The 5 most popular Jewish tours in Europe

  (photo credit: UNSPLASH)
(photo credit: UNSPLASH)

Europe has plenty of historic sights to visit, but how many of them are actually Jewish? Most people don’t realise that there are plenty of places throughout Europe that were heavily influenced by Jewish culture and religion, making the continent one of the most well-known in the world for its rich Jewish history. From synagogues to cemeteries to memorials, there are plenty of ways to discover Jewish culture if you know where to look and where to find tours and tickets in Europe. This list of the 5 most popular Jewish tours in Europe will help you find your best options.

The 5 Most Popular Jewish Tours in Europe

1) Vilnius, Lithuania

You don’t have to be a European travel expert to know that Vilnius is a relative newcomer when it comes to popular European travel destinations; its long history and rich cultural heritage make it a hotspot for tourists. For those looking to dig deeper into Lithuanian culture and history, keep an eye out for five of Vilnius’ most popular tourist attractions. These include: The Gate of Dawn, Gediminas Tower, Cathedral Square, The Great Synagogue of Vilna, and Ghetto Museum. Each one offers an incredibly unique and unforgettable experience sure to please any traveller looking for something off-the-beaten path during their time abroad. So whether you're travelling solo or with family/friends, exploring with kids or on a romantic getaway—these are five highlights not to be missed on your next trip to Lithuania.

2) Berlin, Germany

As one of Germany’s major cities, Berlin has a long and storied history, including a large population of Jews. You can see many remnants of Jewish life here, including exhibits at several museums that explore Judaism and its role in German history. There are also tours available specifically for those who want to learn more about Judaism and about some of Berlin’s Holocaust history. For example, you can take a tour that offers both walking and driving experiences; these tours are run by Israelis and other Jews living in Berlin. Other experiences include walking tours through parts of Berlin where much of Germany’s history was written—and where much of its Jewish community thrived before World War II, as well as seeing how Jews were treated during Nazi rule and how they fared after 1945. You can also find out more about such tours on platforms like Guide to Europe.

3) Krakow, Poland

This beautiful and historically significant city is rich with Jewish history. When visiting Krakow, a must-see is The Schindler’s Factory Museum which was transformed from a factory into a museum. Here you can learn about Oskar Schindler’s efforts to save more than 1,000 Polish Jews during World War II. Other notable attractions include Kazimierz district for its charming restaurants and cafes, as well as Wawel Castle which sits on top of Wawel Hill overlooking all of Krakow. Take a walking tour for an even greater sense of history. Krakow is also known for its outdoor recreation including bicycling and kayaking on River Vistula.

4) Budapest, Hungary

The history of Budapest’s Jews is long and colourful. Although much smaller today than it was before World War II, Budapest’s Jewry continues to thrive. The most visited site by tourists is still Kazinczy Street Synagogue; some of its murals date back to the 18th century, but others were painted as recently as 1940-1944. There are also dozens of other synagogues throughout Hungary with rich histories and traditions that you can explore during your visit.

5) Prague, Czech Republic

The city of Prague is one of Central Europe’s top tourist destinations, and one of its primary draws are the gorgeous old synagogues that have survived through centuries of war, revolution, and economic depression. From baroque architecture to a distinct art-nouveau flair, Prague is home to some truly fascinating sacred spaces. If you’re interested in Jewish history or simply curious about Judaism, it's worth taking a guided tour so you can learn more about these stunning places up close. And since many of these synagogues are not actively used for religious purposes anymore (though their upkeep is financed by donations from local Jews), you'll have plenty of time to get your questions answered too.

This article was written in cooperation with Craig Lebrau