A trip to the beautiful city of Prague is like a jump back into Jewish history.
The next European city we’re going to explore is Prague – best known for its beer and the old city.
In the 14th century the city of Prague bloomed and became one of Europe’s largest and wealthiest cities. In 1338 the Old Town Hall was established and in 1357 the Charles Bridge was built. Central Europe’s first university was built there and Prague became the capital of the Roman Empire. The towers of Prague Castle were covered in gold, giving Prague the nickname “Golden City.”
Prague also boasts one of the oldest recorded kehillos in Europe – there has been a continuous, established community in Prague since the year 965; despite many pogroms, expulsions, and the Holocaust. Nowadays there are around 2,000 members registered in the Jewish community, but there are probably as many as 10,000 unregistered Jews in the country.
Most Jewish tourists coming to Prague will choose to have a tour of the old city. There are private tours (offered by different tour companies) you can book in advance or you can join a group tour at the museum at 2 p.m. every day. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be doing a lot of walking!
Included in the tours are the Jewish Quarter, the Old Jewish cemetery and 5 shuls.
Prague’s cemetery is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Europe with about 200,000 graves. The most famous grave belongs to the Maharal who built the Golem. Unlike most of Europe’s ancient cemeteries, this one was kept intact during WWII because the Nazis wanted it to be part of their museum after the world was made Judenrein.
Shuls You’ll See in Prague:
- The Alt-Neu Shul – Europe’s oldest active shul and the oldest surviving medieval shul, built in 1270.
- The Pinkas Shul – built by the Horowitz family in 1535, today its walls commemorate the 78,000 Czech victims of the Holocaust. Their names are written on the walls in red ink.
- Maisel Shul – Built at the end of the 16th century by Mordechai Maisel who had an important position the emperor’s court.
- Klausen Shul – Largest shul in the ghetto, the sole example of a shul built in the early Baroque style of architecture.
- Spanish Shul – Built in the place of the Old Shul which was destroyed because its members had become too reform. Replaced by the Spanish Shul in 1867, its name reflects the style in which it was built.
Another wonderful way to explore Prague is with the hop-on-hop-off bus. You don’t have to worry about getting from one place to the next and the audio guides give you information about everything that you can see from your window.
Interesting places to stop along the way:
Prague Castle – the largest castle complex in the world with beautiful gardens and narrow paths.
Mala Strana – hillside area with views across the river and peacocks that roam freely.
Petrin Tower – take a cable car up the mountain and climb the “Czech Eiffel Tower” for a beautiful view of the city.
Charles Bridge – connects Prague’s old city with the castle. Decorated with 30 statues in the Baroque style.
River Cruise – experience Prague from a different angle and enjoy a relaxing cruise down the Vlata River.
Currency – surprisingly, the currency in the Czech Republic isn’t the Euro, but the Czech Crown, called Koruna. 1 Dollar is about 25 CZK.
There are many exchange offices that offer “0% commission” but end up scamming you and charging an exorbitant exchange fee. Be wary when changing money.
Public Transportation – Very practical and easy to use. There are only 3 metro lines and you can buy 30-minute or 90-minute tickets. Beware – the ticket machines only accept coins.
Kosher Food in Prague:
Chabad Shelanu Pizzeria – Chalav yisrael restaurant offering pizza, falafel and other delicious dairy dishes. Taste the only kosher Trdelnik – a rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnuts. Yum!
King Solomon – Excellent cuisine in the Jewish Quarter of Prague. Traditional Jewish dishes such as chicken soup and gefilte fish but also offering specialty Czech meat, duck and deer dishes.
Let’s not forget about Prague’s famous beer! You can choose to visit tens of different breweries or go on a beer-tasting crawl through the city. Beer in Prague is cheaper than coke or bottled water, so l’chayim!
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