Traveling can be lots of fun. You get to see a new part of the world, meet amazing new people, and try delicious foods. All of this while learning more about yourself. The upsides of travel are why we decided to do it full-time.
But then there some parts of traveling that aren’t as fun. You might miss your flight, book the wrong accommodations, or even get swindled by locals. Another not-so fun part of traveling can be learning about the painful history of a country.
In Bucharest, we heard about the Jewish Quarter: A neighborhood in the city dedicated to preserving Jewish architecture and history. Much of the history documents the plight of Jewish people during WWII, and under the reign of communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu.
While this might not be the ideal vacation activity for most people, we believe it’s important to learn about history–even the sad parts. So we decided to pay the Jewish Quarter a visit to learn more.
Exploring Bucharest’s Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter in Bucharest is located in the city center, just east of Old Town. It’s very easy to access since it’s so close to the main attractions in Bucharest.
Since I (Gab) was raised Jewish, learning more about the history of the Jewish people in Bucharest sounded very interesting to me. So one afternoon, we walked over to the Jewish neighborhood to do some exploring. It was a Sunday so almost everything was closed, but I was still glad that we made the time to visit.
The main takeaway that I had from the experience was how small the Jewish Quarter is. It’s really only a few city blocks. It made me think about how much larger it might have been had WWII not happened. There would have been a much larger Jewish presence in the city.
What To See
There are a few main sights in the Jewish Quarter that we really recommend seeing. The sights are not only beautiful, but they also help you to understand the history of Judaism in Bucharest.
The sights we recommend seeing are all really close to each other. It’s very easy to walk between all three of them, and there are shops and restaurants around if you need to take a break and grab a bite to eat.
The Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum is located in Bucharest’s Jewish neighborhood. It is housed in the former Templul Unirea Sfântă synagogue, which is one of the few Jewish buildings to survive both World War II and the reign of communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu.
It’s a truly remarkable building, with orange and white stripes, Stars of David, and Hebrew engravings characterizing the building. It’s closed on weekends, so plan your visit on a week day if you want to go in.
The Coral Temple
The Coral Temple is a beautiful temple in Bucharest’s Jewish neighborhood. Named after it’s pretty coral color, this is one of the most beautiful synagogues in Eastern Europe. It’s open to the public for visits, but it is closed on weekends.
We were bummed that we didn’t get to see the inside, because it looks amazing in all the pictures we’ve seen. Plan to visit on a weekday because it’s not something you want to miss.
Sinagoga Mare, or the Great Synagogue of Bucharest, was built in the 1840s by the Jewish-Polish community. The building has a tough history, requiring repairs multiple times due to damages.
The Synagogue itself is sort of hard to see, since there’s a fence surrounding the entrance. But I loved this statue that we found behind the temple. It appears to be a Star of David flowing out onto the pavement. I don’t speak Romanian so I’m not sure what it says, but it is beautiful nonetheless.
Visiting the Jewish Quarter in Bucharest is definitely a somber activity. It’s not something that’s going to feel uplifting and fun. I recognize that it’s not something most tourists look to do in a new city.
It is, however, incredibly important to visit so that we can remember the bad things in history. George Santayana once said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Let’s remember the history of Jewish people in Romania.