Leaving Prague's Old Town Square northbound you enter the former Jewish Quarter Josefov. Over the course of centuries, this was the only part of the city where Jewish people were allowed to settle. Hence, a range of synagogues and religious sites emerged around here. One of the most famous is the Old Jewish Cemetery.
Despite only measuring around 1 ha, the Old Jewish Cemetery is one of the most historically important cemeteries in Europe. An extension was impossible, yet for a long time Jews were not allowed to bury their deceased anywhere else in the city. Hence, more than 12,000 gravestones stand tightly packed, underneath them up to 12 layers of graves. This is how the graveyard got its characteristic appearance: tombstones askew on bumpy soil.
This almost picturesque scene attracts many visitors these days. The most famous grave would be that of Judah Loew, who is said to have created the legendary Golem, a mythical creature who appears in a number of literary pieces. The cemetery can only be entered in the course of a visit to the Jewish Museum. A ticket also includes entry to many synagogues as well as the exhibitions.
The Old Jewish Cemetery was built in the first half of the 15th century. It became the main burial ground for Prague's Jews after the one in the New Town was closed in 1478. Around 100,000 people were buried here over the centuries. The cemetery was declared a cultural monument in 1995.
How to get there
The Jewish Quarter is located in the north of the Old Town in Prague. From Old Town Square, walk past St. Nicholas Church and Kafka house into Maiselova street, then turn left into Široká. This is where the cemetery is. If you want to enter, rather than just peek through the gate, turn right instead of left into Široká. Follow the road until just after the roundabout. Here is where the Jewish Museum is located, and where you can puchase your ticket.
The nearest metro station is Staromětska, only one street from the cemetery. You can get to the museum by bus. Get off at U Staré školy.