Best time to visit Prague

Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

Up to 100,000 people are possibly buried at this medieval cemetery, which is one of the most important Jewish historical monuments in Prague

Best time: January–February | June | September (all year round)

Old Jewish Cemetery
Old Jewish Cemetery
Old Jewish Cemetery
Old Jewish Cemetery

The oldest Jewish cemetery in Prague has thousands of gravestones, they are placed so close to each other that it's almost impossible to walk through. Old Jewish Cemetery in downtown Prague is one of the largest in Europe. The cemetery functioned from the 15th century until 1786. You can find graves of many prominent figures buried here, such as Rabbi Jehuda Liva ben Bezalel (1526–1609), who is known from the myth of the golem and is buried under a sand-coloured headstone with a lion on it. Well-known businessman Mordecai Meisel (1528–1601), rabbi, mathematician, physician, and music theorist Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (1591– 1655) and historian-astronomer David Gans (1541–1613) were also buried here.

The cemetery shortly ran out of space. The Jewish culture doesn't allow the destruction of old graves. So, a new layer of soil was heaped onto the existing area to create more burial space. According to some accounts, there are places at Old Jewish Cemetery where there are as many as twelve layers of bodies stacked upon each other. No wonder that the surface of the cemetery is several meters higher than nearby streets.

The most recent gravestones at the cemetery are dated 1787, although in 1784 Emperor Josef II had banned burials inside the city walls for medical reasons. After that time Prague Jews used a cemetery in Žižkov that appeared in the 17th century after the plague epidemic.

Old Jewish Cemetery is open to visitors all year with varying summer and winter hours. It's closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. The best months to visit is either June or September, which offer perfect weather and relative privacy. The best time in the cold season is January and February—perfect for exploring the site without crowds.

Practical info

When was the first burial held at Old Jewish Cemetery?

The establishment date of the Old Jewish Cemetery remains uncertain, and thus the precise date of the first burial that took place there is unknown. Believed to be opened in the first half of the 15th century, it holds the title of Europe's last remaining Jewish cemetery from the medieval era. Show more

Where can one find the grave of Rabbi Jehuda Liva ben Bezalel?

Rabbi Jehuda Liva ben Bezalel's final resting place lies in Prague's Old Jewish Cemetery, under a sand-coloured headstone decorated with a lion. The rabbi is renowned for the creation of the 'golem', a clay statue brought to life that Jewish folklore suggests he fashioned to protect the community during a time of danger. Show more

What is the significant historical event associated with the latest gravestones at the cemetery?

The Old Jewish Cemetery's gravestones' latest date reads 1787, following Emperor Josef II decreeing that Jews were no longer to be interred within Prague's city walls for sanitation purposes. From that point on, the site of the cemetery was effectively obsolete. The area used for burials moved to Žižkov, where it could be traced back to the seventeenth century's bubonic plague. Show more

How many layers of bodies are said to be stacked upon each other at certain places in the cemetery?

According to sources, the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague features locations with up to twelve layers of buried individuals. Jewish tradition prohibits any destruction of old graves, so when the site filled, an additional soil layer would cover the previously-used one, and the same process repeated over centuries of usage. Show more

What is the difference in visiting experience between June and September?

The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague becomes even more appealing to visitors during the summer months, with June and September offering prime visits to the fascinating site. In June, the area's proximity to the Maisel Synagogue and Spanish Synagogue ensures access to the Prague Jewish Music Festival. Alternatively, September's Jewish High Holy Days allow further insight into Jewish customs and traditions. Finally, January and February are less busy months for visitors who prefer experiencing the site in solitude without overcrowding during the winter. Show more

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