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Europe > Central Europe > Czech Republic > Central Bohemia > Prague > Prague/Old Town and Josefov

Old Town and Josefov

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Old Town Square

The right bank section of District Prague 1, the oldest settled area, consists of the Old Town of Prague (Czech: Staré město) and the Jewish Town (Czech: Josefov).

Understand

The Jewish Quarter lends itself to exploration, contemplation and a deeper understanding of what Prague's Jews have endured throughout the centuries. Paradoxically, Hitler is to thank for the Quarter's continued existence - he intended to create an "Exotic Museum of an Extinct Race" here after the end of the war.

Get in

Metro A station "Staromestska" or metro B station Namesti republiky.

See

The Astronomical Clock
The Charles Bridge leading to the Old Town
Old New Synagogue
  • 1 Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí). is the center of eventful history of Prague. The Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings were preserved here. The Historical Centre, including most of the city’s major sites, became a UNESCO-listed site in 1992.
  • 2 Jan Hus monument (Pomník mistra Jana Husa). That striking man standing atop a patina-green metal mountain in the center of Old Town Square is not Jesus, though he resembles him. It's Jan Hus, the great Czech religious reformer whose Hussite movement caused as much, if not more, friction within the Christian community as Martin Luther. The statue was erected on the 500th anniversary of his death (6 July 1915). Hus preached in the Bethlehem Church in Old Town and was himself not particularly radical, unlike some of the sects who followed him. He believed in Bibles written in the worshiper's language, in the importance of faith instead of a clergyman's intermediation with God - in other words, concepts which threatened the status quo. He was summoned to the Church's Council of Constance in Switzerland by representatives of the Emperor, and given a letter of safe conduct to get there and back. Like every member of the Habsburg family, before and after him, the Emperor was Catholic. After Hus refused to repent for his so-called sins and come back into the Church, he was burned at the stake, despite the promise of the Emperor.
  • 3 Astronomical Clock (Pražský orloj). The Astronomical Clock located on a side tower of the Old Town Hall (reasonably enough, on Old Town Square) is easy to find - just wait until a few minutes before the hour and look for a large group of tourists standing around waiting for something to happen! It also one of the most popular gathering places in Prague.
Built in 1410 and thought of as an example of 15th century hi-tech device, projected with participation of math and astronomy professor at Prague University. The mail dial is in principle mechanical astrolabe, showing not only the current time, but also the placement of Sun and Moon in Zodiac, phase of the moon, time of sunrise and sunset, length of astronomical night, time in old Bohemian hours, in unequal hours and other data. From gathering crowds, hardly anybody understands all data astronomical dial displays.
Then there is a slow-moving 12-month calendar with incredibly delicate, small figure paintings by 19th century Czech painter Josef Manes. Every day on the hour, the upper, glockenspiel-style section of the clock performs the same scene: Death waves an hourglass, the 12 apostles shuffle past small windows, and a rooster crows. After the hour strikes, a Turk wags his head.
Long after the Turks had ceased to be a threat in Central Europe, their use as an allegorical figure in genre paintings and other art continued. The Czechs often sided with the Hungarians in various battles against increasing imperial power as exercised by the ruling Habsburg family over their dominions, and though the Turks never occupied Prague as they did Budapest, both countries' artists used "the Turk" (a dark-complected figure, usually wearing a turban) to represent the dangers of the world, and especially threats to Christianity. In the astronomical clock, the Turk is meant to be the stranger.
