Jewish Quarter Walking Tour:
Location: Jewish Quarter (Central Pest)
Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Museum and sight costs below)
Style: Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour (Self Guided)
Start: Dohány Street Synagogue (Astoria M2 Metro Stop)
End: Academy of Fine Arts (Vörösmarty Utca M1 Metro Stop)
Time: 90 Minutes of walking (4-5 hours with all sights)
Walking Distance: 2 miles for stops 1-19, 20 & 21 add a 1/2 mile.
Fun Scale: 8.5 out of 10
Jewish History In Budapest:
The History of Jews in modern Hungary goes all the way back to 300 A.D. based on artifacts and were first written about in 960 A.D. Leading up to World War II Hungary was 25% Jewish, however, because of the actions of the Nazi group Arrow Cross, 600,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. In all, a staggering 19% of all the Nazi victims during the Holocaust were Hungarian. Numerous sights around Budapest serve as a constant reminder of both the dark days of WWII and the warmth of the city’s vibrant Jewish culture. This Jewish culture is strengthened by the 100,000 Jews still living in Hungary giving it the second largest Jewish population in this part of Europe.
The Jewish Quarter today roughly follows the boundaries set by the Jewish Ghetto the Jews confined to in WWII. Three huge Synagogues serve as the geographical & spiritual cornerstones of the neighborhood, including the second largest Synagogue in the world. Adding to the charm are late Art Nouveau & Neo-Classical homes, long arcades, romantic courtyards, and a series of emotional reminders of the past.
The Jewish Quarter Walking Tour:
1. Dohány Street Synagogue: Known as the Grand Synagogue, the Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest in Europe and second largest in the world, only behind one synagogue in New York City. The exterior of this Moorish style Synagogue is dominated by two 141 foot tall brick towers capped with green onion domes. This modest yet powerful design came from the famous German architect Ludwig Förster, who completed the Synagogue in 1859. The 3,000 seat interior of Dohány is the the real treat with its pink walls, dark hardwoods, gold accents, and dozens of chandeliers.
After being damaged by 27 separate bombings in WWII, the Synagogue was restored with the help of American actor Tony Curtis who comes from Hungarian-Jewish origins. As part of the restorations, they greatly expanded the beautiful organ by tripling its registers, bringing it up to a whopping 4,500 pipes. The restorations are ongoing and to this day Tony’s daughter, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, continues to help support the Dohány Street Synagogue.
While you are free roam the grounds for free, we highly suggest buying a ticket to go inside the Synagogue. Going inside will help you take it all in a million times better than just peaking in the door. There is usually someone at the door you help you with questions or supply you with a Yakima to cover your head if you are male. The small stand outside of the synagogue is also very helpful, and has a number of guided tours set up in English for both the Synagogue and the neighboring museum highlighted later in this tour. Please note that for safety reasons there is a security bag check as you enter the grounds.
Hours: March-October Monday-Thursday 10am-6pm, Friday 10am-4pm; November-February Monday-Friday 10am-4pm. Cost: 1,400 HUF; Ticket desk closes 30 minutes before closing. Service Times: Friday 6pm & Saturday 9am. Guided Tours: Times differ, check at desk, cost is 1500 Ft. Synagogue Website: (HERE).
*Working your way around the side courtyard of the Synagogue leads you to the very powerful…
2. Wallenberg Memorial Park: Quietly tucked behind the Dohány Street Synagogue, Wallenberg Memorial Park serves as a constant reminder of the atrocities carried out during the Holocaust. The Park is named after Raoul Wallenberg of Sweden, who is credited as saving tens of thousands of Jewish lives during WWII. Wallenberg Park is a courtyard made up of a garden-style cemetery and the Tree of Life. The courtyard can be entered next to the synagogue and is free of charge.
The first section of the Park is a leafy passage with leaning Jewish headstones, a garden-like cemetery and a square building known as Heroes’ Temple. Most of these headstones and graves are for the people who were in hiding in WWII either right in the Dohány Street Synagogue or the surrounding area. Normally under Jewish law, you’re not supposed to bury the dead on Synagogue grounds, however, the dead also need to be buried within 24 hours. The circumstances during WWII made it impossible to follow both of these rules so they decided to buried the dead in this passageway.
