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10 Things You Must Do In…Prague

by: Caroline Westbrook and Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2003-08-31

A view of Prague

One great scene of Prague

Check out our essential guide to the best sights, synagogues, sounds and scenes that makes Prague special. If you only do 10 things during your stay, make sure they include these.

1. Visit the Old-New Synagogue. Located right in the middle of the city’s historic Jewish quarter, the Old-New Synagogue was built around 1270 and is the oldest working synagogue in Central Europe. Services are still held here, so if you find yourself in Prague on Shabbat or a festival you can experience a Czech shul service for yourself. The ladies section, built in the 18th Century, offers only limited views of the main synagogue, which can be glimpsed through slots in the wall.

Top Tip: This is best seen as part of one of the many walking tours of the Jewish quarter.

Address: Cervena Street, Prague 1

2. Take a trip to the Old Town Square. Since the end of Communism in the Czech Republic, the Old Town Square (the Starometske Namesti), has had something of a makeover, with brightly coloured buildings, cafes and restaurants crowding the square and the surrounding cobbled streets. The world-famous Astronomical Clock can also be found here. And designer clothing fans should check out the neighbouring street Pariska for some of the most exclusive shops in the city.

Top Tip: Don’t miss the chance to see the clock chiming the hour – it does a whole lot more than just tell the time.

3. Have a kosher dinner, Czech-style. There aren’t many kosher restaurants in Prague but the best, King Solomon, serves kosher versions of Czech specialities (schnitzels, duck) as well as traditional Jewish fare.

Top Tip: Wash down your meal with a spot of local liqueur – we recommend the cherry.

Address: Siroka 8, Prague 1
Tel: 248 18 752

4. Take a trip to Terezin. Located about an hour away from Prague, this was a concentration camp which served as a holding camp for Jews awaiting transport elsewhere. It was also used as a ‘show camp’ for the outside world, with art and music employed to try and convince people that the Jews were not being mistreated by the Nazis.

Top Tip: Go on one of the many guided tours that are available throughout Prague – coaches depart from the centre of the city.

5. Visit the Pinkas Synagogue. Another of the shuls located in the Jewish Quarter, the shul recently re-opened after being damaged in the floods that hit Prague in 2002. The shul is notable for its memorial to the Holocaust victims of Bohemia and Moravia, with all 80,000 victims’ names inscribed on the walls. An exhibition of drawings from children imprisoned in Terezin is housed on the upper level.

Top Tip: It’s a good idea to do the Old-New Synagogue and the Pinkas on the same day as they are literally a stone’s throw from each other.

Address: Siroka Street, Prague 1

6. Wander past Wenceslas Square. Central Prague is so compact that it’s easy to walk from one place to another, so chances are you will find yourself in the town’s other major square at some point. Cafes, restaurants and shops dominate the square and the surrounding streets, but the square’s main point of interest is as the site of key moments in Czech history, including 1989’s Velvet Revolution (which heralded the end of Communism)

Top Tip: The shops in the neighbouring streets are well worth a visit.

7. Go to the Old Jewish Cemetery. With its slanted tombstones, this historic graveyard is like no other cemetery you’ll have seen – the oldest stone dates back to 1437 although people were buried there until 1787. Although it houses 12,000 gravestones, many more people are thought to be there since bodies were buried on top of each other in the cemetery. The most famous grave belongs to that of Rabbi Loewe, who legend has it created the Golem to protect the Jews in the Prague ghetto.

Top Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and be careful as the ground can be a little uneven.

Address: Siroka Street, Prague 1

8. Pay a visit to Prague Castle. Over a thousand years old, this huge castle complex offers a fascinating history lesson as well as providing some stunning views of the city.

Top Tip: Have your photo taken with one of the sentry guards who patrol the castle gates – don’t ask, just stand next to them and have the camera ready!

Address: Hradcany, Prague

9. Pick up some souvenirs at Havel’s market. The largest market in Prague sells everything from fruit, vegetables and flowers to toys, embroidery and gifts. If you’re looking for some unusual, inexpensive knick-knacks to take back with you, here’s the place.

Top Tip: Handmade wooden toys and jewel-encrusted perfume bottles make great presents – and they don’t cost a fortune.

Address: Between Starometske Namesti and Wenceslas Square

10. Visit Prague’s other synagogues. The Old-New and the Pinkas are the most famous, but the Jewish quarter boasts a number of other shuls, including The Maisel Synagogue (named after Mordechai Maisel, who was a prominent Jewish businessman in Prague in the 16th Century and who built the shul), the Klausen Synagogue (which houses a fascinating exhibition focusing on Jewish customs and traditions) and the Spanish Synagogue which is an ornate Sephardi shul.

Top Tip: You can take a guided tour of all the synagogues but if you only want to see one or two, then they can be explored just as easily without the benefit of a tour guide.

Address: The Maisel Synagogue, Maisel Street, Prague 1
Address: The Klausen Synagogue, U Stareho Hrbitova 3a, Prague 1
Address: The Spanish synagogue, Vezenska Street, Prague 1

Getting to Prague

British Airways, British Midland/bmibaby, Czech Airlines and EasyJet are just a few of the airlines that fly to Prague’s Ruzyne Airport from the UK.

There is no direct train or metro service to and from the airport, so getting into the city by train can be complicated. The best way of reaching the centre of town is either to use the Cedaz private van service (agree a fee with the driver before boarding) or get a taxi, which shouldn’t set you back more than 600 Czech koruna (about £12)