There is a legend about the clock that states the original master builder of its interior clockworks was blinded by the King who commissioned it after the work was completed so the mechanic could never build such a wonderful clock for someone else.
  • 4 Municipal Hall (Obecní dům), +420 222 002 101, fax: 222 002 100, . Nám. Republiky 5. The Obecní dům was built near the Powder Tower (a storage place for gunpowder and a major trade route entry into the city) on a site called King's Court where once a royal residence stood. In 1901, the Prague Civic Society made a proposal to city authorities to build a center for official and social Czech events. As happened so many other times in recent Prague history, the Czechs were trying to balance the grand buildings erected by the German-speaking community of Prague with suitable edifices of their own. The "German House" (now co-opted and renamed Slovanský dům, or Slavic House, on Na Příkopě street) and a German casino were enough to make the Czechs want a place of their own.
Lovers of Art Nouveau should bless the memories of the Prague Civic Society's officials, because the Obecní dům would become one of the most beautiful examples of Art Nouveau in Prague, filled with artwork by the best Czech artists of the day. Neo-Baroque, neo-Renaissance, Western and Oriental influences – all combined with traditional Czech Art Nouveau. This is what makes the Obecnàdum unique among many beautiful examples of Art Nouveau public buildings in Prague. While the exterior is impressive, the interior is both finely crafted and educational. Almost every prominent living Czech artist worked on the Obecní dům. Painters Mikoláš Aleš, Václav Jansa, Alfons Mucha, Jakub Obrovský, Jan Preisler, Josef Wenig, Karel Spillar, Max Švabinský, Josef Ullman, František Zenoek, and the sculptors Josef Maratka, Josef Václav Myslbek, Karel Novak, Ladislav Šaloun, František Uprka, Bohumil Kafka and Čeněk Vosmík carved out an astounding backdrop for the many historical events that would transpire here. Though their contributions are not conspicuously noted, in some cases (such as Alfons Mucha's Mayoral Hall) it is obviously which artist decorated what room.
  • 5 Convent of St Agnes, U Milosrdných 17. The Anezsky klaster is the first Early Gothic building in Prague (founded 1234) - something notable in a city filled with amazingly well-preserved examples of Gothic architecture such as St Vitus, the Charles Bridge and the Powder Tower. Over the years the complex's convent, chapels and several churches deteriorated and in some cases, were completely destroyed. After Habsburg emperor Josef II's religious reforms, the convent was shut down in 1782 and converted into lodgings for the poor. St Anežka, (Sv. Anežka česká) who is pictured on the pink 50-crown banknote, is the patron saint of Bohemia and founder of the convent complex. She was a daughter of the ruling Premyslid family, but no wallflower in terms of her activism, intelligence and energy. St Francis of Assisi, after whom one of the churches in the complex is named, founded his religious order in 1209 without the sort of financial backing earlier orders had enjoyed. As communism was crumbling, the remaining religious leadership, decimated over years by Communism's anti-religious influence, lobbied the Vatican to finally declare Anežka a saint. This happened 12 November 1989, though Anežka's niece Elizabeth had started the process in 1328! Today, the convent is used to house part of the Czech National Gallery's collection. Admission: Full: 100Kč, Reduced: 50Kč, Family: 150Kč.
  • 6 Museum of Communism, Na Příkope 10, +420 224 212 966, . Hours: Daily 9AM-9PM excluding December 24. An interesting museum that follows the history of communism in Czech Republic until its fall with the Velvet Revolution. The museum has several interesting communist propaganda artifacts, which are worth a look. Interesting exhibits on how Communism changed Czechoslovakia, but skewed toward a particular view of history. Admission: Adults: 180Kč, Students with ID: 140Kč, Children (under 10 with paying adult): Free.
  • 7 Mucha Museum, Kaunický palác, Panská 7, +420 224 216 415, . Hours: 10AM-6PM. This museum is dedicated to the life and works of Alphonse Mucha, a leading artist in the Art Nouveau movement.