The second section of the Park is a large courtyard which opened in 1990 and houses the weeping willow Tree of Life. Designed by Imre Varga, a contemporary Hungarian sculptor, the Tree of Life is meant to resemble an inverted menorah complete with seven branches. The metal Tree Of Life was symbolically placed where it is because it sits directly above a 1944-45 Jewish mass grave. The branches on the Tree are made of approximately 600,000 metal leafs to represent each of the Hungarian Jews who died during the Holocaust. These victims are considered martyrs and the back of every leaf has one of their names inscribed on it. The stones surround the Tree’s base represent prayers and the pillar behind the tree has an inscription which translates to “Whosoever saves a soul for mankind, saves the entire world”.
Near the Tree Of Life an inscription from the Bible and reads “Whose pain can be greater than mine?” and a broken brick from the old ghetto wall has the single word “Remember” on it. The open courtyard behind the Tree is dedicated to the “Righteous Gentiles” who saved thousands of Jewish lives in wartime Budapest. The more famous among them are Raoul Wallenberg from Sweden who the park is named after, Carl Lutz from Switzerland, and Angel Sanz Briz from Spain. These men, among others, used fake passports, boarding houses, and protective letters to shelter local Jews. We love the stained glass wall in the courtyard and the wall of names with walls of victims that has little nooks for knickknack offerings. Hours: Usually Daily Dawn-Dusk. Cost: Free.
3. Jewish Heritage Museum (Zsidó Múzeum): The Jewish community of Budapest first entertained a Jewish Heritage Museum all the way back in 1896, but it took them until 1931 to finally get one. This compact but extraordinary museum initially started with around 1,500 artifact and slowly grew to the 5,000 piece museum it is today. Highlights are portions of the Esther Scrolls, a large amount of Seder dishes, and a Holocaust exhibition. During WWI two employees of the Hungarian National Museum hid the valuable artifacts of the Jewish Museum in the cellar of the National Museum to protect them from the Nazis. The building also served as the only safe route of escape during the war because its gate was outside the territory of the Jewish ghetto. As a fun fact, Theodor Herzl, the founder of Jewish state of Israel was born in the building that once stood on the site this museum. Museum Hours: Monday-Thursday 10am-5pm; Friday & Sunday 10am-2pm; Closed Saturdays Cost: 2,000 HUF on its own, but the Dohány Synagogue has a discounted combo ticket available.
4. Carl Lutz Memorial: With his efforts that saved over 62,000 Jewish lives during the Holocaust, the Swiss born Carl Lutz was Hungary’s version of Schindler. Lutz came to Budapest in 1942 as the Swiss Ambassador and quickly set up 72 safe houses by declaring them Swiss property which he used to harbor Jews from the Nazi group Arrow Cross. The most famous of Lutz’s safe houses was the Glass House near the Parliament building which harbored over 3,000 Jews. In addition to the safe houses, Lutz also issued tens of thousands of protective documents and countless fake passports to get local Jews out of the reach of the Nazis. In all, it is estimated that 1/2 of all the Hungarian Jews that survived the Holocaust did so thanks to the efforts of Carl Lutz.
The Carl Lutz Memorial is pretty cool, but slightly hidden behind a tree next to an alley wall. A tall statue makes up the bulk of the memorial which is easy see if you are looking for it. The bronze statue depicts a man on the ground next to a hanging and flowing curtain with another golden man on top. The metal plaque next to the memorial reads, “He who saves but one man is as if he had saved the whole world.” He was truly a great man, however Carl Lutz’s deeds weren’t officially recognized by Switzerland until 1958 because many believed he had over stepped his authority.
5. Rumbach Street Synagogue: After the Universal Israelite Congress of 1860’s, the Jews in Hungary split into two major sectarian groups. The more conservative Jews went Orthodox, the more liberal ones went Neolog, but a small percentage refused to changed and were fittingly called Status Quo. Because the Status Quo group decided not to go along with the rest of the local Synagogues they needed their own house of worship and built the Rumbach Street Synagogue in 1872. Since its founding, Rumbach has been called the “Status Quo” Synagogue by locals.
The tall minaret towers of the Moorish style Rumbach Street Synagogue make it a very easy one to find. The yellow and rust colored Synagogue is no longer an active place of worship and a little run down, but it still has a lot of charm. We love the flood of natural light which shines down on Rumbach’s colorful interior wall decorations. The decorations are mainly made of up red, yellow, blue and black designed depicting both flowers and the Star of David. Hours: Mon-Thurs 10am-330pm; Fridays 10am-130pm; Sundays 10am-230pm; closed Saturdays; often stays open much later in the summer. Cost: 500 HUF.
