The magnificent Budapest’s Jewish Quarter: a vibrant area of the downtown

A downtown area that tells stories about history, architecture and culture.

Budapest's Jewish Quarter is quite enormous and one of the most vibrant parts of the city, where valuable attractions await.

The magnificent Budapest’s Jewish Quarter: a vibrant area of the downtown

The Jewish Quarter of Budapest is a place worth visiting – a downtown area that tells stories about history, architecture and culture.

Budapest’s Jewish Quarter is quite enormous. It lies in the inner part of Budapest’s District 7, between Dohány street, Erzsébet boulevard, Király street and Károly boulevard – you can’t miss it. It is one of the most vibrant parts of the city, where valuable attractions await.

The history of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter

This particular part of the Hungarian central city was once a paradise for Hungarian Jews. They arrived in the 18 century and created a vibrant district. But a dark period permeated the country, the Holocaust. During the World War across Europe, Jewish people – and those who differed from the Nazi regime’s norm – were kidnapped to concentration camps. The forced evacuations were real tragedies.

In the big cities, like Budapest, ghettos were created, and they operated as prisons, where people lived in poor circumstances between walls, but to be free was just a dream for them. Finally, in January 1945, the Soviet army liberated the ghetto. Nowadays, only the remaining part of the walls in the Jewish Quarter and the memorial statues preserve this memory. It is a must to visit that area. Not only to know more about its history but to discover the beauty of the district, which is now blooming again.

Dohány Street Synagogue

The Synagogue is located on Dohány Street and is the largest Synagogue in Europe, officially the second largest in the world. The religious site serves as a venue for various festivals; organ concerts are often played within its walls.

Usually, the organ doesn’t have a place in a synagogue. Jew cannot play it on Shabbat because it is powered by electricity. That is why they came up with a creative idea: the choir and the organ physically separated from the sacred part of the synagogue. The music comes into the temple “from outside”.

Inside the Synagogue, there is the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park and the Emmanuel Memorial Tree. The Hungarian Holocaust Jewish Martyrs’ names can be read on the leaves of the memorial tree, which resembles a weeping willow. There are about 30,000 leaves on the tree; almost all have names. It was created thanks to a famous actor, Tony Curtis.

There is a garden, that contains the burial place of nearly 2,600 Jews who perished in the Holocaust. This cemetery is unique because usually a Synagogue doesn’t serve as a burial place, but it was necessary during the II World War, that people bury their loved ones there. The Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives also presents the history and tangible memories of Hungarian Jews in the museum wing next to the synagogue.

Today, the Dohány Street Synagogue welcomes visitors on weekdays and is closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. The opening hours may vary depending on the time of day and season. Check it before you visit.

Theodore Herzl statue

Next to the Dohány Street Synagogue, there is a small piece of art, a Kolodko statue. That Hungarian-Ukrainian artist is famous for his tiny masterpieces all around the city. You can find a miniature version of Theodore Herzl with his bike, totally worth checking it.

Jewish Ghetto Wall Fragment

As I mentioned, there are still fragments of the old Ghetto Wall. One is under the number 15 of Király Street, in the courtyard of a private apartment building, so not all the time reachable.
There is another one in Dohány Street accessible all the time. The visitors can find a map on the wall that shows the outline of the Jewish ghetto. While you explore the area, you can also absorb the past.

Carl Lutz Memorial

Life is bubbling inside the district. If you are there, it is worth walking towards Dob Street, which is not so far from the Dohány Street Synagogue, and you will bump into the Carl Lutz Memorial. There is an impressive statue depicting Carl Lutz, the Swiss diplomat who saved many, around 62 thousand Jews during the Holocaust.

Ruin pubs and restaurants

The Jew district is filled with life and is home to several pubs and restaurants. The area is famous for its ruin bars, that are located there: the Szimpla Garden with its scribbled walls and bohemian furnishings, the friendly Kőleves Garden, the Kisüzem, which also has a captivating atmosphere and a disco called Instant.

But if you are looking for delicious local meals, it is agreeably worth visiting the restaurants in the area. Of the many, the famous DOBRUMBA and the Mazel Tov should be highlighted, where everyone can find the food they like best – but wherever you go, you bump into restaurants.

Shoes on the Danube Bank

But not only does the Jew District contain memories from the Holocaust. A well-known attraction, called the Shoes on the Danube Bank, also provides a memorial for the deceased. In 2016, it was voted the second-best public sculpture in the world. Its intellectual creator is a filmmaker, Can Togay.

On the evening of January 8, 1945, 154 people were dragged from the building of the Swedish embassy to the banks of the Danube. According to one witness, he said: “We were standing on the Danube Bank facing the water when the relief arrived.” Luckily, armed police freed them, but the iron shoes remember these inhumane times.

From the Dohány Street Synagogue, you can catch a Metro Line M1 to visit the place or take a 25-minute walk. It is worth it because while walking you can marvel at the sights of the city you pass by, like Saint Stephen’s Basilica.

If you want to visit Budapest, don’t hesitate to contact me! Let’s explore the city together!