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The Jewish Quarter, known as Josefov, is situated between Prague’s Old Town Square and the River Vltava. Its history dates back to the 13th century, when the local Jewish community were forced to settle in this one area, their movements were also highly restricted. This resulted in the area becoming an overcrowded ghetto. The area underwent a high level of development between 1893 and 1913. The many of the historic sites in the Jewish Quarter are now under the control of the Jewish Museum, so a single ticket can be purchased to gain admission to many of the sites. The Jewish Quarter is home to some of the best preserved Jewish historical monuments in Europe including six synagogues.

Jewish Quarter

The Ceremonial Hall and former Mortuary of the Prague Burial Society, is situated next to the Old Jewish Cemetery. Building was completed in 1912  in a pseudo- Romanesque style from a design by the architect Frantisek Gerstel. Today the building houses a permanent exhibition of the customs and traditions of the Jewish people focusing on death and how bodies were prepared for burial. It forms part of the Jewish Museum.

The Old Jewish Town Hall is located on the corner of Maiselova Street and Cervena Street. It was built in 1586 by the Jewish mayor Mordechai Maisel who at the time was one of the richest men in Prague. Constructed in the Renaissance style, a Rococo facade was added in the 18th century. The local Jewish community used it as a meeting house, but today it is closed to the public. The building attracts many tourists to see the lower of its two clocks which has a face with Hebrew numerals, and hands that move in a counter-clockwise direction.

The Old Jewish Cemetery was in use from 1439 until 1787. The oldest tombstone found is that of the poet Avigdor Karo. There are an estimated 12,000 tombstones but the cemetery has a number of burial levels, one on top the other, so the total number of individuals buried here is believed to be much greater. Now many of the tombstones have toppled over and are in a crumbling state of disrepair, but this only seems to add to the view that this is one of the most important places in Prague’s Old Town.

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The Spanish Synagogue dates back to the late 1860’s, and was built on the site of Prague’s original Jewish house of prayer, the “Old Shul”. It has become known as the Spanish Synagogue due to the buildings Moorish style, a design attributed to Vojtech Ignatz Ullmann. During both the Nazi occupation and later under communist control, the synagogue fell into a state of severe disrepair and was closed for over 20 years, but since it came under the control of the Jewish Museum, the building has undergone a major restoration, and is sometimes the site for early evening concerts.