6. Frőhlich Confectionery Sweet Shop (Frőhlich Cukrászda): Frőhlich has been considered best kosher sweet shop in town ever since it opened in 1953. They serve mouth-watering pastries, rolls, and ice cream. Most food is for walk out, but they do have two tables if you need to take a rest. You can find a wide range of sweets and cookies here starting around 180 HUF. Their specialty pastry is layered cake made up of apples, walnuts and poppy seeds called the Flódni. Address: Dob utca 22. Hours: Sunday 10am-6pm; Mon-Thurs 9am-6pm; Friday 7:30am-4pm; Closed on Saturdays and for 2 full weeks at the end of August. Shop Website: (HERE).
7. Kazinczy Street Synagogue: The Kazinczy Street Synagogue is considered the center of the Orthodox Jewish community. The biggest draw here is that it gets less tourists then the Dohány Synagogue and therefore feels more authentic. Being part of the more conservative branch of the Jewish community, the Synagogue is quite modest in appearance. The facade is all brick in an Art Nouveau style and has small embellishments along the roof. Kazinczy is so plain it on the outside it almost doesn’t look like a house of worship. The interior is also modest, but featured far more Jewish Menorahs than other Synagogues in town. The floral pattern stained glass windows on the ceiling add a little flair without being over the top.
The Hanna Kosher Restaurant is located in the building next to the Synagogue and is one of two fully Kosher restaurants in the Jewish Quarter. The restaurant has lunch daily, but note that if you want to eat here on Saturday you must prepay for your food earlier in the week. Paying for food on the holy day of Saturday is not allowed in traditional establishments. Also near the Synagogue is Budapest’s only ritual bath or mikveh. Hours: Mon-Thurs 10am-3:30pm; Friday & Sunday 10am-12:30pm; Closed on Saturdays.
8. Hungarian Electronic Museum (Elektrotechnikai Muzeum): Interesting science museum focusing strictly on electricity. Some of the cooler stuff they have is an exhibit focusing on the composition of electricity and a surprisingly interesting collection of old lamps. Especially because it is a free attraction, it is definitely worth a peak. Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm; Saturday 10am-4pm; Closed Mondays. Cost: Free. Museum Website: (HERE).
9. Klauzál Tér Park: Once the historic center of the Jewish Ghetto, Klauzál Tér Park is still the largest square in the neighborhood and renown for its restaurants. Kádár Étkezde Restaurant is a cafeteria style restaurant with cheap prices and tons of locals. It is located at Klauzál tér 9 and is open Tues-Sat 11:30am-3:30pm. If you’re not into the whole cafeteria style thing try Salamon Glatt Kosher Restaurant. It is one of only two Fully Kosher restaurants in the Jewish Quarter and has a great authentic menu. Salamon Glatt is located on the south side of the square directly across the road. Make sure to wash hands upon entering and keep head covered if you are male in kosher restaurant.
10. Teréz Templom Church: This elegant yellow church with white pinstripes was completed in 1809 and has severed as a fire lookout since its tower was added in 1871. The outside of Teréz Templom is much more picturesque than the plain inside, but it is still a pleasant surprise as you stroll by. Church Website: (HERE).
11. Ernst Modern Art Museum: The refreshing modern art in the Ernst Museum is a great escape from the rest of the old world sights on this tour. The museum is young, hip, and often has new exhibits. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-7pm; Closed on Mondays. Cost: 990 HUF. Guided Tours: Learn more details about the art and artist with a guided tour. Tours are free and can be arranged ahead of time if you have a group of 10 or more people. If you have a smaller group there are also open tours the first and last weekend of every new exhibit. Museum Website: (HERE).
12. Andrássy Avenue: As you hit Andrássy Avenue the street widens and the whole feel of the walking tour changes. This famous street is also called the Hungarian Champs-Elysee as it is very similar to large boulevards Paris. Geographically, Andrássy Avenue connects the city center and the City Park area. The avenue is lined with beautiful Neo-Renaissance palaces and home with fine facades, exclusive shops and atmospheric café houses. You can also find one of the best sounding Opera houses of Europe, the birthplace of the famous composer Franz Liszt, and the the Budapest Soho.
