JOURNEYS

Tokaj: World-Class Wines and Jewish Heritage

Houses built into a hill alongside a stone brick road

Venture into the Tokaj region in Hungary for an immersive look into its Jewish history. The area is known for its ancient vineyards and wine-making heritage, though a visit here also includes the opportunity to see the historic Jewish sites that tell the story of the traditions and people who once lived here. A three-day pilgrimage through Tokaj-Hegyalja is an opportunity to visit many of these moving places in Hungary’s famous wine region. With its unique topography of low hills and landscapes of vines and forests, as well as its cultural significance, UNESCO recognized the region as a World Heritage Site in 2002.

Between visits to historic sites, you’ll have opportunities to taste Tokaj’s famous wines. Today a new generation of winemakers are combining age-old traditional methods with the latest developments in organic and sustainable cultivation of wine grapes.

Commissioned by the Government of Hungary with the support of the European Union.

A boat on a river

TRIP HIGHLIGHT

The Jewish Cemetery at Bodrogzug

Located at the foot of Tokaj Castle, the evocative Jewish cemetery at Bodrogzug is accessible only by ferry.
Judy Perl

TRIP DESIGNER

Judy Perl

Judy Perl, President of Judy Perl Worldwide Travel in New York City, is a 30-year travel industry veteran long noted for her expertise in luxury bespoke travel. Judy’s deep knowledge of the travel world from her own years at luxury cruise lines, paired with her dedication to providing personalized service, makes her well suited to curate a wide range of unique travel experiences.
A baroque synagogue. Two men talk.

DAY 1Mád

Start in Mád, just over two hours east of Budapest by car, with a visit to of the Baroque-style Mád Synagogue. One of the oldest surviving synagogues in Hungary, the building reflects the prosperity of Mád’s Jewish community at the time it was built, at the end of the 18th century. The next stop is at the largest Jewish cemetery of the Tokaj-Hegyalja region, also in the town of Mád on a hillside with views of nearby vineyards. Many of the people buried in the cemetery were responsible for developing the commerce in Tokaj’s wines.

Next head to Percze for lunch. Dishes of local beef, goat, lamb, and wild game are prepared with the best seasonal produce available in contemporary takes on favorite Hungarian dishes. The restaurant also has a long wine list featuring the products of some of the best local wineries, all served in a stunning dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the steeple of one of the town’s churches.

After lunch continue to learn about Tokaj’s wines with a visit to the family-run Demetervin winery. Every sip of the limited number of wines created here reflect the area’s unique soil and conditions, and they are served in a blissful rural setting on an estate with some buildings dating back to the 18th century. Another alternative is the Holdvölgy Winery, which reflects a more contemporary take on Tokaj’s wines. The tasting room is a white-walled gallery like setting while the blends have evocative names like Vision, Meditation, and Eloquence. While the attitude may be contemporary, the products still reflect the centuries-old traditions of wine cultivation in Tokaj.

Later you’ll head to Tarcal, where you’ll tour the Gallery of Tarcal and a Jewish cemetery that houses the remains of Jakab Spira, the town’s famous rabbi. The town is also home to one of the Tokaj region’s most famous landmarks, the Blessing Christ statue, with panoramic views of the countryside here from its base. Wind down for the night in an oasis of wellness and relaxation at Andrássy Rezidencia Wine & Spa, the only five-star hotel in the Tokaj-Hegyalja region, and your home for the duration of this trip. (Another option, also in Tarcal, is the lovely Gróf Degenfeld, a chateau-like estate that is also home to a winery.)
Vineyards with mountains in the far distance

DAY 2Tokaj and Sátoraljaújhely

In the town of Tokaj, which gave the Tokaj-Hegyalja region its name, you’ll tour the area’s largest synagogue and then visit a Jewish cemetery in Bodrogzúg. The cemetery is located nearby the ruined walls of the Tokaj Castle and only accessible by ferry. Lunch today is at LaBor Bistro, a cozy restaurant in the heart of town. Its commitment to using local products in its dishes extends to its wine list too, which features some of the best bottles from Tokaj’s wineries.

After lunch, stop by the Erzsébet Pince winery just a short walk through the charming town of Tokaj. While the winery’s vineyards are located on the edge of Mad, this family-run operation converted an 18th-century cellar to age their acclaimed wines, limited to an annual production of around 12,000 bottles.

Later, travel to the riverside village of Bodrogkeresztúr to see the house of Reb Steiner Saje, a wonder rabbi who was well-known for performing miracles. You’ll tour his former residence, which is now a memorial house, on your way to Sátoraljaújhely, a town on the Slovak border where you will spend the rest of the day. In Sátoraljaújhely, you’ll explore the tomb of Moshe Teitelbaum, the founder of Hungarian Hasidism.
A couple drink wine on a ledge overlooking a vineyard

DAY 3Erdőbénye

Your final day starts with an excursion to Erdőbénye, a picturesque town surrounded by mountains and vineyards that is as famous for its pure air as it is for the world-class wines produced here. You’ll visit the only Jewish bath in the Tokaj-Hegyalja region and explore the birthplace of William Fox, American film studio founder. Next you’ll continue on to Abaújszántó where a cemetery contains the tombs of two well-known rabbis, Elesar Loew and Aryeh Loeb Lipschutz.

Have lunch today at one of the Tokaj region’s most popular restaurants, Anyukám Mondta. Located in the town of Encs, the restaurant’s name translates as “my mother said.” Even if you don’t speak any Hungarian, you’ll taste the love embodied in the dishes at this family run restaurant. Slow cooked suckling pig, housemade duck liver pate, and rich soups and stews are some of the traditional dishes, while flatbreads and wood-fired pizzas help round out the menu.

Continue to the last stop on our itinerary, Tállya, considered to be the geometric center of Europe and nestled between the Zemplén Mountains and the Hernád Valley. A Jewish cemetery remains intact on the side of the Koldu Hill, and the remains of two well-known rabbis rest in an ohel (a monumental tomb), which marks their prominence among the deceased. A tour of Tállya completes the tour of Tokaj-Hegyalja.

Afterwards you’ll return to Budapest where you’ll stay at the Aria Hotel. Your excursion into Hungary’s rich Jewish heritage can continue in the capital as you explore its Jewish quarter including highlights like the opulent neo-Moorish Dohány Street Synagogue, Europe’s largest synagogue.