The beautiful Portuguese Synagogue is a special building that should not be missed when in Amsterdam. Whether visited during the day with sunlight streaming through the windows or during an evening concert lit by candles.
Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam
A large migration of Sephardic Jews from the Iberian Peninsula to Amsterdam took place from the 1600s to the early 1800s. These people called themselves Portuguese Jews. Many of them were from Portugal and some were from Spain.
The Portuguese Synagogue, known as Esnoga in Ladino, was built in 1675, and was the largest synagogue in the world at the time.
The synagogue is still used for worship but is also open to the public as a museum. It is definitely worth a visit. The floors are unfinished wood and covered in sand to protect them from dirt, which is a traditional way to maintain wood floors. The synagogue does not have electric light nor heating and is lit only by candles at night and sunlight through the many large windows during the day. It gives the building a magical air.
The Women’s Gallery is upstairs and is supported by 12 stone columns, each representing one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
The main synagogue is inside a courtyard and surrounded by low buildings housing the winter synagogue, offices and archives, homes of various officials, and the rabbinate. You’ll also find Ets Haim Livraria Montezinos, the oldest functioning Jewish library in the world. The treasure rooms contain the beautiful ceremonial objects.
About once a month the synagogue hosts a candlelight classical music concert. You can get tickets here.
You can buy a combination admission ticket that includes the Portuguese Synagogue along with other sights in the Jewish Cultural Quarter: the Jewish Historical Museum, the JHM Children’s Museum, the Hollandsche Schouwburg, and the National Holocaust Museum which is good for one month. You can order these tickets here.
The Portuguese Synagogue is closed to the public on Saturdays as well as Jewish holidays.
Mr. Visserplein 3, Amsterdam
TOP TIP: If you plan to visit more than three or four museums within the year, we recommend the Museumkaart for locals. The price of €59 is worth it as entrance to each museum is around €15-20 for adults. If you are visiting Amsterdam take a look at the iAmsterdam card which gives you free transport around the city as well as free entry to many museums and attractions in Amsterdam and beyond. Check here for more information and to purchase the iAmsterdam card online. Another option is the Holland Pass which grants free and discounted access to several museums and attractions. Check here for more information on the Holland Pass.
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