilt as one synagogue in 1704. It was the largest place of worship in the Jewish Quarter and was the seat of the Prague Burial Society.

Today the synagogue holds a permanent exhibition in the central nave, dedicated to Jewish Customs and Traditions. Here you will learn about customs related to events from birth to death, including circumcision, weddings and divorce. There are also Hebrew prints and manuscripts on display and touching drawings made by the children from the Terezin ghetto, as well as a fine collection of Hanukkah candelabras and Esther Scrolls.
8
The Old New Synagogue

8) The Old New Synagogue

The Old New Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter is the oldest synagogue in Europe that is still in use as a place of prayer. It is also the oldest synagogue that boasts a twin nave.

The synagogue was built in 1270 and is one of Prague’s 1st Gothic buildings. The twin nave is explained by the building’s architects being Christians who based the plans on monasteries of the period.

The double naves have six vaulted bays each with five-ribbed vaulting, which is rather unusual, as most Gothic vaulting is four or six-ribbed. Some scholars say that it was to avoid a semblance of the Christian cross. The bays each have two narrow Gothic windows. Over the tympanum of the portal, the moulding depicts 12 vines with 12 bunches of grapes. The number 12 would seem to represent the 12 Tribes of Israel.

Several legends are attached to the synagogue; one being that the foundation stones were carried to Prague from the ruins of Solomon’s Temple by angels and that the synagogue is “Tnay” which means “on condition”. This means that the building will remain undamaged until it is moved to Jerusalem. “Thay” might have been corrupted to “alt-neu” (old-new) which could explain how the synagogue came by its strange name.

Another legend relates that the body of the Golem of Prague lies in the genizah (attic) and that a German soldier who tried to enter the attic was struck down by the Golem. It’s true that during the 2nd World War, the Nazi’s never penetrated the genizah. The lower 3 metres of the stairs leading to the attic have been removed and it is not open to visitors.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
High Synagogue

9) High Synagogue

The High Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter was built in 1568 next to the Jewish Town Hall. It was financed by Mordechai Maisel, a philanthropist and one of the richest men in Prague.

Built next to the Jewish Town Hall, the synagogue was a place of preaching for the councillors of the Town Hall and also where the Rabbinic Court was held. The name came from the fact that the prayer hall is found on the 1st floor of the building.

In 1689 the synagogue was destroyed in the Great Fire, but was reconstructed and the original ribbed vault with its 8 pointed star was carefully restored. In 1883 the building was renovated and received the rather simplistic façade it has today.

During the Nazi and Communist occupations the synagogue was used by the Jewish Museum to display Torah textiles, silver ceremonial tools and ancient Hebrew books. After the fall of communism a bookshop opened and sold books about the Holocaust.

Since 1997 the synagogue is once again a place of worship for Prague citizens and foreigners and is no longer open to tourists.
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
Parizska Street

10) Parizska Street

When you visit Parizska Street, not far from Wenceslas Square, you would be forgiven if you think that you have been transported to the French capital.

Parizska Street is the most fashionable – and the most expensive street in Prague. Its elegant buildings and tree-lined pavements are the equal to any shopping street in Paris, after which it takes its name. At Christmas the shops are beautifully decorated, the trees are strung with white fairy-lights and horse-drawn carriages trot along the cobble-stones, giving the street an enchanting 19th century appearance.

Here you will find luxury international shops such as Vuitton, Prada and Hugo Boss amongst other top-of-the-range names. You can gaze at the beautiful Karlovarsky and Celetna Porcelain on display in several shop windows. The travel agents in this street offer flights and holiday packages geared to the ultra-rich and the luxury 5 star hotels open their suites and rooms to the elite. If you want to catch sight of famous actors, you will probably find them staying in one of these hotels while they are visiting Prague.

There are also a number of very good restaurants that are reasonably priced and you really should have a meal in the Barock Restaurant with its movie-star deco and excellent food. You might not be able to afford to buy anything on Parizka Street, and indeed apart from the porcelain, there might not be anything you would want to buy, but this lovely street is well worth visiting.
11
Spanish Synagogue

11) Spanish Synagogue (must see)

Prague can quite rightly boast to having some of the most beautifully decorated buildings in Europe and the Spanish Synagogue, even by Prague’s standards, is quite simply breathtaking.

Located in the Jewish Quarter, this Moorish Revival synagogue was built in 1868 according to the plans by Vojtech Ingnatz Ullman, on the site of the oldest synagogue in Prague. If you are a seasoned traveler, you might think that the building looks familiar; this is because it is a close copy of the Leopoldstadter Tempel in Vienna, with the tripartite façade and the central section with its twin-domed turrets taller than the two flanking ones.

It is the interior of the synagogue that takes one's breath away. Every surface, apart from the floor, is covered with Islamic-style arabesques that are carved in the wood, molded or painted. The overall effect is stunning. Of particular note is the ark and bimah, the dome over the central space with its Magen David chandelier and the beautiful organ.

During the Nazi and Communist occupation, the synagogue fell into disrepair and was closed for over 20 years. It was restored by the Jewish Museum who owns it and reopened in 1998 as a concert hall and museum. Its name is a bit of a mystery as it has never been used by a Spanish congregation.

Why You Should Visit:
The most beautiful and unusual synagogue in Prague's Jewish Town.

Tip:
Recommended visiting as part of the Jewish Quarter tour.
Bakeshop is close-by for a sandwich or a sweet treat.

