The history of the Old Synagogue in Plzeň began in 1857–1859. It was used for its intended purpose until the Nazi occupation, after which it was virtually forgotten for many decades. Fortunately people of good will came forward to save the historic building; it is down to them that it still possible to visit it and admire its beauty today.
The Old Synagogue is somewhat hidden in a courtyard between the streets Smetanovy sady and Americká třída. It was built in the neo-Romanesque style with a two-floor women’s gallery. It served as a place of worship for Plzeň’s Jews for over 80 years, though it was forgotten when the majority of them were hauled off to concentration camps during the occupation. Abandoned, the building began to fall into disrepair. Fortunately, however, after the change of regime in 1989 a number of steps were taken to protect it. In the 1990s its roof and rafters were replaced and in June 2014 a full renovation was completed. That job included the adjacent shammes’s residence, which also housed support facilities for the synagogue. Today the Old Synagogue looks as it did when it was the centre of the Jewish community. As well as serving its original purpose, it offers programmes for the public, such as a permanent exhibition on the history of Plzeň’s Jews on the third balcony and an exhibition on Jewish worship, customs and traditions on the second gallery.