Budapest: Jewish Quarter

Out of all the streets we walked in Budapest, our favorite spot was the Jewish Quarter. We walked through this area of the city several times, trying to find the many Holocaust memorials, snapping pictures of street art, and trying out the ruin bars. We also stumbled across a design shop where they print local artists’ designs. It took a long time, but we finally decided on a simple sketch of the Jewish Quarter to hang in our living room.

We spent a good part of the morning at My Little Melbourne, which turned out to be our favorite cafe, reading the history surrounding the Jewish Quarter. It was sobering to read about all the lives lost due to the Holocaust and all of the struggles that the Jews had to go through. There were many Holocaust museums and monuments, but we ran out of time. Our favorite memorial that we did see was the monument of Carl Lutz, who is credited to having saved 62,000 Jewish lives. 

It was surprising to find out that Budapest has the highest Jewish population of all cities in Central Europe, and also that the Dohány Street Synagogue, at the front of the Jewish Quarter, is the second largest synagogue in the world! We were so excited to check it out, but unfortunately, it was closed. We were able to peek through the gate and see the Tree of Life monument, which has 4,000 leaves, each inscribed with the name of a Holocaust victim. 

Ruin bars started only about 20 years ago when young Budapesters wanted cheap places to drink. They opened bars in run down buildings or gardens with mismatched chairs and decorations. The very first one, Szimpla Kert, was huge, with several bars, a huge second floor, and a courtyard outside. We sat in a hollowed out, graffitied car, underneath the stairs, and watched the many people drifting in and out. We wished we had brought a marker because the walls were covered with people’s names, where they were from, etc.

Again and again, we were blown away by the rich history and the quirky vibes of Budapest.

- Nick + Jess