Wandering Jew: Amsterdam’s appeal

A visit to Amsterdam gives travelers a chance to explore a city that has seen Jewish flourishing, sadness.

August 19, 2012 15:59
The canals of central Amsterdam

Amsterdam Canal 370. (photo credit: United Photos / Reuters)

From the 17th century to the 20th century, Jewish immigrants enjoyed a golden age of prosperity in Amsterdam leading to the establishment of huge Jewish flea markets and glamorous cinemas. Of course, the 20th century is also when the story of a Jewish girl and her family, who hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam, became of worldwide interest and importance. Getting around the city is not difficult and there are some delicious kosher options to keep you going along the way.

Some of the first Jews to settle in Amsterdam were the Portuguese Jewish merchants who arrived in c1590. Over the centuries a thriving Jewish subculture emerged. The city is often referred to in Dutch as Mokum – a name given by Ashkenazi Jews - meaning a “place” or “safe haven.”

Start the day at 69 Sint Antoniebreestraat for a chance to see what life was like for the wealthy Portuguese Jews. Here stands the De Pinto House in the former Jewish quarter of the city; the de Pinto family were a well-known family of financiers, scholars and rabbis. Banker Isaac De Pinto, one of the families most prominent members, bought the house in 1651. Inside you'll see the luxurious painted ceilings that make this Italian Renaissance-style property a piece of 17th century mastery. Today, the building is used as a public library with free entry.

Amsterdam Sint Antoniebreestraat 69 (Wikicommons)

Continue south to Jodenbreestraat 4 to the former home of one of history’s greatest artists, Rembrandt. Although not Jewish himself the Dutch painter made the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam his home. Stepping inside this museum you're immediately transported back to the 17th century and into one of Rembrandt's paintings complete with box beds and exotic objects.

After the park the next stop is likely to be one on the minds and lists of most travellers to Amsterdam. On July 6 1942

For the rest of the afternoon head to Waterlooplein square, which hosts a popular daily flea market. The square is on the Zwanenburgwa canal in the old Jewish quarter. The market used to be the biggest Jewish bazaar in Amsterdam when the city's Jewish community was thriving in the late 19th century. Sadly, in 1941, as the persecution of the Jews intensified under Nazi rule the market was terminated.

Even though the market reopened after the war, many of Amsterdam's Jews left and headed for the newly created State of Israel meaning the market is no longer Jewish. Today, just about anything from out-of-date TV remote controls to rare collectible books or records are available. To get to the market either walk via Raadhuisstraat and Damstraat or take bus 358 from Anne Frank's house, both take around 15 minutes. The square is near the intersection with the Amstel river.

To end the day there is the option of dinner at King Solomon, a kosher restaurant located at Waterlooplein 239. They serve a range of Middle Eastern dishes and the average cost is €40 per person.

For something a bit more lavish there’s the
Tuschniski cinema, situated between Munt tower and Rembrandtplein. The cinema is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world and was founded in 1921 by Polish-Jewish-Dutch businessman Abraham Icek Tuschinski. Today, the Art Deco cinema belongs to Pathé and is the location for Amsterdam's red carpet premiers. As you walk into the grand entrance you'll be whisked away into a world of marble, lights and exotic art. And with love seats and private boxes available there is also the option to order wine and small meals while sitting back and relaxing.

The Jewish Virtual Library contributed to this report.

Follow Tanya on Twitter - @TPowellJones.

Related Content

El Al
August 16, 2014
The Travel Adviser: For El Al, mission accomplished


Cookie Settings