The Dohany Street Synagogue, Central Synagogue, Tabakgasse Synagogue or the Budapest Great Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. The synagogue was designed by Ludwig Forster and completed in 1859 to service the 30,000 Jewish residence of Pest.

During WWII the Nazis occupied Budapest and established a Jewish ghetto, the street where the synagogue stands constituted the boarder of the ghetto. 20,000 Hungarian Jews took refuge in the synagogue complex but not all survived. Those that died are buried in the synagogue courtyard. In the courtyard there remains a section of the original ghetto wall.

Following WWII the Communist regime replaced the Nazis and again the Jews of Budapest found themselves the target of abuse. During this period many of the beautiful windows were shattered and only recently was the synagogue restored thanks to contribution from wealthy Jews of Hungarian descent like Tony Curtis and Estee Lauder.

The synagogue complex includes the National Jewish Museum, the Jewish Heroes’ Mausoleum and Temple and a Memorial Garden dedicated to Jews who lost their lives during the war. The architecture of the synagogue incorporates several styles including Romantic, Gothic and Byzantine elements but it is predominantly Moorish Revival. The synagogue is 75 meters long and 27 meters wide.

Within the cavernous interior the Aron HaKodish holds 25 Torah scrolls brought here from Hungarian synagogues which were destroyed in the war. The synagogue can accommodate 3,000 worshipers. The interior resembles a cathedral with the addition of three balconies overlooking the central aisle. The designer chose to use architectural decoration inspired by ethnic Jewish groups. So you can see mural and mosaic covered walls and ceilings and beautiful Middle Eastern and North African arches.

The impressive exterior resembles a Moorish palace with 43 meter tall twin octagonal towers topped with onion domes and a rose window above the entrance. The synagogue is closed to visitors on Saturdays, during the week there are tours on the hour from 10:30 to 16:30 and on Fridays until 12:30 in winter and 14:30 in summer.