  • 8 Museum of Czech Cubism, Ovocný trh 19, +420 224 211 746. Hours: 10AM-6PM. Closed M. The Museum of Czech Cubism is in the recently renovated House of the Black Madonna. This unique Cubist building, designed by Josef Gočár, was built in 1911–1912. Adult: 100 CZK. Discounts: 50CZK.
  • 9 Czech Museum of Fine Arts, Husova 19-21, Praha 1. 20th Century Czech art and changing exhibitions.
  • 10 Museum of Decorative Arts, 17 listopadu 2, Praha 1. This 17th century palazzo-style building houses examples of historical and contemporary crafts, as well as applied arts and design.
  • 11 Jewish Museum, U Staré školy 1, +420 222 749 211. This is not a single site but consists of four synagogues, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Memorial Hall - entrance to all being covered by a single ticket. A combined ticket that includes the Old-New Synagogue can be obtained at a considerable extra cost but the interest of the building justifies it.
    • Maisel Synagogue.
    • Spanish Synagogue, Vězeňská 1. The Spanish Synagogue, so-called because Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th century built a previous synagogue on this site, is a wild combination of neo-Renaissance and Moorish-Spain style. Think the Alhambra crossed with a Victorian wallpaper store, with some Islamic geometric and floral flourishes thrown in for good measure. The predominant color is red, which lends a regal aura to the interior, but there are also multiple shades of green and blue. The background behind the altar is blue covered with gold stars, visually implying the intercession of the deity in the holy space of the building, drawing one's eyes upward to the vast ceiling.
    • Pinkas Synagogue, Siroká ulice 3, +420 222 326 660. Hours: November - March: 9 - 16:30. April - October: 9 - 18:00. Closed Saturday (Jewish Sabbath) and Jewish holidays. Inside the front door of the Pinkas Synagogue, inscribed in tiny red and black letters on almost every square inch of wallspace are the names of 77,297 Jews who were killed in the war. This visual representation humanizes such a number, attaching names to the statistics. In larger type at the front of the synagogue are the names of the concentration camps in which they perished: Dachau, Mauthausen, Oswiecim (Auschwitz) and others. The second floor houses a moving exhibit of children's art which is smaller than the original exhibit at Terezin but no less sad.
    • Old Jewish Cemetery (Starý Židovský Hřbitov), Siroká ulice. On the left wall before the entrance is a plaque detailing conservation efforts (which cost 1 million crowns per year). Over 20,000 people are buried in about twelve layers of graves, stacked to save space. Avigdor Kara is the earliest known person buried here - he was a poet who lived to tell about the 1389 pogrom. The reddish, grey and black tombstones are tilted at crazy angles, some covered with moss, some newly cleaned. Walking along the path that winds around the perimeter, Rabbi Loew's tombstone is about halfway through. It has a lion on it and a plaque on the wall across from it. Loew is known as the father of the Golem legend in Prague.
    • Klausen Synagogue.
    • Ceremonial Hall.
  • 12 Old-New Synagogue (Staronová synagóga), Maiselova 18. The name sounds strange for a building from the 13th century but it was originally just 'New' to distinguish it from an even older synagogue. This was replaced by the Spanish Synagogue in the 17th century, when the Old-New Synagogue acquired its current name.
  • 13 Church of the Holy Ghost. Baroque church
  • Pariska Street (Pařížská). Tree lined street with number of historic buildings, exclusive shopping and upmarket restaurants and hotels.
  • 14 Jewish Town Hall (Židovská radnice), Maiselova 250/18. Renaissance style building
  • 15 Rudolfinum, Alšovo nábřeží 12, +420 227 059 352. neo-renaissance style auditorium, home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • 16 Jaroslav Fragner Gallery. Contemporary architecture. You can find here profiles of influential people and groups, retrospective exhibitions, thematic exhibitions, recent movement in architecture. Gallery provides lectures, seminars and publishing, regarding central Prague the JFG became a centre for architects, professional and general public, students of architecture and construction companies.
  • 17 Postal museum (Poštovní muzeum), Nové mlýny 1239/2, +420 222 312 006.

