If you look up the main Budapest sights in either online or offline city guides, you will definitely come across our bohemian Jewish District that sweeps visitors off their feet with its cultural treasures and bustling nightlife.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the area currently bordered by Király Street, Csányi Street, Dohány Street, and Károly Avenue evolved into the neighbourhood of Jews, with its centre on Király Street. A few decades later, in 1944, the Budapest Ghetto was set up in these streets, huddling 70,000 Jews together in a 0,26 square kilometre zone. Today, the district is known as the Old Jewish Quarter of Budapest and belongs to the city’s world heritage sites.
This buzzing quarter gives home to Pest’s main Jewish landmarks, including the beautiful Dohány Street Synagogue that is not just the largest one in Europe but the second greatest in the whole wide world. The imposing Moorish-style building was built in 1859 with 44 meters high towers and a spacious, 1200 square meters indoor area. The adult tickets to see this fascinating piece of architecture go for 9,000 HUF and include a guided tour in the building and a free pass to the exhibitions about the Jewish culture and religion held in the Hungarian Jewish Museum, the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, and the graveyard.
Boisterous Ruin Bars
By now, ruin bars have become as essential parts of Budapest’s historical Jewish quarter as synagogues. A new chapter began in the city’s nightlife in the early 2000s, when the abandoned houses of District VII first turned into lively, yet nonchalant hubs of underground culture. The ruin bar movement in Budapest traces its roots to the opening of iconic Szimpla Kert in a neglected downtown building in 2002. Self-regarded as a postmodern cultural centre, Szimpla Kert has grown into a must-visit attraction that houses live concerts, film screenings, charity events, flea markets, exhibitions, and farmers’ markets.
Street Art Gems
While ambling through the streets of the Jewish Quarter, colourful murals bringing firewalls to life will catch your eye on every corner. This spectacular trend began in the 2010s with a bunch of street artists, who believed that art must break out from the enclosed space of museums and invade the streets to reach everyday people. A few steps from Dohány Street Synagogue, you will find one of the most exciting murals in the neighbourhood: the 6×6 meters art piece honours Spanish diplomat Ángel Sanz Briz, often referred to as “the Angel of Budapest”, who saved 5,000 Hungarian Jews from deportation during World War II.
You can’t go home without experiencing the true spirit of Budapest’s pubs that attracts visitors from all around the world. Of course, you can’t go wrong with Szimpla Kert, but if you’re in the mood for something less touristy, go to Madách Square, a laid-back hub of the creative minds of the city, close to Deák Ferenc Square metro station. In the summer, the streets are full of people, chatting over a glass of drink. So, choose any of the cool joints lining up on the plaza, such as Telep, Központ or Hivatal, and you will surely enjoy the easy-going summer vibe the area is famous for.
Kosher Cuisine in the City
An outstanding member of Budapest’s Kosher gastro scene for 15 years, Carmel is one of the few fleishig restaurants in the city, serving exclusively meat foods (compared to milchig venues offering dairy). Found in the heart of the Jewish District, Carmel boasts traditional Jewish dishes, as well as palatable Hungarian meals. Are you down for experiencing this Kosher and Israeli milieu first-hand? Enjoy the delicious foods and the live gypsy music together with the revelling crowd of guests, religious Israelis and born-and-raised Hungarians alike! Carmel keeps the Sabbath day holy, so it is open from Sunday noon to Friday afternoon. (But arranged in advance, you can have Sabbath lunch or dinner.)
Tel Aviv Café
Wandering through the cobblestoned side streets in Jewish District, you will bump into Tel Aviv Café, the city’s beloved milchig restaurant-café hybrid, serving solely delicious dairy foods. At this friendly joint, you will be invited to taste authentic Middle Eastern dishes, such as hummus, shakshuka, and the invigorating Israeli salad. The versatile menu also features salmon and popular dairy foods like the Italian focaccia, as well as different kinds of pastas and pizzas, so that everyone finds something to their liking. Located in the heart of Budapest, Tel Aviv Café welcomes guests with a charming, unpretentious atmosphere from Sunday morning to Friday afternoon.
Shakshuka – the Israeli breakfast place
How about a heavenly Middle Eastern breakfast to start your day off on the right foot? Visit Shakshuka, this lovely Israeli brunch spot situated on the always lively Kazinczy Street. Named after the typical Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce – the Arab world’s answer to the French ratatouille –, Shakshuka offers different, yet equally tasty variations of its namesake meal. You can also opt for palatable salmon, colourful hummus and falafel platters, or sample the one and only Kosher lángos (Hungarian deep-fried dough) in the city! So have yourself a rich Israeli breakfast in the centre of Budapest, from Sunday to Thursday, between 8 AM and 3 PM.