Josefov Walking Tour, Prague (Self Guided)

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.
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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
Author: vickyc
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.

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
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.

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
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.

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.
Stare Mesto Museums Tour

Stare Mesto Museums Tour

There are many renowned historical and contemporary museums in Prague. They are usually located in old palaces that are monuments themselves. You can get the feel of the past and present of the Czech Republic while visiting some of the following museums in Staré Město area of Prague.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 km
Mala Strana Walking Tour

Mala Strana Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 km
Josefov Nightlife

Josefov 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: 1.6 km
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
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
Nove Mesto Walking Tour

Nove Mesto Walking Tour

Nové Město (“New Town” in Czech) is a district in Prague, the youngest (est. 1348) and the largest (three times the size of the Old Town) of the five originally independent townships that form today's historic center of the Czech capital. The area bears great historic significance and is traditionally dense with tourists. Among the attractions found here are the Dancing House (named so...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Prague for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Prague has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Prague's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Prague City Pass (by Ticketbar), Prague City Pass (by Musement), or Prague City Pass (by Viator).

A city pass combines all or multiple Prague's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few Prague hotels conveniently located for a comfortable stroll: Hotel Lippert, Old Town Square Hotel, Grand Hotel Praha.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Prague, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Prague typically costs somewhere between US$25+ and US$85+ per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to admire Prague's best-known landmarks in comfort from the open top of the bus listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able to get on and off at any of the stops along the three interconnecting routes (the ticket is valid for all three). For extra fun, enhance the experience with a complementary walking tour of the Jewish Quarter or Prague Castle!

- Embark on a self-balancing Segway tour of Prague – this usually lasts about 2 hours and allows visitors to get a real sense of the Czech capital. Most people (even those aged 70+) find it quite fun and convenient, enabling to cover much more ground than you otherwise could have done by walking.

- Pedal your way around Prague on a 2-hour bike tour exploring the city's exceptional architecture and spectacular landmarks, watching the surroundings, and learning much about the Czech capital from an informative group leader, making halfway through a 30 minute refreshment stop at the Vltava riverside pub.

- Acquaint yourself with the secrets and wicked stories of the magical Golden Lane of Prague and gain insight into one of Europe's largest medieval castles on a 3.5-hour historical walk to the renowned Prague Castle and other gems of the Czech capital!

- Take a 3-hour walk to discover Prague’s Old Town and other downtown highlights including the Jewish quarter for a chance to learn about the centuries-long fascinating and complicated history of Prague and the Prague Jews in particular. In addition to the beautiful historic architecture, enjoy a free drink during a break!

- Discover Prague with the taste of beer on a relaxing 1.5-hour tasting session sampling some of the best brews the city has to offer! Learn some secrets of professional beer tasting and brewing traditions of the Czech Republic. A truly insightful introduction to the city's beer culture renowned for its pilsners, porters and other brews!

Day Trips

If you have a day to spare whilst in Prague, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Terezin, Kutna Hora, Cesky Krumlov, or Karlstejn Castle. For as little as circa US$45+ to US$80+ per person you will get a chance to discover the highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites including medieval city with hundreds of historic buildings, see the «Pearl of the Renaissance» castle - one of the most important historic sites in Central Europe, explore the picturesque south Bohemian countryside, visit a 13th century silver mine town - once the rich and powerful seat of the royal mint, embark on an educational journey into a former Jewish ghetto for some chilling insights into the grim World War II period, and more. For any of these tours you will be picked up straight from your hotel in Prague and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned coach or private vehicle to the destination of your choice and back again.