Visit the Amsterdam Jewish Cultural Quarter

Visiting the Jewish Cultural Quarter Museums is a must when you travel to Amsterdam.
Throughout Amsterdam you’ll find monuments, statues and different kinds of memories of the Second World War. The Anne Frank House is often best known for visitors from outside of Amsterdam. She has become a figurehead for Jewish persecution in the Netherlands during the Second World War.
Before the start of the Second World War, about 80,000 Jews lived in Amsterdam. Only a few of them survived the war. In the neighborhood that used to be a lively Jewish neighborhood, is now the Jewish Cultural Quarter. A collection of buildings, monuments and museums that tell the history of the Jewish people and culture. You should definitely visit this area!

Five Main Museums in the Jewish Cultural Quarter Amsterdam

The Jewish Cultural Quarter consists of 5 main museums:

  • Jewish Historical Museum
  • Jewish Historical Children’s Museum
  • Portuguese Synagogue
  • Hollandsche Schouwburg
  • National Holocaust Museum

Buy a ticket for the Jewish Cultural Quarter, it includes all these museums. You can then visit all these locations for a month on that one ticket. How great is that?

Jewish Historical Museum

Start with this museum. Located in ancient synagogues you will discover the Jewish history and culture of the Netherlands here. When you enter the museum, walk to the employee behind the counter to pick up an audio tour. The audio tour is available in 8 different languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and of course Hebrew. The audio tour consists of a small device that you can point at various points in the museum, giving you an explanation of what you see.
This museum contains a space where religious objects are exhibited and there is a lot of explanation about what Jews believe and how they organize their lives accordingly.
Walk up the stairs and there are several rooms that tell the history of the Jewish people until just after the Second World War.
Often there is one or there are several exhibitions in this museum. Check their website to see which exhibition there is.

Jewish Historical Children’s Museum

Next to the entrance to the Historical Museum is also the entrance of the children’s museum. In this museum children, and of course adults, can get to know Jewish life in a playful way. It is suitable for children around 5/6 to 12 years old. In this museum you enter the house of the Hollander family, who explain the different customs and traditions through the different rooms in their house. Learn to write your name in Hebrew in the study, bake a challah in the kosher kitchen and make music together in the music room!

Portuguese Synagogue

Cross the intersection next to the Historical Museum to go to the Portuguese Synagogue. This building was built in 1675 and still serves as a prayer house. When there are no meetings, the synagogue is open to the public. It’s nice to pick up an audio tour here. Enter the synagogue and walk around the building, where several spaces can also be visited and contain explanations via the audio tour. View the storage space of the candles, the mikveh and don’t forget the treasure rooms in the basement.
The audio tour makes a visit to this synagogue very interesting!

This complex also houses the oldest functioning Jewish library in the world called: Ets Haim Livraria Montezinos. This library is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Do visit this library but because it is normally closed to public don’t forget to make an appointment for a private tour first.

Hollandsche Schouwburg

From the Portuguese Synagogue you can walk to the Hollandsche Schouwburg in about 8 minutes. For about 50 years it was a theater, during the Second World War it was used as a gathering place for Jews who had been arrested. They awaited an unknown fate here. They would be deported from here to Camp Westerbork or Vught, before going to a concentration camp in Germany. The intense history can be felt in this building. The images and stories on the upper floor are more explicit than in the previous 3 museums. On the ground floor there is an impressive wall of names in memory of the Jewish victims.

National Holocaust Museum

Diagonally opposite the Hollandsche Schouwburg is the former Kweekschool, which is set up as a National Holocaust Museum. With the help of the resistance, hundreds of children from the Hollandsche Schouwburg and from the day care center that was next to this building, were brought to safety. The history of the Holocaust will be told through facts at this location. Uncut and unpolished. To confront the visitor with the consequences of indifference, discrimination and exclusion. Both then and now.
They have been open for 3 years as a pilot for a holocaust museum. There appeared to be a great need, so it is currently under construction. Check the website for the latest news.

By concluding with the National Holocaust Museum it all seems to become a bit heavy. Which it also is, of course. The great thing about the Jewish Cultural Quarter, is that through these different locations you can dive into the subjects as deep as you would like. At the cash register a walking route is available through the Jewish Cultural Quarter, with a short explanation of the 5 main locations and many other monuments and buildings.

This district used to be the beating heart of Jewish society in Amsterdam and there is still so much to be seen. For example the diamond cutter Gassan Diamonds and don’t forget the Waterlooplein! There is still a thriving flea market there every day.

Dive into the cultural quarter and immerse yourself in this impressive history!

Tip: Check the opening times before visiting. The different locations have different opening times.
And if you’d like to see more of Holland, book a private tour with us!

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