Opening Hours:
October–March: 9am-4:30pm; April–September: 9am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
12
Jewish Museum

12) Jewish Museum (must see)

The Jewish Museum in Prague was founded in 1906 by historian Dr. Hugo Lieben and Dr. Augustin Stein, who later became head of the Prague Jewish Community. The goal was to preserve artifacts from the Prague synagogues demolished during the Urban renewal of the old Jewish Quarter at the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1942 the Nazi regime established the Central Jewish Museum, with the goal of commemorating the heritage of an exterminated people by collecting notable objects of Jewish ceremonial art. Artifacts were shipped to the museum from all the Jewish communities and synagogues of Bohemia and Moravia. The museum reopened under the post-War Communist government but began to flourish after the Czech lands were liberated from Communism.

Why You Should Visit:
Apart from the museum itself with its historical exhibits, you get to see the synagogues, the cemetery, and the WWII memorial. The Klausen Synagogue, now religiously inactive, gives insights into Jewish traditions and is a single example of an early Baroque synagogue in the area.

Tip:
Best time to see everything is very early or later in the day.
You can also go back the next day in case you don't get to see it all.

Opening Hours:
Winter time: 9am–4.30pm; Summer time: 9am–6 pm, closed on Saturdays
Sight description based on wikipedia
13
Jewish Quarter

13) Jewish Quarter (must see)

Jews started to settle in Prague as early as the 10th century, but it wasn’t until the 13th century that they were ordered to give up their homes and move into a rather small area located between the Old Town and the River Vltava. Prague’s Jewish Quarter is well worth a long visit.

After the 13th century, the “ghetto” as it was called grew as more and more Jews were sent to live there. At one time over 18,000 people lived in the area and restrictions on their movements and trade outside the Quarter became harsher and harsher. It’s little wonder that in the 17th century, according to legend, Rabbi Lowe created the Golem of Prague out of clay from the Vltava River and gave it life using a formula said to be the same that God used to give life to Adam. The Golem was meant to protect the Jews from persecution, but it ran amok and Rabbi Lowe had to destroy it.

Renovations were made between 1893 and 1913, but luckily the Quarter still retains the best Jewish monuments in Europe including six synagogues, the Jewish Town Hall and the Old Cemetery. During the Nazi occupation, the Quarter was left intact because the Nazis wanted to use it after the war as a “Museum of an Extinct Race”.

Today the Jewish Quarter is administered by the Jewish Museum which houses over 40,000 artifacts of Prague’s Jewish community. The museum ticket covers a guided visit to the Old Jewish cemetery and four synagogues.

Why You Should Visit:
Historical center of Jewish religious and social life in Prague.
Apart from the Jewish Museum with its historical exhibits, you get to see the synagogues, the cemetery, and the WWII memorial.

Tip:
For lovers of designer shops, Parizska Street has just about every great fashion house represented.
Alternately, feel free to drop by a Jewish restaurant and even some stores selling Jewish artifacts & literature.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Prague, Czech Republic

Create Your Own Walk in Prague

Create Your Own Walk in Prague

Creating your own self-guided walk in Prague is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Mala Strana Walking Tour

Mala Strana Walking Tour

Malá Strana ("Little Quarter") is a district in Prague, one of the most historically significant in the city. Back in the Middle Ages, it was predominantly populated by ethnic Germans and, in later years, largely retained Germanic influence, despite prevalence of the Baroque style in architecture. The most prominent landmark of Malá Strana is the Wallenstein Palace. There are also a...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Prague Nightlife

Prague Nightlife

Prague offers fascinating night entertainment. It has a lot of clubs and discos. Check out the most popular nightlife spots in Central Prague in the following self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Stare Mesto Nightlife

Stare Mesto Nightlife

Prague offers fascinating night entertainment. It has a lot of clubs and discos. Check out the most popular nightlife spots in Central Prague in the following self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles
Holesovice Walking Tour

Holesovice Walking Tour

Holešovice is a suburb in the north of Prague situated on a meander of the river Vltava. In the past it was a heavily industrial area, while today it is home to the main site of the Prague's National Gallery, the Veletržní palác, and one of the largest railway stations in Prague, Nádraží Holešovice. Take this tour to enjoy what Holešovice area has to offer.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.9 Km or 3.7 Miles
Hradcany Walk

Hradcany Walk

Hradčany, or the Castle District, is an area in Prague surrounding the Prague Castle. The latter is said to be the biggest castle in the world (measuring some 570 meters long and approximate 130 meters wide). Going back in history as far as the 9th century, the castle has been the seat of power for Bohemian kings, Holy Roman emperors, leaders of Czechoslovakia and is currently the official...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Stare Mesto Orientation Walk

Stare Mesto Orientation Walk

Old Town (Czech: Staré Město) is a medieval settlement of Prague, once separated from the outside by a semi-circular moat and wall, connected to the Vltava at both of its ends. The moat is now covered up by the streets, which remain the official boundary of the cadastral district of Old Town. Notable places in the Old Town include the Old Town Square, Astronomical Clock, Kinsky Palace and many...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 Km or 2.7 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


Czech Sweets and Pastries

Czech Sweets and Pastries

Once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Czechs have duly absorbed the dessert-making know-how of their Austrian neighbors to complement their own confectionery heritage deeply rooted in the Eastern European, Slavic tradition. The end result of such cultural blend is the abundance of pastries,...
Prague Shopping: 16 Distinctively Czech Products to Bring Home

Prague Shopping: 16 Distinctively Czech Products to Bring Home

Previously known mainly for its beer and ice-hockey (both for a very good reason), today's Czech Republic - and, primarily, its capital city Prague - is seen among the top European tourist destinations emerged following the breakup of the Soviet Bloc. A shooting ground for some Hollywood...