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Calling all Kafka Stans: One Week in Prague for Franz

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Kafka statue in the Quadrio Business Centre/Photo: Guglielmo Basile

I’m probably a pretty basic Kafka Stan (The Metamorphosis is my favorite book). That said, I still appreciate his works as the mind-bending, thrilling, and great pieces of literature they are. Prague is a charming European city, albeit a little overrun with tourists and stag dos, but it’s even more special because it was home to Kafka as he wrote his magnificent works.

Wanting to help other Kafka admirers, I’ve put together a five-day itinerary devoted to exploring the author’s life and places that inspired his stories.

(P.S. Need help planning your dream Prague trip? Contact us, and we’ll take care of all the details and bookings ☺️✌️)

But first, here’s a list of Prague locations depicted in Kafka’s books

Several scenes from Franz Kafka's works are set in actual places around Prague, his hometown. Kafka often drew inspiration from the city's architecture, streets, and landmarks, incorporating them into his stories to create a sense of familiarity and atmosphere. Here are a few notable examples:

1. Charles Bridge ("Karlův most")

Photo: Martin Krchnacek

Kafka frequently mentioned Charles Bridge in his works, and it appears as a symbol of connection and transition. The bridge, which spans the Vltava River, is a prominent landmark in Prague and has been referenced in various contexts in Kafka's writing.

2. Old Town Square ("Staroměstské náměstí")

Kafka's stories often feature scenes set in or near the Old Town Square, a historical and cultural hub of Prague. The square's unique atmosphere and architecture occasionally find their way into his descriptions.

3. Wenceslas Square ("Václavské náměstí")

Wenceslas Square is another location frequently mentioned in Kafka's works. Its central location and historical significance make it a natural choice for scenes that reflect urban life and the interactions of his characters.

4. Josefov (Prague's Jewish Quarter)

Kafka's Jewish heritage influenced his writing, and the Josefov district, Prague's Jewish Quarter, features in many of his stories. Places like the Old-New Synagogue and the Jewish Cemetery have connections to his works.

5. The Castle ("Hradčany")

While Franz Kafka's novel "The Castle" is set in an abstract and dreamlike space, it's often associated with Prague Castle ("Pražský hrad"), the historical complex that overlooks the city. The novel's themes of authority and bureaucracy align with the castle's imposing presence.

These are just a few examples of how Kafka incorporated real places in Prague into his writing, often infusing them with symbolic meaning and contributing to the atmospheric and existential nature of his stories. Exploring these locations while reading Kafka's works can provide a deeper understanding of the settings that influenced his writing.

Five Days in Prague for Kafka

A literary-focused itinerary centered around Franz Kafka in Prague can be a fascinating journey into the life and works of this influential author. Here's a sample itinerary to help you explore Kafka-related sites and immerse yourself in his world:

Day 1: Arrival and Introduction to Kafka

- Arrive in Prague and check into your hotel.

- Begin your literary journey with a visit to the Franz Kafka Museum, which showcases his manuscripts, letters, and personal items.

- Explore the Lesser Quarter, where Kafka lived and wrote. Stroll through charming streets and admire the architecture of the area.

Day 2: Kafka's Literary Inspirations

- Start your day with a visit to the Old Jewish Cemetery, a place with deep historical significance that inspired Kafka's writings.

- Visit the Old-New Synagogue, which plays a role in his stories. Consider joining a guided tour to learn about the history and culture of Prague's Jewish Quarter.

- Continue to the Old Town Square, where you can find the Astronomical Clock and the Church of Our Lady before Týn, both of which have connections to Kafka's work.

Day 3: Kafka's Birthplace and Modern Prague

- Head to Kafka's birthplace, located at Náměstí Franze Kafky (Franz Kafka Square). You'll find a statue of Kafka and a plaque marking the spot where his family home once stood.

- Explore Wenceslas Square, which was a gathering place for intellectuals and writers during Kafka's time.

- In the afternoon, visit the Municipal House, a stunning Art Nouveau building where Kafka attended literary and cultural events.

Day 4: Literary Cafes and Reflections on Kafka

- Start your day with a visit to Café Louvre, a historic literary café where Kafka and other intellectuals used to gather.

- Take a leisurely stroll along the Vltava River and enjoy the views of the city.

- Spend your afternoon at Café Slavia, another literary cafe where Kafka was known to spend time. Reflect on your literary journey over coffee and a view of Prague Castle.

Day 5: Castle and Farewell

- Explore Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle complex in the world. While Kafka didn't live here, the castle's grandeur and history offer a fitting backdrop to reflect on his impact on literature.

- Visit the Golden Lane, a picturesque alley with colorful houses where Kafka's sister lived. The lane offers insights into daily life during Kafka's time.

- Enjoy your last evening in Prague by attending a classical music concert, a cultural experience that resonates with the city's artistic heritage.

Make sure to check for any special exhibitions or events related to Kafka that might be taking place during your visit. Prague's charm, coupled with its Kafka connections, will undoubtedly provide a memorable literary journey.

Kafka’s life in Prague

Franz Kafka's life in Prague was marked by a blend of personal struggles, professional endeavors, and a deep connection to the city's cultural and social atmosphere. Here are some key aspects of Kafka's life in Prague:

1. Family and Background

Kafka was born in Prague on July 3, 1883, into a German-speaking Jewish family. His father ran a successful business, and his mother came from a cultured background. Kafka was the eldest of six siblings.

2. Education and Career

Kafka pursued a law degree at the German-language Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague. After completing his studies, he worked as an insurance clerk in various roles. His career was practical and stable, but it left him with limited time for his literary pursuits.

3. Literary Aspirations

Despite his demanding job, Kafka was deeply passionate about writing. He often wrote during his spare time, and his works began to gain recognition among literary circles. However, he published relatively few works during his lifetime.

4. Literary Scene and Connections

Prague had a vibrant literary scene, and Kafka engaged with various writers, intellectuals, and artists in the city. He formed connections with figures like Max Brod, a close friend who later became Kafka's literary executor and published many of his works posthumously.

5. Personal Struggles

Kafka's personal life was marked by inner turmoil and struggles with his identity, relationships, and existential questions. He had a strained relationship with his authoritarian father, and he faced challenges in his romantic relationships, particularly with Felice Bauer and later Dora Diamant.

6. Cultural and Social Context

Kafka's writing often reflects the cultural and social atmosphere of Prague. The city's diverse linguistic and cultural environment, along with Kafka's Jewish heritage, influenced his themes of alienation, bureaucracy, and the complexities of modern urban life.

7. Legacy and Posthumous Recognition

Kafka's works gained significant recognition after his death in 1924. His friend Max Brod disregarded Kafka's wish to have his manuscripts burned and instead published his novels, short stories, and letters. Kafka's unique literary style and exploration of the human psyche resonated with readers and scholars, cementing his legacy as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.

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