The Portuguese Synagogue is a magnificent 17th century building found in the old Jewish district of east Amsterdam near Waterlooplein.
It is open to the public as part of the Jewish Cultural Quarter and is still used as a functioning Synagogue and also as an occasional venue for candlelight concerts. The building complex underwent a major renovation in 2011-12 to restore it to its original form.
Amsterdam had a sizeable Sephardic Jewish community in the 17th century made up of those who had fled Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition plus Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. Having prospered during the so-called Dutch Golden Age it was decided to build a fitting place of worship.
The Portuguese Synagogue complex was opened in 1675 and is set in a courtyard surrounded by small buildings. The main Synagogue building (Esnoga) has a rectangular form and is built on wooden piles and includes a timber roof structure and 72 cast-iron arched windows.
The original Synagogue interior features wooden benches and impressive chandeliers which can be illuminated by hundreds of candles. There is a Candle Room in one of the outbuildings where the candles are stored.
Some of the surrounding buildings are open to visitors and include the Mahamad (meeting room) and the Winter Synagogue.
Below ground can be found the treasure chambers with its unique collection of manuscripts, textiles (silk and brocade), gold and silver ceremonial items and a film screening room.
The Ets Haim Library (Livraria Montezinos), the oldest functioning Jewish library in the world and on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Note, Ets Haim can only be visited by appointment, open 1000-1600 Monday and Tuesday only.
A free audio tour is included in admission and explains points of interest. There is also a small shop on site offering a selection of books, music and gifts.
Note, gentlemen are requested to wear a provided yarmulke (cap) inside the Esnoga.
The Portuguese Synagogue is part of the Jewish Cultural Quarter which also includes the Jewish Historical Museum, JHM children’s museum, Hollandsche Schouwburg – National Holocaust Memorial and the Dutch National Holocaust Museum (the last two are under long-term renovation).
It is recommended to pre-book a ticket and timeslot in advance.
Portuguese Synagogue Essential Info
|Opening Times||Sun-Thu 1000-1700 (1000-1600 in Dec/Jan); Fri 1000-1700 May-Aug, 1000-1600 Mar/Apr/Sep/Oct, 1000-1400 Nov-Feb. Closed Saturdays and Jewish/Dutch Holidays.|
|Admission Prices (2021)||€17.00 for adults, €8.50 for children 13-17, students and CJP cultural youth pass holders, €4.25 for children 6-12 . FREE entry for children 0-5, Museumkaart and Iamsterdam City Card holders.|
The Jewish Cultural Quarter ticket is valid for 1 month and allows access to the Jewish Historical Museum, JHM children’s museum and the Portuguese Synagogue. The National Holocaust Museum and the Hollandsche Schouwburg (National Holocaust Memorial) are under renovation until 2022.
|Getting There||The Portuguese Synagogue is located very close to Waterlooplein, a short walk from the centre. From Amsterdam Central, take tram 14 or metro lines 51, 53 or 54 to Waterlooplein.|
Portuguese Synagogue, Mr. Visserplein 3, 1011 RD Amsterdam
T: +31(0)20 5310 310, jck.nl
Last updated 9 September 2021. This article was first published in 2016 and has been regularly updated.