Europe’s Oldest Synagogue
When the Old-New Synagogue (Staronová Synagoga) was built in 1270 it was originally called the New Synagogue, because there were older ones to compare it to. However, by the 1500s, the older synagogues were gone and newer ones had been built, so the New Synagogue became known as Old-New Synagogue.
At the turn of the last century, many of the buildings in Jewish Ghetto (Josefov) were razed and the area was reconstructed. Luckily, the Old-New Synagogue survived.
The exterior of the building is unmistakable with its iconic gothic stepped gables. It looks like it’s from another time. When you enter the building, the feeling is intensified. There is an energy inside this place, like something ancient is watching you. The floor is sunken below floor level. Light is let in by twelve windows, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The walls exhale history. Take some time and inhale it in. Knowledgeable volunteer tour guides will show you around if you wish and will take the time to answer any questions you may have.
Fans of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (one of my favorite books!) will remember that the Old-New Synagogue is where the famous Golem of Prague was kept. For those who haven’t read the book (drop what you’re doing and read it now, it’s seriously THAT GOOD!), the Golem is a legendary creature that the famous Rabbi Loew created to protect the Jewish community in Prague.
Know Before You Go
Getting here is easy. Starting in Old Town square, walk north past St. Nicholas church along Pařížská Street for about ten minutes until you see the synagogue on the left side of the street. Open from 9am to 5pm in the winter and from 9am to 6pm in the summer. It is closed on Saturday and on Jewish holidays (which there are a lot so check the website). Admission is 200 Kč, but if you purchase your ticket with an Jewish Museum in Prague ticket, the total cost is 480 Kč instead of 500 Kč. Men are required to wear yarmulkes, which are provided, and photography inside the synagogue is prohibited.
Don’t miss it. Though separate from the Jewish Museum in Prague, the Old-New Synagogue is worth seeing while visiting the Josefov.