Organized Jewish Quarter tours in Prague are enjoyed by most tourists who visit the country on vacation packages. The city’s old Jewish Quarter (known as Josefov and named after the Holy Roman Emperor Josef II of the Austria Habsburgs) is an integral part of the city’s rich history and culture, and contains an ensemble of structures that make up one of the best preserved complexes of historical buildings in all of Europe. These contributed significantly to UNESCO designating the historic center of the city a World Heritage Site. These Prague Jewish tours generally include entrance fees to most of the main sights in the district and might be half-day tours that also include highlights of the Josefov Quarter combined with other city attractions. Or the tour may stand alone as its own half-day tour.
There are some companies that specialize in Jewish tours of the Czech Republic highlighting places in this new republic that are of significance to the once thriving and vibrant Jewish culture throughout Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, many of these sites gained notoriety during World War II as places where millions were killed.
For instance, cultural Jewish tours of the Czech Republic would certainly include Prague Jewish tours as well as a visit to the nearby village of Terezin, the eighteenth-century fortress town that was converted into a showcase ghetto to demonstrate to the rest of the world Germany’s humanitarian treatment of Jews during World War II. It was knows as the “waiting room to hell” by inmates, and a significant percent of them were later deported to extermination camps and did not survive the war. Some Jewish tours of the Czech Republic will actually cross the border into Poland, to visit the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. These camps are located only about 30 miles over the Polish border in between the cities of Krakow and Kadowice.
It is also possible to embark on Jewish Quarter tours in Prague on your own if you are enjoying independent vacations in the Czech Republic. A good number of Prague hotels will be able to provide you with maps of the district or a list of some of the most important landmarks. One of the country’s finest museums is located here. Most Prague Jewish tours will include a visit to the Jewish Museum, which is located in one of the city’s finest examples of Moorish architecture—the Spanish Synagogue. Built in 1868, the ornate building is today is a highly respected museum that chronicles the long history of the Jewish community in Bohemia and Moravia. Buying a ticket to this museum will also gain you admittance to other sites in the district.
Josefov is located between the Old City Town Square and the Vltava River—just across the river from the Prague Castle, the city’s signature attraction. At one point in history, the two sides of the river were connected only by the famous Gothic Charles Bridge, which leads from the Jewish Quarter to the fabulous Hradcany Prague Castle. This is the embarkation or disembarkation point for many of the scenic river cruises through the city. Most Jewish Quarter tours in Prague will stop for a while at this famous site so that tourists can walk over the bridge admiring its many baroque statues. You can also get in some shopping on this stroll across the bridge, as many local artists work on the bridge and offer their paintings for sale. Other attractions in Josefov include the Old Jewish Cemetery, oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in Europe – burial site of famous Rabbi Loew who is attributed with the creation of legendary Golem from Jewish folklore. You can also visit several other important synagogues dating as far back as the fifteenth century.