Do

Buy

Eat

  • 1 Allegro, Veleslavínova 2a, Prague 1, +420 221 427 000. Every Day: 07:00 - 23:00. Chef Andrea Accordi serves up modern Italian cuisine in this restaurant located inside the Four Seasons Hotel in Prague. Considered by many to be the best restaurant in Prague. Very Expensive.
  • 2 Ambiante Pizza Nuova, Revoluční 1, +420 221 803 308. An upscale place which does a very accurate rendition of Neapolitan pizza, but whose real selling point is the amazing play area for small and smallish kids.
  • 3 La Dégustation Bohême Bourgeoise, Haštalská 753/18, Prague 1, +420 222 311 234. M-Sa: 18:00 - 24:00. Often voted as the best Czech restaurant, with price matching the quality. But if you have the cash, it's supposed to be a culinary experience as no other. Menu from 2200 CZK to over 4000 CZK with wine included. One of two restaurants in Prague with a Michelin star.
  • 4 Grand Cafe Orient, Dům u Černé Matky Boží, Ovocny trh 19, +420 224 224 240, . Coffee, tea, cakes and sandwiches with free wi-fi between Namesti Republiky and the Old Town Square.
  • 5 La Casa Blu, Kozí 15, +420 224 818 270. Spanish/Mexican food at good prices, close to Dlouha Trida tram stop. Free wi-fi internet. Service can be slow.
  • 6 Lokál, Dlouhá 731/33, Prague 1, +420 222 316 265. Every Day: approx. 12:00 - 24:00. A new member to famous Ambi restaurants group, this is the place, where traditional and modern blend together. While evoking czech pubs from times years ago, everything is brand new. Both beer (35 CZK / 2 USD) and food (100 - 200 CZK, 4 - 9 USD) is very good. Large non-smoking section in the back.
  • 7 Hybernia (Needle House Restaurant), Hybernská 7, +420 224 226 004. The name of this restaurant comes from the enormous skewers of meat and vegetables they serve, balanced vertically on an especially designed plate. Once you figure out how to handle them, they're great. The restaurant has great service and strongly flavored dishes. Entree approximately 250-300Kč, bottles of wine 350-1000Kč..
  • 8 Touch Restaurace & Lounge, Jakubská 744/4, Prague 1, +420 222 322 685. 11:30AM-11:30PM. Specialized in feathery dishes, modern cuisine, meals. Excellent food well presented. 150-400Kč.
  • 11 King Solomon, Široká 8, +420 2 24 81 87 52, fax: +420 2 74 86 46 64, . Hours: Sun. - Thurs.: 12PM-11:20PM (Kitchen closes at 10:30PM), Friday: Sabbath dinner only by reservation, Saturday: Sabbath lunch only by reservation. Kosher restaurant. 550 CZK (€18)+ per person. Credit card payments accepted with a 1,000 CZK minimum charge..
  • 12 Dinitz Kosher Restaurant, Bilkova 12 - Prague 1 (next to the Spanish Synagogue), +420 222 244 000. 11:30 - 22:00 Shabbat Meals by prepaid reszervations. Middle Eastern specials, in this popular IOsraeli restaurant offering the best value - Glatt kosher meals in afordable prices highlight is the Famous Sampler Menu - a Royal feast with many Tapas style plates & mix grilled meat on Skewers business lunch 378czk (15Euro).
  • 13 Kolkovna, V Kolkovně 8, Prague 1, +420 224 819 701, fax: +420 224 819 700, . Offers a combination of the tradition and uniqueness of the Pilsner Urquell brand and traditional Czech cuisine fused with modern gastronomy (French, German and International influences).
  • 14 Kafka Snob Food, Široká 12 (Just of Pařížská), +420 725 915 505. Good breakfast, nice place to sit at a street table with a coffee. Service can range from very good to poor depending who is working that day.
  • 15 Indian Jewel, Týn 6, +420 222 310 156. Very good India restaurant
  • 16 Kavárna Obecní dům, náměstí Republiky 5 (In the Municipal Hall), +420 222 002 763. Good selection of food in an interesting setting.
  • 17 Grosseto Marina, Alšovo nábřeží (Just south of the Mánesův bridge.), +420 605 454 020. Italian restaurant on a boat providing views across to lower town and the castle.

