Budapest: the Jewish Quarter

Dohány Utca Synagogue

A wet morning saw us heading for the Jewish Quarter and Dohány Utca Synagogue – the largest in Europe (capable of accommodating over 5000 worshippers) and second largest in the world after the Temple Emmanuel in New York. Tours in various languages were available, chosen by sitting in a pew near the appropriate flag. We tried this, but it was so noisy we couldn’t hear the guide so we just wandered about ourselves.

In an adjacent building is the Jewish Museum full of beautifully crafted objects and some lovely stained glass. Unfortunately none of the items on the first floor were labelled, though a special exhibition upstairs was much more informative. Given these defects, we spent a much shorter time in the synagogue and museum than I expected.

The way out took us through the cemetery and Heroes’ Temple. The former is there because the Nazis forbade Jews from being buried anywhere else. The domed temple dates from 1931 and was built to honour the 10,000 Jewish soldiers who died fighting for Hungary in World War 1.

Behind the temple and cemetery is Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, named after the Swedish consul who saved 20,000 Jews in World War 2. It also commemorates others who helped Jewish people such as Sir Nicholas Winton. Very moving.

It was still raining, and still not quite lunchtime, so we visited the very quirky Museum of Electrotechnology. John liked the big machines (no idea what the one below is) but I loved the more domestic details such as the Philips reel-to-reel tape recorder. This is exactly like the one I had as a teenager. I would put the microphone up to the radio and record the charts from Alan “Fluff” Freeman’s Pick of the Pops on a Sunday evening. Often, the music would be overlaid by the dog barking and other noises-off, but it was the best I could do. Da da da da-da dah, da da da!

Still raining – time for a beer! Budapest is famous for its “ruin bars”. Originally nomadic, springing up in condemned properties and moving on when evicted, many are now static and commercialisation has set in. Szimplakert in the Jewish Quarter is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, and famous for having part of an old Trabant in the courtyard. Cheers!

Finally, time for lunch. I had set my heart on the café at the New York Palace, but there was a big queue. We managed to get some snaps of the ceiling before leaving.

Serendipity led us to Macesz Bistro. I wasn’t hugely impressed that the veggie option was lasagne – I’ve had too many awful ones over the years – but it was still raining hard and we didn’t want to wander too far, so in we went. This turned out to be the best meal of the whole week (and the only one I photographed). The lasagne was made with matzo instead of pasta and was absolutely delicious, as was John’s duck. Wonderful!

There is much that is picturesque in the streets of the Jewish Quarter, but most of the photos below were taken on our way home on a different day (as you can maybe tell from the blue sky).

John took a reflected selfie in one of the pedestrianised streets.

There were several murals – this was my favourite. If you can enlarge it, you will see a man working on the roof, a window cleaner, a couple on their balcony and this cat.

Finally, we knew this was a school (iskola) but weren’t sure if it was still in use. I’m still not! The best English-language explanation I can find is from a geocaching site: “The Erzsébetváros Primary and Secondary School, situated on Dob Street, can justifiably be named as one of the most beautiful educational institutions of Budapest. The building, originally constructed in 1890, has been modified many times throughout its history, the mosaic ornaments of its facade were installed following the plans of artist Zsigmond Vajda.” Just gorgeous!

I hope you’ve enjoyed a brief tour of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter. Next time – a final visit to the Buda side of the Danube.


  1. We also went to the synagogue and actually listened to the tour guide as we sat in the pews; it was really interesting. I wish I had seen that beautiful school. We did go to the fabulous Budapest Market and also, as you saw on my post, we stayed almost across the street from Szimpla kert in the Jewish Quarter. We made the mistake of going at night, so my pictures turned out terrible. People were sitting in the old Trabant, but it is now covered in some other kind of art; again impossible to get a decent picture especially because it’s sitting under a stairwell and was occupied by party-goers. A fun place, but I really wish we’d made it there in the daytime. 🙂


  2. Such a pictoresque entry. I really enjoyed everything on this page.

    I’ve only been in one sinagogue, in Prague, many years ago, and I don’t have any pic (I don’t even remember whether it was possible to make pics). The one in Verona is inaccessible to non-believers.


    • That’s interesting, I’ve been to several in different places, including Glasgow. However, that one is only open to the public on special Doors Open days. Maybe it depends on the size – a lot of churches are also locked, but cathedrals are usually open.


  3. Thank you for the in-depth look of the Jewish Quarter, Anabel. We only walked by the big synagogue and did not wander into the cemetery. We did have a drink in the same ruin bar, which is quite eclectic and very popular. You are right, it was the “first” or oldest one. We spotted the car as well, not knowing it was famous for that bar. We mostly wandered around during our short stay, not reading up about much. I”m happy to see you found some tasty and good food! 🙂

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