There are many elements that have gone into making Budapest such a rich, colorful and interesting city. The Synagogues of Budapest are one of them. That vital element has been provided by the city’s Jewish community who have created a distinct sense of Jewish Budapest. There are many ways to enjoy this cultural and spiritual influence, but perhaps the most rewarding and authentic, is to visit some of the wonderful synagogues that are located in Budapest. Here we present the most well-known synagogues, and just some of the lesser-known, but all of them offer a taste and understanding of Budapest’s Jewish heritage.
The Synagogues of Budapest
The Dohany Street Synagogue (Dohány utcai Zsinagóga)
Of all the synagogues in Budapest, this is the one that is truly world-famous. Constructed in 1859, it has endured a remarkable history ever since: attacked with explosives by pro-Nazis in 1939, and then, during WW2, it was taken over by German troops who used it for as radio communications center. There then followed additional damage by air raids and then further destruction during the Siege of Budapest. Following the war, the synagogue was left in poor condition for decades, until in 1991 when renovation began. Prominently-displayed, it is immediately recognizable with its black and gold, bulb-shaped domes and ochre-colored brickwork. It is the largest practicing synagogue in Europe and remains a Jewish cultural treasure trove for all visitors. Within its confines, you’ll find the Hungarian Jewish Museum and its archives. The Museum itself, during WW2, was once the only means of escape from what had become ‘The Budapest Jewish Ghetto’. The Jewish Cemetery here is a testament to those horrific times and to the people who never managed to escape. The same is true of the Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park with its weeping willow and the names and tattoo numbers of the victims who died or disappeared during the period of the ‘Jewish Ghetto’.
Budapest, Dohány u. 2.
The Rumbach Street Synagogue
This delightful synagogue was built by the renowned Viennese architect Otto Wagner. (The only building he ever built in Budapest.) It showcases many of the exquisite traits associated with his designs, but also hints at Wagner’s influence by Islamic architecture: a main feature of the synagogue is an octagonal, balconied dome. It is by no means a piece-by-piece copy of the ‘Dome of the Rock’ shrine located in Jerusalem, but Wagner was clearly inspired to reveal his admiration of the Islamic shrine’s design and beauty.
Budapest, Rumbach Sebestyén u. 11-13.
Kazinczy Street Synagogue
Built in 1913, this synagogue of the Orthodox Jewish congregation, is not as prominently displayed as the Dohany Street and the Rumbach Street synagogues, but it’s well-worth a visit and it’s easily found. The intricate detail of the façade has been much-admired since its construction, while the colorful, and wonderfully pieced-together interior details of the synagogue are a genuine delight.
Budapest, Kazinczy u. 29-31.
Synagogues Outside of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter
Vásvari Pál Street Synagogue
Another gem hidden away in the streets close to the Jewish Quarter, this synagogue was completed in 1887. The synagogue has proved to be important, not only as a place of worship, but also as an academic seat of learning. Managed by the Hungarian Chabad of Hungary, a great emphasis on study and contemplation continues to this day.
Budapest, Vasvári Pál u. 5.
Synagogue of Újpest
Located in the northern district of Újpest, the synagogue here is another well-preserved and well-presented Jewish house of worship. A notable Holocaust memorial is present here. The memorial was unveiled by the President of Hungary and it bears the names of 17,000 local Jewish residents who perished in the Holocaust.
Budapest, Berzeviczy Gergely u. 8.
Medieval Synagogue of Buda
A long-lost synagogue in the heart of the Buda Castle, the Medieval Synagogue of Budapest, is at last open to the public again. It was built in 1364, but ‘vanished’ following the Buda Castle’s liberation by Christian forces in 1686. (The castle had previously been captured and held by the Ottoman Turks) In the centuries that followed 1686, the synagogue became a residential property, and would have remained so, had it not been for some renovation work in the 1960s: painted inscriptions were discovered which clearly told of the property’s Jewish past. In 2018, with the Hungarian President in attendance, the synagogue was finally rededicated.
Budapest, Táncsics Mihály u. 26.
Synagogue of Kőbánya (The Church of Everyone)
Opened in 1911, the Synagogue of Kőbánya, built according to the design of Richárd Schöntheil, is presently a Pentecostal church. The building is undeniably impressive from the outside, and the atmosphere is undeniably soothing within. Most of the original design features are still preserved, and for all of these reasons, this is a building that is worth visiting.
Budapest, Cserkesz u. 7-9.
Synagogue of Óbuda
Externally, the striking feature of this synagogue is apparent as soon as you set eyes on the edifice: it is decidedly Classicist. (However, to be precise, the synagogue is described as being ‘French Empire’ in style.) Due to a 1712 ban on Jewish residents in Buda, a great many families of the Jewish faith settled in Óbuda. “Old Buda”. (Óbuda being a separate town from Buda at the time.) By 1821, the year of the synagogue’s completion, Óbuda had the largest Jewish community in the whole of Hungary, but this slowly changed due to the economic gravity of a flourishing Pest. Recently, the synagogue housed a television studio, but since 2010, once more it has been established as a fully-functioning synagogue of the community.
Budapest, Lajos u. 163.
Other delightful synagogues, definitely worth visiting:
– Frankel Leo Street Synagogue (Budapest, Frankel Leó út 49.)
– Hegedűs Gyula Street Synagogue (Budapest, Hegedűs Gyula u. 3.)