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Jewish Heritage Tours Aren’t Just Synagogue Visits

Posted by Gil Travel on Jan 2, 2023 3:03:31 PM

Jewish heritage tours are the perfect opportunity to travel somewhere new and have a meaningful experience. You get to explore sites related to your heritage in the daytime, and in the evening see an entirely new place. The Jewish story is long and winding, and the places to visit on a heritage tour are almost unlimited. But what do you do on a Jewish Heritage Tour? It’s not just Synagogue tours. It’s museum visits, great food, and new people. It’s the perfect opportunity to get to know a city through a lens that relates to you. 

But where do you start? There are so many locations that it can be overwhelming to choose. We’ve created a list of our favorite Jewish Heritage Tour locations and the best things to do on them.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague for Jewish heritage tours

Prague’s Jewish quarter, like much of the city, is beautiful and haunting all at once. I’ll admit, this Jewish Heritage Tour includes quite a few synagogues. That’s because the Prague Jewish Area is one big museum, and all of the synagogues are connected. In a strange twist, Prague’s Jewish area is so well preserved because Hitler intended to keep it as a museum of an extinct people. Now, we are alive, and we use the spaces to tell our stories.

So what are the places you can visit? Where would you go on a Jewish walking tour in Prague?

  1. The first stop could be one of the synagogues, a powerful Holocaust memorial with the names of the victims written on every wall of the building. 
  2. Another synagogue is a museum of Jewish history in Prague.
  3. There’s also the oldest synagogue in Europe, the Old New Synagogue, where the Maharal was said to have made the Golem.
  4. Another synagogue contains an interactive museum about Jewish holidays and customs. 
  5. The most interesting Jewish location in Prague, however, is not the synagogues. It’s the cemetery that lies at the heart of the Jewish area. It’s small and packed–many gravestones are stacked on top of each other–and houses some very famous figures, such as the Maharal, the famed Rabbi and creator of the Golem. The cemetery is worth the trip. It’s huge, historic, and at the center of the city of Prague. 

But Prague is also a fun place to visit, from seeing the Prague Castle to visiting an alchemist’s lab where the Maharal worked, learning about Bohemian history, or taking a river night cruise. There’s so much Jewish history here. Like many places in Europe, it’s also a great place to see medieval Jewish art on the walls of the synagogues and in the cemetery. 

Krakow and Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw lots to see in the city

While Poland is a common location to visit for Jewish Heritage Tours because of the well-preserved concentration camps from the Holocaust, the country was also the home of many Jews for thousands of years, and because of that, it is also a great country to explore for Jewish heritage. 

  1. Warsaw, for example, is home to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial, an interesting site for its soviet-style statue. 
  2. Kazimierz in Krakow was a safe haven for Jews from the 13th century. 
  3. The Polin museum in Warsaw is an excellent exhibit on the history of Jewish people in Poland, It’s beautiful and respectful of history, and you’ll walk out of it knowing facts about Jewish life in Poland that you didn’t know before, such as Jewish involvement in bookbinding and what brought the Jewish people to Poland originally. 

In Poland, you can explore their centuries old synagogues, walk through Jewish quarters, or walk into forests that were witnesses to some of our greatest tragedies. You can explore the darker sides of Jewish history in Poland, learn about contemporary Poland and contemporary Poland’s Jewish life, such as the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, or visit sites that are relevant to your own family.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is beautiful all year round

Before the Holocaust, Budapest was home to a thriving Jewish community. This is best demonstrated by a few sites that you can visit on a walking tour.

  1. One of the best places to visit in Budapest is the Great Synagogue in the center of the city, an immaculate building with beautiful details and a powerful Holocaust memorial on the grounds outside. 
  2. Two-thirds of the Jewish population of Hungary were killed in the Holocaust by the Nazis and the antisemitic Arrow Cross Hungarian Party. Budapest has a few monuments to the righteous among the nations, including a beautiful and colorful memorial within the grounds of the Great Synagogue. . 
  3. The most famous Jewish memorial in Budapest is the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial of metal shoes that line the river, honoring the Jews massacred by the Hungarian militia, when they were ordered to take off their shoes and shot at the edge of the water. 
  4. One of the most beautiful synagogues in the world, the Kazinczy Street Synagogue, is located in Budapest. Its art-nouveau decor and colorful interior will make you rethink what a synagogue can look like. 

Budapest is famous for its pastries. After your tours, visit one of the fabulous bakeries or coffee shops, speak to a local Jewish person, and learn about contemporary Hungary, currently home to 100,000 Jews. At night, the Jewish quarter becomes a nightlife center. It has great restaurants and interesting events that you can explore after hours.

Rome, Italy

Explore the jewish heritage in Rome

Italy. Home of pasta, pizza, and…Jewish Heritage Tours? The Jewish quarter in Rome is from the second century BC and is the oldest Jewish settlement in Europe. But this hip location isn’t just a memory. Today it’s host to boutiques, kosher restaurants, and bakeries. It’s easy to access from Trastevere. So what should you visit in Rome?

