The Jewish quarter is a small area known as Josefov, named after Emperor Josef II, whose reforms helped to ease living conditions for the Jews (the Jewish Quarter contains the remains of Prague’s former Jewish ghetto). Josefov lies between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River. Here are two famous figures synonymous with this part of the city: Franz Kafka, and the mystical Golem created by Jehuda ben Bezalel, also known as Rabi Löw.
Tour starts at the Rudolfinum and ends at the Old Town square. From as early as the 10th century, Jews began to settle in Prague and by 1254, following a series of devastating pogroms, the minority group found themselves rounded up and confined to the small ghetto of Josefov. They were not allowed out until 1848. Through the ages, Josefov continued to be a stage for brutal anti-Semitic uprisings, not least, the 1389 Easter Sunday massacre in which 1,500 Jews were murdered.
When you are in Prague’s Jewish Quarter (you should be at some point on your trip), you should ensure that you see the Convent of St. Agnes (Anežský klášter). It was founded by Agnes, who was the daughter of Otakar I, in the 1230s, but construction went on for the next 50 years after it was started. Although it fell into decay in the 19th century, it has been partially restored now and two of the churches are often the locations for concerts and other events.
Josefov, formerly Jewish Town, came into being from a settlement of Jewish traders and moneychangers that was adjacent to the ancient ford over Vltava River on the north tip of the “Slavic Flood Island” which extended from a place presently opposite to the National Theater (Narodni divadlo) as far as Kaprova Street in the original riverbed of Vltava.
The Old-New Synagogue – known as the oldest synagogue in Europe, this building dates back to the late 13th century and was at one point the Jewish community’s main place of worship. In addition, to being an important site, it is also one of the most beautiful buildings in Prague. The building has a doubled-naved hall divided by pillars above which rests a unique five ribbed vaulting.