Drink

  • 2 Al Capone's Cocktail Bar, Bartolomějská 3, +420 224 212 192. M-Th 5PM-2AM, F-Sa 6PM-3AM, Su 6PM-midnight. Al Capone's is a small and family-like bar, located in the very centre, with acceptable prices. Beer 25Kč-70Kč, cocktails 45Kč-80Kč.
  • 3 Chateau Rouge, Jakubská 2, +420 222 316 328. Three-floor club in the old town. Plenty of tourists, including Americans and pub crawl groups, to be found any night of the week. free entry, Staropramen 40Kč.
  • 4 Karlovy lázně, Smetanovo nábřeží 198, +420 222 220 502, . This self-styled "biggest music club in Central Europe" is right next to Charles Bridge, with 5 floors of clubs each featuring a different style of music. It is frequented by Czech teenagers and German high school students. There are security guards at the door who search entering patrons. It is more often than not incredibly dirty and filled with very young males.
  • 5 Music Club Zlatý Strom, Karlova 6, +420 222 220 441. Daily 8PM-6AM. Lively half dance club, half go-go club. Watch out for the bucket mojito cocktails for 599Kč! Free entry for women.
  • 6 U Zlatého Tygra (The Golden Tiger Pub), Husova 17. 3PM-11PM daily. If you aren't easily scared off by smoke so thick you can touch and mean-looking Czechs that look like they would rather shake you than share a table, then this place is a must-stop. It is almost always crowded to standing capacity but if you stop by just before closing during the week, you can usually grab a table next to a local or knowledgeable expat and have some great Pilsner Urquell for 34Kč a half liter, a price that is almost charitably low for the city center. There's also a simple menu of snacks and mains for around 35Kč-90Kč. Check the picture on the wall- that's President Bill Clinton drinking here. Favored hangout of the late Czech author Bohumil Hrabal, whose bronze bust stands watch over the heads of patrons.
  • 7 Barock, Pařížská 128/24, +420 23 29 221. 8:30AM-1AM. This oh so trendy bar is filled with lithesome wannabe supermodels and cool hipster dudes that accompany them. It's the place to be seen, especially while nibbling on the Japanese snacks on offer.
  • 8 Restaurant Franze Kafky, náměstí Franze Kafky 24/3 (Just of the square next to Church of St. Nicolas). Pleasant place to sit with a drink and people watch in the evening when the establishments on the old town square insist on food only customers.

Sleep

  • 1 Apple Hostel, Náměstí Republiky 7, Králodvorská 16, +420 777 277534, . 5 min on foot to Old Town Square or Wenceslas Square. Kitchen, internet, lockers and a TV/music room. Free breakfast and no curfew.. From 280Kč for a 12-bed dorm room during low season to 1190Kč for a single room with a private shower. Rates are higher at peak times.
  • 3 Four Seasons Hotel Prague, Veleslavínova 2a/1098, +420 221 427 000, fax: +420 221 426 000. On the river very close to the Charles Bridge. The Four Seasons is best known for having lowered the wall in front protected it from the flood. But when dry it's as close as you get on the right bank to everything in Prague. Bed and breakfast for 2 people is approximately €250, advance purchase packages are available for as low as €195 per night.
  • 4 Hilton Prague Old Town, V Celnici 7, +420 221 822 100, fax: +420 221 822 100. 305 rooms, including 20 suites in a central location, 5 min walk from Palladium shopping centre. Gordon Ramsey's Maze Prague restaurant is open throughout the day. Kosher food is available.
  • 10 Pension U Medvídků (literally: at the bear cubs, 5 min walk form Old Town), +420 224 211 916, . On the site of an old brewery that is now a Czech Budweiser (Budvar) restaurant, the pension building houses a brewing museum and shop. It is also connected to a smaller bar that is open until 3AM. The rooms are clean and atmospheric. Ask for a room at the very top (#43 is a good pick) to avoid street/restaurant noise. Rates are seasonal but start from around 1550Kč/2300Kč/3100Kč per night for singles/doubles/triples off peak. Add an extra 10% if you want one of the beautifully restored historical rooms.
  • 11 The U Prince, Staromestske namesti 29, +420 737 261 842. Comfortable beds and beautiful marble bathrooms. The terrace bar has a view of the city and Old Town Square.
  • 12 Clarion Hotel Prague Old Town, Hradební 9, +420 296 398 100. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Near Old Town Square Modern equipment and services in a historic building dating back to 1930. Recently completely renovated rooms have internet, free WiFi in common areas. rooms from €68.
  • 13 Buddha-Bar Hotel Prague, Jakubská 8, Prague 1, +420 221 776300. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Vibrant music and oriental aromas in the historic city centre of Prague. Rooms from €418.
This district travel guide to Old Town and Josefov is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.