Dohany Synagogue

Budapest Synagogue in Dohany Street is also known as the Great Synagogue or the Central Synagogue or Dohany Street Synagogue, Budapest. “The Great Synagogue is the largest in Europe and awesome,” to quote a fellow Welsh tourist. Although there are several (functioning) synagogues in Budapest, we are going to refer to the Great Synagogue as ‘Budapest Synagogue’.

Is Budapest Synagogue a must see?
Definitely. And not just because its huge size seating approx. 3,000 (!). Indeed, Budapest Synagogue is the second largest synagogue – or zsinagoga in Hungarian – in the world, the first largest being the Temple Emanu-El in New York City. The synagogue has a very special history and atmosphere, besides its magnificent interior and attractive facade. Not to mention that it is situated in the old Jewish centre (the birth house of Theodore Herzl, now the Jewish Museum is right next to the Synagogue), and the synagogue itself was the border of the Budapest Ghetto in 1944. So basically Budapest Synagogue is truly a complex, which consists of the Dohany Street Great Synagogue, the Jewish Museum, the Heroes’ Temple, the Holocaust memorial tree and the graveyard.

Dohany Street Grand Synagogue in Budapest Hungary

Dohany Street Grand Synagogue in Budapest Hungary (photo by Estevao Passarinho)

‘”The Great Synagogue is the largest Jewish house of worship in the world outside New York City and can seat 3000. Built in 1859 according to the designs of Frigyes Feszl, the synagogue contains both Romantic-style and Moorish architectural elements. It was renovated largely with private donations, including a cool US$5 million from fragrance and cosmetics baroness Estée Lauder, in the 1990s.” (Lonely Planet)

Admission Fee: 2000 HUF (guided tours: 2400 HUF)
Opening hours (tours start at):
In summer:
Sun-Thu: 10.30 , 11.30 , 12.30 , 13.30, 14.30, 15.30, 16.30
Fri: 10.30 , 11.30 , 12.30 , 13.30 , 14.30
In winter:
Sun-Thu: 10.30 , 11.30 , 12.30 , 13.30, 14.30
Fri: 10.30 , 11.30 , 12.30

Address: Dohány utca 2., Budapest H-1077
Website: http://www.dohany-zsinagoga.hu/
Email: aviv [at] aviv.hu
Phone: : +36-1-462-0477

Note:
bare shoulders are not allowed (a shawl would be fine)
men only in hats
you need to have a special photo permit (about 2 euros) to take photos
no drinks or foods

Architecture of Budapest Synagogue

Budapest Synagogue was built in the 19th century (1854-1859) in the so called Moorish Revival style. Just a few years after the Hungarians tried to cut their umbilical cord from the Austrians in the 1848-49 revolution. The architect was a Viennese, Ludwig Förster, who in the Allgemeine Bauzeitung journal concluded that there was no distinctively Jewish architecture. He decided to pick “architectural forms that have been used by oriental ethnic groups that are related to the Israelite people, and in particular the Arabs.” (see Wikipedia quote here).

Synagogue, Budapest

Central Synagogue, Budapest (photo by chop1n)

The length of the synagogue is about 53m (173.8 feet) and its width is 26.5m (87 feet). The predominantly Moorish style is mixed with Byzantine, Romantic and Gothic elements. The octogonal church towers characterizing the facade are 43m (141 feet) and there are onion-shaped cupolas on top of them (Middle East element, now mostly associated with Russian churches). A rose stained-glass window (Gothic style) is over the main entrance.

The synagogue was bombed in WW2 in the Siege of Budapest. 46 years after the war (in fact after the change of regime when Hungary became a democratic republic again) restoration works were carried out and the original synagogue regained its splendour between 1991 and 1998. The capacity of Budapest synagogue is 2,964 seats (there are separate galleries for men and women: 1,492 for male and 1,472 for female church goers)

Reviews of the Great Synagogue, Budapest

“Impressive and elegant synagogue looking oriental from outside and Christian inside. Take the guided tour, short, cheap and interesting. The tiny museum has funny items, as a hanouka lamp deditaced to habsbourg princes or napoleon (who both protected the Jews) or spice boxes (“besamim”) in the shape of a train.” (tourist feedback on TripAdvisor travel guide)

“The synagoguem, jewish museum and memorial garden were all very interesting. We went on the most expensive tour, which we found very short in time and on detail. In the jewish museum there are quite a large number of pictures about the Hungarian Holocaust, but little explanation, this part we were told was ‘not part of the tour’…which we found very frustrating….” (tourist feedback on Lonely Planet travel guide)