Secrets of the Jewish Quarter

The smell of flodni, booming ruin bars, memories of the glorious and less glorious past - Budapest's Jewish districthas all this to offer and more: festivals, confectioneries, parties, exhibitions, designer shops, terraces and monuments, a whole slice of Budapest history.

Jewish Quarter of Budapest is the inner part of District 6th and 7th. From the end of the 18th century this area was inhabited mostly by Jewish people, and was a city inside the city of Budapest. This part still preserves a bit of the old atmosphere. The smell of flodni and the sounds of klezmer music still charm us to explore this little world.

Life in the Jewish Quarter has always been colourful. Marvellous jewellery and shoes were manufactured here; presses, bookstores, carpet- and textile shops, bakeries and kosher butchers made their goods even at the beginning of the 19th century. This was one of the centre of grain business too: Europe's most famous traders met in the cafés on Király Street or at the tarnished Orczy house.

Similar places were filled with vivid debates of poets, writers, journalists and other influential figures of public life. Other inhabitants of the district were hurrying for minyanim in one of the synagogues or prayer rooms.

This booming life was ended by World War II. The formerly cheerful, teeming Quarter became the Jewish Ghetto: an area of struggle, as an artificially high number of Jews, over 60.000 were forced to live here in cramped conditions, separated by barbed wire and barricades from the other parts of the city. After the war, It took almost a half a century for the Budapest Ghetto to start to become the busting Jewish quarter again.

The final changes and reconstructions were finished only the beginning of the 2000's, and the quarter gained its current form in this period: ruin pubs, eateries and shops lure us to pop in and enjoy the diverse, multicultural feeling of the district.

Chapters from Király Street

The area, bordered by Király and Kazinczy Streets is now a centre for nightlife, ruin pubs, cabarets and designer shops. Galleries, cafés, terraces alternative clubs lure tourists from every part of the world.

However, Király Street was not always the place of entertainment. There were periods when the bitter smell of tannin filled the air, indicating the leather industry of the area, but the formerly cobbled street was once a home of a silk factory, for decades an institution for blind people also operated here. Several prominent figures of Hungarian history were born here, for example Eugene Paul Wigner (Nobel Prize winner physicist), Leo Weiner (composer) and Gyula Kaobs, (a famous actor from the beginning of the century.)

Synagogues in the district

All three branches of the Jewish religion have their own Synagogues in the Jewish Quarter. Two of them, the orthodox one in the Kazinczy Street, and the neolog Judaist one in the Dohány Street can be visited by tourists too. All of these buildings are unique for their type: the one in Dohány utca is the biggest Synagogue in Europe, while the windows of the synagogue in Kazinczy Street were designed by Miksa Róth – the most famous mosaic artist of the turn of the 19th and 20th century. The synagogue of Status Quo Ante Community stands at Rumbach Sebestyén Street and was designed by the office of Otto Wagner, an architect credited with the most lasting influence on the appearance of Vienna.

The garden of the Synagogue in Dohány Street hides some amazing memories. A graveyard is situated here, the last resting place for many of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the tragic events of World War II. a very unique monument preserves the names of the victims too; a graceful willow tree, made of metal displays the name of the martyrs on its leaves.

TIP! Visit the Jewish Museum too.

The secret of the gates

A short walk in the district will already allow you to see many of the characteristic gates of the district. These are gates to corridors that lead to through houses and yards. Their function was to speed up transfer from one point of the Quarter to another. Those, who knew these alternative ways could get through the district very fast by avoiding crowded streets. The most famous of these shortcut corridors is Gozsdu Udvar, which connects Király, Kazinczy, Holló, Dob and Rumbach Sebestyén Streets. The gate was designed by Romanian Manó Gozsdu, whose aim was to build a house with shops and flats, from the renting fee of which he could finance the education of poor Romanian youth in Budapest. The Romanian ortthodoy community church is still in service at the Holló Street side.

Kosher Cuisine: Matzo balls, Jew egg, flodni

Cholent with smoked goose limb, flodni, Matzo cake – well known and beloved Jewish dishes. If you would like to taste the real kosher version, do go to Hanna or Carmel Pince. Try filled fish and cholent with beef kugel at the former and taste matzo cake with chocolate sauce at the latter.

While the places above are mostly known in orthodox Jewish circles, Mamma Mia leads an Italia-Jewish kitchen, while Fülemüle, on the edge of District 7 is the best place to taste different variations of cholent. Macesz Huszár presents the bistro-edition of Jewish gastronomy – holiskes, the polish stuffed cabbage is a must-try together with helcli, the stuffed goose neck.

Lovers of sweet tastes must visit Fröhlich Cukrászda (Confectionery), where the famous dobos cake, flodni, haman bags and Hanukkah donut can all be tasted. In Cafe Noé, they make a wonderful nut-apple Matzo cake and we can buy our breakfast cookies at Cari Mama – where all the products go through a strict quality check before they get the kosher qualification.

Jerusalem Café, a Kosher shop, sells real specialties: Israeli kosher teas and coffees are available here, together with wines, cosmetics and delicatessen goods.

TIP! Many of the best ruin pubs are situated here.

Walking around in the Jewish Qarter

Of course the Jewish Quarter is easy to explore with a tourist guide book in hand, but it's worth hiring  a travel guide or taking part in one of the thematic walks on the crooked streets of the district. Unique Budapest, Imagine Budapest, Discover Budapest and Jewish Walk Budapest all offer interesting thematic tours in this area.

There are two major festivals in the district. Judafest, usually organized in June offers quality programs for the whole family, while the Jewish Summer Festival is one of the greatest cultural events of the city, usually held at the end of August. This festival has been organized yearly since 1996 and the audience can enjoy a great variety of concerts, theatrical performances and memorial eves, and several other kinds of programs,