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Old-New Synagogue

Built in 1270, Europe’s oldest active synagogue holds years of fascinating Jewish history.

TravelCurious Tip

Look out for the ancient red flag above the bimah, featuring the Star of David. In 1357 Charles IV, the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, allowed the Jews of Prague to have their own city flag.

Good things come in twelves

Originally called the New Synagogue, this holy place received its double moniker after other synagogues were built in Prague in the 16th century. It has survived nearly 750 years of turbulent history, and stands today in Prague’s Jewish Quarter as a powerful symbol of its ancient community.

The synagogue’s Gothic design is simple, elegant and deeply symbolic. As well as the oldest active synagogue in Europe, it is also the oldest with a double-nave design: its six vaulted bays each have two narrow lancet windows, totalling twelve in representation of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Above the entrance is a carved design of twelve vines with twelve bunches of grapes, again symbolising the Tribes. Two central pillars surround the bimah, from which the Torah is read: the bimah’s base also incorporates the twelve vines.


Home of Golem

One legend surrounding the synagogue’s origins is that its stones were transported by angels from the Second Temple of Jerusalem, which was demolished in 70 AD - on the condition that they be returned on the Messiah’s arrival, when a new temple is to be built there.

Even more famous, however, is the legend of the Golem of Prague. The Golem was an artificial man or ‘robot,’ a monster made of clay by Rabbi Jehud Loew ben Bezalel in the 16th century. The Rabbi created the Golem to defend Prague from antisemitic attacks; it required no rest or sustenance, only the removal of the shem, a tablet bearing a Hebrew inscription placed in its mouth, on Shabbat. One day he forgot to remove the shem, and the Golem went on a rampage; the Rabbi removed the shem, and immobilized the Golem forever. The synagogue’s genizah, a storage place in the attic - which is not accessible to the general public - is reported to hold the Golem’s remains.

Nearby Attractions

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Parizska Street
Expensive and exclusive, Parizska is the ultimate luxurious shopping destination.
Jewish Quarter
Formerly the Jewish Ghetto, this historic enclave is surrounded by the Old Town.
Jewish Museum
One of Europe's oldest museums of Jewish culture and heritage, comprising six distinct sites.
Hebrew clock
This was the civil center of the old Jewish ghetto of Prague
Old Jewish Cemetery Prague
The Old Jewish Cemetery is a Jewish cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic, which is one of the largest of its kind in Europe
Spanish Synagogue Prague
The Spanish Synagogue is the newest synagogue in the area of the so-called Jewish Town

Related Tours

Jewish Quarter Private Walking Tour with Tickets
Explore the long and fascinating history of Jewish people in Prague, dating from the tenth century, through the atrocities of World War II, up to the present day. Located in the heart of Prague’s Old Town, the Jewish Ghetto is a truly eye-opening journey into the heart of medieval European history. On your private tour, you will: 

  • Enjoy the personalised attention of a private tour guide and reserved entrance tickets to five highlights in the Jewish District. 
  • Hear about the story of the Jewish community in Prague
  • Visit the most important synagogues in Prague, Old and New Synagogue and Pinkas Synagogue ( Entrance is included).
  • Explore one of the largest collections of Judaica in the world, in the Jewish Museum (tickets included).
  • Walk down Maiselova, the main street of the walled Jewish quarter. 
  • Visit the famed old Jewish cemetery, one of the largest of its kind in Europe, where the oldest grave dates back to 1439.
  • See the Hebrew Clock that runs counterclockwise. 
  • Learn of the Prague Burial Society and Jewish ceremonies and practices around death and burial at the Ceremonial Hall (tickets included.
  • Walk over Prague's most famous bridge, Manes Bridge.
  • End the tour with tales of Prague's most famous author Franz Kafka

Your tour will include visits into the numerous synagogues open to the public, including Europe’s oldest working Jewish Temple- the Old-New Synagogue. Completed around 1270, the Old-New Synagogue is one of Prague’s earliest Gothic buildings and one of its most beautiful. You have to step down into it because it predates the raising of Staré Město’s street level in the medieval period, in order to guard against floods. 

You will also pay a visit to the Old Jewish Cemetery, which dates from the 15th century and offers a unique opportunity to gain a greater insight into the customs and burial rituals of medieval times. You will learn that as many as 100,000 bodies are buried in the cemetery, despite there only being 12,000 visible tombstones! 

Throughout your tour, you will gain a greater appreciation of the struggles the Jewish community has faced in central Europe and will understand how in the 19th century, Jewish hardship would eventually become woven into the intellectual movement of Prague. It is no surprise that authors native to Prague, including Franz Kafka, would become inspired by prevailing themes of suffering and hardship. Hopefully, by the end of this tour, you will feel better acquainted with the rich and complex history of the Jewish community in Europe, as well as with the fascinating forces behind Prague’s exciting cultural scene.

Visit Prague's Jewish Quarter, which dates back several centuries, on a private walking tour with a guide. Your tour includes tickets to five ticketed attractions, including the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Old-New Synagogue, and the Jewish Museum. On your private tour, your guide will tell you the stories of the Jewish community, which date back at least six centuries, and you’ll learn how the Jewish experience became interwoven with Prague’s intellectual movement, which you will learn about through the stories of authors like Franz Kafka. On your tour, you will not only see all the highlights of the district, but also some of the lesser-known sites, like the clock which runs backwards! 

Prague's Jewish Heritage Live Virtual Tour
Discover Prague’s Jewish Heritage on this Live Virtual Tour and learn about the history that dates back to the 13th century when Jewish people were ordered to vacate their disparate homes and forced to settle in this one area. On this live virtual tour, you will :

  • See the Old-New Synagogue, one of the oldest active temples in the world, 
  • See the Old Jewish Cemetery going back to the 15th century, 
  • See the Spanish Synagogue built in Moorish style,
  • Follow the steps of Rabbi Loew.
Your guide will virtually take you on a stroll through Prague's Jewish Quarter,  located between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River, where you will hear the history of the Jewish Community in Bohemia and Moravia. 

Over the centuries, Jews were banned from living anywhere else in Prague. The significant historical monuments survived the Nazi occupation in the 20th-century; Adolf Hitler decided to preserve the Jewish Quarter as a “Museum of an Extinct Race”. They form the best-preserved complex of historical Jewish buildings in the whole of Europe. 

You'll learn this and more during Prague's Jewish Heritage Live Virtual Tour.
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