13. Hungarian State Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház): The beautiful Hungarian State Opera House opened in 1884 and is unbelievable on the inside. With Hungary’s over 300 years of Opera opulence of the Opera House definitely lives up to the country’s high standards. The centerpiece of the Opera House’s over-the-top decorations is the giant brass-chandelier which weighs over 4000 pounds and lights the 24 carat gold gilding of the auditorium. The performances themselves have always maintained high professional standards also with international stars like Monserrat Caballé, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti performing here. It is said that the Opera House has the 3rd best acoustics in the world behind only the Scala in Milan and the Paris Opera House.
Outside of Opera performances, the Opera House is also home to the Hungarian National Ballet and many Concerts. Hours: Monday-Saturday 11am-5pm; Sundays 11am-4pm. Opera Shows: Runs Sept-Mid June with various show times. Guided Tours: Are available daily at 3pm & 4pm for 2800 HUF; add 500 HUF per camera to take photos. Museum Website: (HERE).
14. Moulin Rouge: Modeled after the much larger, Moulin Rouge show house in Paris, this one is actually a dance club and bar. Inside it looks more like an opera house than a club, but the place has good drinks, a young crowd, and is a great party spot. Wednesday seems to be the most fun night to go here. On Wednesday nights they have a party geared toward the transgendered community and the weekends are more of a traditional club scene.
Even if you are not into the bar sense, the exterior has a number of great photo opts. The most iconic photo is of the large red windmill, similar to the Moulin Rouge in Paris. Right outside of the club is a cool memorial bench where you can share a seat with a life size bronze statue. Across the road from club is the famous Színház Szobor Statue depicting a female skeleton holding a male human head. Club Hours: Wednesday, Friday, & Saturday 10pm-5am. Club Website: (HERE).
15. Liszt Ferenc Tér Park: As you approach the Oktogon Metro stop you will find a very slim, but charming park stretching a block either direction of Andrassy Ave. The entire park is filled with terraces which get quite full in the summer and make for great people watching. The South end of the park it the most beautiful part during the day as the amazing Music Academy building overlooks it. The area surrounding the park is widely known as Pest’s Broadway as it has a lot of entertaining theaters, restaurant, and a great bar night-time scene.
16. House of Terror Museum (Terror Háza): What once was truly an intense house of terror during the Nazi regime is now an excellent museum at the House of Terror. This building had previously been the headquarters for the Nazi’s Secret Police, Arrow Cross, and the home to the Nazi’s Gestapo-style prison after Hungary allied with Hitler. The main reason Hungary allied with Hitler in the first place was to try to get some of their huge territorial losses from WWI back, but they had no idea what would come next.
Shortly after joining Hitler the Arrow Cross Police took over Budapest and after a few month they started exterminating Hungarian Jews. The Jews were executed in the basement of the House of Terror, along the bank of the Danube River, and put on Trains to be sent to the deadly Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Today the Museum has a bunch of eerie exhibits and many of the basements still how they used to be. Hours: Tues-Sun 10am-6pm, Closed Mondays. Cost: 900-1800 HUF, Special exhibits can be up to 800 HUF. Museum Website: (HERE).
17. Hunyadi Square Food Market: While this market is in slight need of a remodel, it is quite a treat. Hunyadi has a very popular outdoor farmers’ market with fruit, vegetables, crafts, and flowers. On the other side of the park there are a variety of indoor merchants from butchers to pickle sellers, and bakers to fish stands. While there has been recent controversy over a back alley deal and a underground garage below the market, the market remains as vibrant as ever. Hours: Open most days
mid-morning until dinner.
18. Franz Liszt Museum: The museum is a reconstruction of Liszt’s last Budapest flat on the first floor of the old Academy of Music, where the composer lived between 1881 and 1886. The collection of the museum contains his original instruments, furniture, his books, scores and some personal objects and memorabilia. The Liszt Research Centre in the house coordinates Liszt-research in Hungary. They can arrange guided group tours in several languages if you contact them ahead of time. Audio guides are available in 11 languages. There is also a great outdoor sculpture garden outside of the Museum. Museum Website: (HERE).
19. Bábszínház Theatre Puppet Show: There is a great puppet show company inside the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts called Bábszínház. Most of the shows are geared toward children but ends up being great fun for all ages. Hours: Open October-Mid June, various shows daily from 10am-5pm. Cost: 600-1100 Ft. Theater Facebook Page: (HERE).
Other Sights Near the Jewish Quarter:
Hope you enjoyed the Jewish Quarter and Andrássy Ave walking tour. From here you can jump on the M1 Metro Line/Millennium Underground (the second oldest Metro in Europe) at Kodály Körönd Station and take it to your next stop, you can walk the rest of the way down Andrássy to City Park, or check out stops 19 & 20 if you want a great burrito and a different side of McDonald’s.
