If Budapest is known for one things it’s the great night life, although unlike other European cities like Berlin and Belgrade this isn’t centered around the clubbing.
Budapest has group of drinking establishments/venues which fall under the label of ‘ruin bars’.
As far as I can gather the creation of a ruin bar goes something like this:
- Find a derelict building in the old Jewish quarter preferably with an outdoor area
- Make the building structurally sound but don’t make any major repairs or refurbishment.
- Send in a team of artists and let them design and decorate the space as they see fit.
- Add a couple bars and some seating
The results from this seemingly haphazard process are some of my favourite bars in the world.
The fantastic thing about ruin bars is that although each bar has its own unique style and design they all follow the same basic principles. They all have reasonably priced drinks resulting in a good mix of both tourists and locals, most have large outdoor areas, as in the warm summer evenings who would want to sit inside, and all are located in the 7th district, the old jewish quarter.
Okay so now with a basic understanding of what a ruin bar is let me run through some of my favourites:
Szimpla Kert (Simple Garden)
Szimpla Kert is undoubtedly the most famous of all the ruin bars in Budapest. Originally opened back in 2001 it changed location several times before settling in it’s current resting place in 2004. It is one of the oldest ruin bars and many would say it pioneered the movement.
Due to it’s growing reputation it gets pretty busy but with various rooms spread over its two floors and a large outdoor space you can always find somewhere to sit. Inside you’ll find yourself sat on mismatched furniture which would look more at home in your Grandma’s living room and if you manage to find a seat outside it might be in a bathtub or an old soviet car. Wherever you find yourself sat you can’t not be charmed by its atmosphere and the friendly crowd it seems to attract.
Fogasház (House of Teeth)
From one of the oldest ruin bars to one of the newest. Fogasház opened in doors in 2009 and after a quick revamp in 2010 became popular with locals and tourists alike. There is a large indoor space where you can sit down for a drink or play some table football. In good weather the the courtyard is the place to be, stylishly decorated with colourful chairs, silloheted figures and large red lips it’s another unique design that works well with the dilapidated structure.
Located in the ‘Pest Broadway’ district this ruin bar is the odd one out as far as location goes but is most definitely worth the 10 minute walk. A labyrinth of small rooms, part of two old tenement houses, encircle a middle courtyard. A trail of Rabbits hang down from the ceiling of the courtyard and a breasted owl takes pride of place on one of the walls. Another great place for a casual beer or two in the early evening and a good party as the night progresses and the DJ’s start playing.
Kőleves Kert (Stone Soup Garden)
This unassuming restaurant with a large outdoor garden is one not to miss on a warm summer’s evening. Brightly coloured tables, swinging seats and chatting university students all add to the relaxed atmosphere. The beer is reasonably priced and it’s location in the middle of 7th District means it’s a perfect halfway pit stop for those doing a ruin bar pub crawl.
If you are heading to Budapest this summer be sure to check these out. Ask your hostel for directions or failing that a quick google maps search would work.
Have a favourite I missed out let me know in the comments below?