Whoever would have thought that Budapest’s old Jewish ghetto would become the trendy part of the city, home to all the pubs and restaurants, popular with both tourists and with the young hip Budapest crowd?
The stone wall built to contain the ghetto has long since disappeared, and what was once a run-down part of the city has become well and truly gentrified.
The Jewish ghetto in Budapest was functioning for less than two months, from late 1944 until January 1945, when it was ‘liberated’ by Russia. During those months a large wall went up around this small segment of the city.
After the wall went up then nothing would have been allowed in, nobody would have been allowed out and no provision would be made for the removal of dead bodies or of waste, meaning that many inside the wall would succumb to typhoid.
You can wander around and discover things by yourself or take one of the walking tours around the area. I took a free tour (free; just pay what you want at the end), but there were too many people on the tour (this was August). The tour was good for cultural information, but next day I went back and wandered around myself.
There are four Synagogues (one of which is the second largest in the world), some memorials, some interesting architecture plus, of course, lots of bars and restaurants. Budapest’s first ever ‘ruin pub’ Szimpla Kert has had its home here for ten years now and has more recently been joined by numerous others.
Ruin pubs have sprung up in Budapest in the past few years, taking over an old warehouse or other unused space, decorating it with an eclectic mix of things rummaged from old houses and closed-down factories, and opening it as a bar. Often, it is much more than a bar and there is also live music, cabaret and all kinds of things going on there. Szimpla Kert (means simple garden) has a film festival and open air cinema too, and on Sunday mornings it becomes a farmer’s market.