Budapest is Best

Budapest is Best

After a weekend in lovely Bratislava, we bused to Budapest for 4 nights in the Hungarian capitol city. This felt like somewhat of a homecoming for me since my mom’s family immigrated from Hungary to the U.S. when things started getting bad for the Jews during WWII. And while my grandmother really comes from farther east, in a town that’s now part of Ukraine, seeing the synogogues, memorials, Hebrew signage, Jewish food, etc. really made both of us feel at home. So naturally, one of the first things we did when we arrived was swing by the great Dohány Street Synagogue. We knew we’d be back in daytime for a guided tour, so we snapped a selfie and grabbed an underwhelming dinner at Drum Cafe. We’d spend the next 4 dinners at delicious restaurants around the Jewish quarter, but this wasn’t one of them.


The next day, we decided to avoid touring the Jewish quarter in hopes we could arrange an affordable guided tour later in our visit. We emailed a bit with the people at Budapest Jewish Heritage Tours, who were friendly and helpful, but weren’t offering the more affordable group tours until May when more tourists started showing up. So we first headed to the central market, then spent a good part of the day in Buda Hills across the Danube checking out Buda Castle, beautiful trees in bloom, and awesome bridges. We also discovered that Budapest’s manhole covers are some of the best in Europe.

Mercado Central Központi Vásárcsarnok
Tulips are everywhere
What a view!
Dad letting his kid live on the edge
Not a magnolia, but even prettier
Wife got roped into taking someone’s photo with their tablet, and I couldn’t help myself

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That evening, we enjoyed a Kosher-style dinner at Macesz Bistro, complete with challah (our first in 6 months), matzah, potato latkes, duck, and chicken. One of our fancier meals of late, but well worth it.

A week before pesach, so they gave us bread AND matzah

The next day we did the synagogue, which included a tour guide and museum entry. Our tour guide knew his stuff, giving us a lot of details about the place’s construction, history, and people. It turns out Dohany Street was the world’s largest synagogue at the time of its construction, and is now the world’s second largest (see Emanu-El in NYC)… not that size matters. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful.

Main entrance
View from the front
Merch on offer (made us think of Rabbi Jaclyn)
Stained glass
The sanctuary
Lots of seating

After the guided tour, we made our way over to Kadar Etkezde for a hearty, cheap lunch, followed by cheesecake and apple pie at Fröhlich Kóser Cukrászda nearby. Then we headed across town to check out Shoes on the Danube Bank, a memorial for the Jews who were killed by Arrow Cross militiamen during WWII.

Shoes on the Danube Bank
Close up

That night we discovered Spinoza Cafe and Restaurant, where we’d become regulars for the rest of our time in Budapest, and order the cabbage stuffed with goose and a tall beer each time.

Cabbage with goose!
Tall beer!
Flodni, the traditional apple and walnut pastry

The next day, we rode the H5 train as far north as it goes to Szentendre, known for its lovely streets lined with art galleries, shops, and restaurants. As far as day trips go, this wasn’t anywhere near our best. We were hoping for some good hiking on Szentendre Island, but the island is very flat and there isn’t much to see there. Nonetheless, it got us out of the big city and it was good exercise. At least we had Spinoza to head back to that evening for more goose stuffed cabbage.

Across the Danube onto Szentendre Island

On our last day in Budapest, we checked out of our Airbnb and hung around Auguszt Cafe for the free wifi and delicious pastries until it was time to head to our night train to Krakow. While on the free wifi, we did a bunch of booking out of hotels and transit for the rest of our trip, which ends on June 10! It felt good to iron out our remaining plans.

Goodbye Budapest
Our sleeper car for the night

As the sun set and our train pulled away from the station, we couldn’t help but think we’d be back again, possibly with kiddos in tow. You’re one in a million, Budapest! Krakow, you’ve got big shoes to fill…

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