  1. While Jewish Heritage Tours aren’t all about synagogues, the Great Synagogue of Rome is worth the stop. It’s a spectacular Art Nouveau building from 1904 and houses a museum about Rome’s Jewish history. 
  2. Rome is also home to the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. 
  3. Take a Jewish Vatican tour or get new perspectives on Moses by Michelangelo.
  4. Marvel at the Jewish Catacombs and the Baths of Caracalla. 

Jewish history in Rome is long, complex, and fascinating, and there’s so much to explore on a Jewish heritage tour of this amazing city. The Jewish community in Rome still exists, and on a walking tour, you might be lucky enough to visit a still-functioning synagogue or speak to someone who grew up in the area. Afterward, stop by one of the delicious Kosher restaurants for a meal. 

Besalu, Spain

Rich culture and heritage in Spain

Spain is a treasure chest of Jewish heritage. It’s also a great spot for food, sightseeing, and some of the most beautiful places on earth. Did you know it’s also a great place to see ancient Jewish sites? 

  1. In the Jewish quarter, open a hidden door and step 36 stone steps down from a square. You’ll find a mysterious stone chamber lit by only two windows. Besalu is home to a well-preserved 13th-century Jewish ritual bath. The bath was in use until the Inquisition. 
  2. Nearby in Girona, there’s a Jewish heritage museum. Girona has one of the biggest and most well-preserved Jewish quarters in all of Europe.

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City a must place to visit

Mexico City is home to a thriving Jewish community today, but it’s actually been home to Jewish communities for centuries, since the Inquisition. The city has many Kosher restaurants and Jewish-influenced food that can be explored on a Jewish Heritage Culinary Tour.  The Jewish community spent many years in the Historic Center of the City, a great place to begin a tour. 

  1. Visit the street in the center that was once known for kosher butchers and bakeries.
  2. Check out the vecindades, or housing units where Jews lived side by side. 
  3. There’s also a Museum of Memory and Tolerance with a permanent exhibition on the Holocaust that is worth a visit. 
  4. Another neighborhood that once had a large Jewish population, the area of Condesa and La Roma is a great place to go for a culinary tour and to see the artistic side of Mexico City. 

Tel Aviv, Israel

Visit Tel Aviv

Israel, is, of course, a center of Jewish Heritage Tours. But this country is definitely more than just synagogue visits. Tel Aviv is a place to explore modern Jewish history, military history, and art. Visit important sites like:

  1. The square where Rabin was assassinated.
  2. The Artist’s Quarter for street music and art. 
  3. Israel is a country where Jews from all over the world convene. Visit the ANU: Museum of the Jewish People for a history lesson in all different diaspora communities. 
  4. Simply walk down Dizengoff street for a taste of contemporary Israel or a Jewish food tour. 

There is nothing like the bustling, cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv. It’s a great place to explore Jewish art museums in Israel or to go on Jewish Heritage Art Tours and culture tours. This is not your average Jewish Heritage Tour. Once you have seen Tel Aviv, check out the rest of the country or go on a tour of Jewish art in Jerusalem.

Interested in exploring Israel? Contact our Israel tour specialists. 

Masada, Israel

Masada amazing place

Masada is one of those awe-inspiring sites that can only really be understood by being there. It’s a fortress on an isolated rock plateau that was the sight of a mass suicide, and it’s also become a national symbol for Israel and for Jewish history. But what can you do in the area?

  1. Take a hike up to this spectacular site or go by cable car, it’ll be amazing either way. 
  2. While you’re in the area, visit the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were found.
  3. Take the time to visit Timna, a beautiful archaeological park. 

There are so many amazing ruins in Israel, and plenty of them are good places to get a glimpse of early Jewish art. 

See more of Israel on one of our Israel tours. 

Morocco

Culture in every corner Morocco

Morocco once had the largest population of Jews in the Arab world. 300,000 Jewish inhabitants made this place home. All over Morocco there are clues to the Jewish past, from tombs of revered Rabbis at the Shrine of Hai Ben Diourne to Sefrou, a small city just outside of Fez that was important on trade routes. This city had a large Jewish population. What else can you do in this amazing Jewish heritage location?

  1. In Essaouira, the home of Rabbi Chaim Pinto can be visited, as well as his synagogue. 
  2. The Jewish cemetery is also well preserved and is unique for its tombstones carved with human forms. 
  3. There’s a museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca. It’s the only museum of its kind in the Arabic-Speaking world. The city now has 3000 Jewish residents, 30 synagogues, and a few Jewish schools.

Jewish Heritage Tours aren’t just for visiting synagogues–they’re a way of getting to know a place through a lens that relates to you. They’re a great opportunity to travel the world in an emotionally significant way, while still getting to enjoy all of the wonderful sights, foods, and experiences that those locations offer. So what are you waiting for? Book a Jewish Heritage Tour today.