20. Arriba Taqueria Mexican Restaurant: Arriba Taqueria has fresh Mexican food served in a funky, friendly atmosphere. All of the paintings inside are very hip, the seat in both the upstairs loft & outdoor patio are great, and the burritos will more than fill you up. They have a number a great specials throughout the year including 20% off burritos every Monday during the summer. Hours: 11am-Midnight daily. Address: Teréz Körút 25. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
21. World’s Fanciest McDonald’s: Located at near the main railway station, this McDonald’s beats out the one in Versailles France as the Fanciest McDonald’s in the World. This 2-story fast food palace is built inside of an old train station building and is complete with indoor trees, real plates & silverware, a large upscale salad & desert bar upstairs, and a great outdoor walk-up ice cream & sundae stand. Address: Teréz Körút 19.
22. Holocaust Memorial Center: Following the journey from deprivation of rights to genocide, the Holocaust Memorial Center can be a moving experience. The main purpose of the Center is to recount and present the suffering, persecution and massacre of those Hungarian nationals – mainly Jews and the Roma – who were condemned to annihilation in the name of the racial ideology. The dominant theme of the exhibition is the relationship between state and its citizens.
1938 marks the beginning of the process where the Hungarian state deprived a specific group of its citizens from all that makes a man a man: from their rights, property, freedom, human dignity, and in the end, their very existence. This process accelerated fatally in 1944, after the German occupation. Accordingly, the exhibition does not present the events in a chronological order; it is based on units that present the different phases of the persecution: the deprivation of civil rights, property, freedom, human dignity, and existence. These topics are introduced and concluded by two adjacent rooms, the former presents the Hungarian Jewry and Roma people, and the latter discusses the liberation, the questions of responsibility, and the answers to the persecution.
A central element in presenting the topics is a series of real family and personal accounts, which are placed on a wall that runs through the entire exhibition. By the time we reach the final room, the lines on the wall representing individual lives run out, and the personal objects introduced in the first room disappear. The wedding music from the first room, which reminds us of the times before the destruction, is still audible. From here the visitor is led to the synagogue, the room of remembrance and mourning. The portraits on the glass pews keep the memory of the destroyed communities, the demolished synagogues and houses of prayer, and the murdered individuals. Those foreign diplomats and fellow Hungarian citizens who, in the darkest hours of our history, risked their own lives to save the persecuted are also honored here. The exhibition closes with a glass meditation space on the balcony.Within each thematic unit, the visitors can view films, photographs, and original documents with the help of touch screens. Computerized data storage is available on the balcony, where the entire material of the exhibition is open for research.
Getting Here: Take the M3 Metro Line or the #4 & #6 Tram to the Corvin-negyed Metro Stop and walk two blocks south. Address: 39 Páva Street. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Cost: 1400 HUF, students 6-26 & Seniors over 62 pay half price. Museum Website: (HERE).
23. Postal Museum: Not to be confused with the Postage Stamp Museum, this building actually houses two post offices as they were at the turn of the 20th Century. The museum itself is located inside a former seven room apartment and has a ton a amazing furniture from the early 1900’s. The main attraction is a large collection of tools & machines used at post offices back in the day. Overall the Postal Museum is a great stop for history buffs and budget travelers as it is free. Their website also has great links to both the Postage Stamp Museum and Telephone Museum if they strike your fancy. Hours: Tues-Sun 10am-6pm, closes at 4pm in the winter. Cost: Free.
The best place to stop for a drink or a bite to eat near the Postal Museum is right next door at the Bohemtanya Pub. If you are looking for a taste of Broadway in this part of town, check out a play at the Madach Kamara Theater. This theater is basically across the street to the south east of the Postal Museum and has everything from Spamalot to Phantom of the Opera. Museum Website: (HERE).
24. Gozsdu Court: Running straight through from Király Street to Dob Street, Gozsdu Court is a large series of interconnected vacant courtyards. For many years these courtyards have been a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Photographers will especially like Gozsdu Court in the early morning and evening hours when the light is excellent. A management group is currently trying to renovate Gozsdu Court by adding restaurants and 249 luxury apartments. We hope the courtyards retain their charm through the renovations but recommend that you see them soon just in case they change a lot. Hours: Daily from Dawn-Dusk. Cost: Free.