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“Magnificent Historical Structure” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Portuguese Synagogue

Portuguese Synagogue
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Amsterdam in the Golden Age: Admission to the Portuguese Synagogue
Ranked #29 of 449 things to do in Amsterdam
Certificate of Excellence
Dallas, Texas
Level Contributor
582 reviews
429 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 273 helpful votes
“Magnificent Historical Structure”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 1, 2014

There is more to see than just this huge synagogue structure from the 1600s, but the synagogue alone is worth the visit. The audio guides help bring this still-active synagogue to life.

Visited June 2014
1 Thank jbwhitehouse
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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716 reviews from our community

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  • Danish first
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  • English first
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English first
San Francisco, California
Level Contributor
197 reviews
36 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 112 helpful votes
“A Survivor”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 24, 2014

Everyone is welcome to see the synagogue and it's outbuildings on their own, without a guide. A free audio guide is included, and definitely enhances the experience. It's amazing that this building has survived over 400 years and is still an active congregation. Its members consider it a privilege to be able to keep their synagogue alive, and many families have been supporters for generations. There is no electricity in the main building and the chandeliers hold candles. The worn wooden floors and benches attest to the age of this extraordinary building.

Visited June 2014
1 Thank kurseni
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Christchurch, New Zealand
Level Contributor
127 reviews
70 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 43 helpful votes
“Thank you”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 15, 2014

I was interested to visit this synagogue to learn more about the Sephardic Jews, their place in Amsterdam, hoe the synagogue survived the Nazi occupation and to learn as much as I could. I was NOT DISAPPOINTED. All is available to see, there are no restrictions, you CAN TAKE PHOTOS. The Audio machine is easy to use.
GO THERE, what ever your creed, religion, beliefs are. It is well worth the visit (you also get a free entrance into the Jewish Museum, if you want to visit it)

Visited June 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Perth Australia
Level Contributor
222 reviews
172 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 282 helpful votes
“Just one part of the Jewish Quarter”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 14, 2014

At the time the Synagogue was built (1675), Amsterdam’s planning laws stated that synagogues could be visible but their entrances must not stand out. Today it is surrounded by a brown brick boundary wall with white windows and a tiled roof. The structure is just 1 room wide along the total boundary. Situated very close to the metro Mr Visserplein stop if the Synagogue didn’t have a sign on it; I think it would be easy enough to walk past it, but don't because it will reward you with its history.
Although I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the Portuguese Synagogue; the reality wasn’t quite the same as the nebulous image I had in my mind. Entry is through sliding doors with void between each door and there’s security. Don’t forget to grab your audio because this makes the visit so much more interesting.
The courtyard is paved and somehow doesn’t look big enough for the imposing building of the Synagogue; this is one of the largest synagogues in the world. Somehow, I don’t know how, this building survived Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
Despite its history, today it is still an active Sephardic synagogue and very much the heart of the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam.
I started with the rooms to the left side of the main entrance. Here there is the former Mourning room. The room is simply furnished with a coffin stand and some chairs for the people who would have stayed with the deceased. There also is a glass cabinet with hats and gloves that the undertaker would have worn.
Next door is the hand washing room. Thousand of years ago, the men who wrote the Talmud recognised the connection between cleaniness both in a phyical and spiritual sense.Water was seen to wash away bad spirits, so like in Islam where hand, face and feet ablutions are performed prior to entering a Mosque so is the ritual hand washing performed prior to praying.
In another room the horn trumpets, candlestick holders and torah scroll ends are displayed. These are still used in the synagogue today.
What surprised me was that visitors were allowed into pretty much any area of the synagogue and its surrounding buildings, the exception being the main hall. If you follow the building around to the entrance to the women’s gallery, climb the stairs, (unusually wide for Dutch stairs!!) women and gentiles are able to view the main hall from this vantage point. The women’s gallery has a pretty turquoise lattice surrounding it and is supported by 12 marble columns representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Rising from the floor of the main hall are 4 very tall columns (possibly representing the four mothers of Israel – Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah or the original four Levite families, Mosses was among these) to beams that support the beautiful wooden barrel vault ceiling. From the ceiling hang a number of very large, multi armed silver candelabras, as the synagogue doesn’t have electric lights, hundreds of candles are used for illumination. To see this all lit up must be an absolute treat. Most of the windows are arched with small leadlight panes, making the space seem light and airy. Situated at opposite ends of the main hall is the Ark of the Covenant and the raised tebah, from where the service is lead, between these are rows of benches that face toward the centre aisle. Judging by the size of the synagogue floor space and the number of benches, this must have been a large congregation. This thought saddens me as now the congregation in total is only about 600.
Exiting from the gallery, I cross the courtyard to view from the outside the former mikvah. This tiled room with a deep walk in bath is used for ritual purification. What I really enjoyed about the narration for this room, was the loving way a female mikvah attendant, who had worked in that capacity for over 50 years, explained the process and the pride and love she felt carrying out such an important ritual caring for the women of her congregation.
Tucked in the corner of the courtyard is the entrance to the Winter Synagogue and the Ma’amad (boardroom).
The room that is used as the Winter Synagogue used to be a classroom of the former Ets Haim seminary. As with the main synagogue the walls are painted in the most divine turquoise colour. The floor is wooden and the benches in here are from the 1600s. This room is used in winter because it is small enough to heat (you would have no chance of adequately heating the synagogue aside that, it doesn’t have electricity). The room has a beautiful feel that just wraps around you.
On the opposite side of the entrance hall is the boardroom, on the floor is a huge rug with a phoenix in its centre. A rather appropriate symbol I would have thought considering all that the Jewish people have been through, and yet they still practice their religion.
The aptly named Treasure room is in the basement between the winter synagogue and the entrance. Housed here is an amazing collection of ceremonial silver ware, beautiful brocade Torah covers, some of them hundreds of years old. It is also possible to see a very small percentage of the Et Haim Library. This is a UNESCO world Heritage Site which isn’t open to the public but houses a collection of Jewish books, some dating from the early 1600s.
My visit was an hour but could have been longer if I hadn't had another place to be. I really enjoyed my visit.
Entrance E12.00 (free with Museumkaart), the ticket also allows free entry to the Jewish Historical Museum and the Schouwburg Theatre, with the ticket valid for 1 month from purchase.
Open Sunday to Friday (early close for Shabbat). Closed Saturday.
Photos OK, no flash.
Easy access via tram or metro to Mr Visserplein stop.

Visited July 2013
3 Thank 35yrdream
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
202 reviews
57 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
“Incredible piece of history”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 29, 2014

This place is a 'must see' because of its rich history and the artifacts that are stored there. We had a guide to take us in and show us around. Not sure if you can enter without one.

Visited May 2014
Thank Michelle P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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