The Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam is one of the most significant remnants of Jewish history in the city. Built between 1671 and 1675, the synagogue has been restored over the years, but overall it stands today as it did over 300 years ago.
The Portuguese Synagogue is located in a complex that also houses a number of other buildings, including the rabbinate, a mortuary, and the Ets Haim (Tree of Life) library, which is home to a valuable collection of Sephardic Jewish manuscripts. Still in use by the Jewish community in Amsterdam, it also attracts swaths of visitors who come to marvel at its ancient architecture and beguiling interior.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Portuguese Synagogue is a must-visit for those interested in history, architecture, or Judea.
- Remember to dress conservatively, out of respect for religious traditions.
- Hours vary so check with the synagogue, especially if your visit coincides with major Jewish holidays.
How to Get There
The Portuguese Synagogue is located at Mr. Visserplein 3, right across from the Botanical Garden. It can be reached via tram line 9 or 14, or via the 51, 53, or 54 metro line to the Waterlooplein stop. It's about a 20-minute walk or 5-minute metro ride from the Centraal railway station.
When to Get There
Opening times for the Portuguese Synagogue vary throughout the year, and the synagogue is closed on Saturdays for Shabbat, Jewish holidays, and for special events. Services are held on Shabbat evenings and mornings, again on Sunday mornings, and on holidays, but they aren't open to non-Jews, and Jewish visitors need to register ahead of time and bring ID.
The History of Jews in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has had a large Jewish population due to a mass migration that took place from the late 15th century through the 16th century after the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions, including crypto-Jews, or Marranos, who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism but secretly continued to practice Judaism. Community members fled persecution in Spain and Portugal in search of a more accepting and tolerant society, migrating to far-off places such as Brazil as well as closer destinations, such as Amsterdam.