What do you get when you have old abandoned buildings, some forward-thinking entrepreneurs, and alcohol?
The ruin bars of Budapest, of course!
Ruin bars, or ruin pubs, are one of the hottest attractions in Budapest right now. Along with Budapest’s world renowned bath houses, these bars are a must-see if you find yourself in a Hungary’s capital.
Budapest is actually made up of what used to be two cities: Buda and Pest, which are divided by the Danube river. The ruin bars are on the Pest side of the river in the seventh district. This is known as the Jewish quarter as it’s where most (if not all) of the Jewish residents lived in the city.
Although these bars are considered ruin bars, they are also known for being kerts, or gardens. Some of the bars do a better job of embracing this ‘garden’ aspect while others hang some plants from the ceiling and call it a day.
History of Budapest’s Ruin Bars
In the middle of Budapest’s 7th district lies the historic Jewish quarter of Pest. This is where the largest functioning synagogue in all of Europe is located: the Dohany Street Great Synagogue.
During Hungary’s socialist era, the popularity of the 7th district declined dramatically. After World War II, the buildings there were left to fall apart. No one wanted to spend the money renovating the buildings. It wasn’t until the 2000’s that this district started to be gentrified.
Rather than fix up the old buildings and spend a ton of money renovating, some smart entrepreneurs had a better idea. Rather than renovate the buildings and make them look new, why don’t they incorporate the old feel of the building into the atmosphere of the bar?
In 2002, Szimpla Kert, the first ruin bar, opened. The Hungarian Szimpla Kert translates to Simple Garden in English. Szimpla, as it’s known, sparked an idea that brought value back to these old, run-down buildings that many people have simply written off.
After Szimpla proved it’s concept, ruin pubs started popping up all over the seventh district, each with their own unique vibe. If you visit enough of them you’ll be sure to find your favorite out of the bunch.
Ruin bars are fun and up-beat but relaxed at the same time. You don’t have to dress up to impress people as if you were going to a nice club or fancy bar. These bars offer a laid-back environment where you can grab a couple of cheap beers with your friends. Even if you don’t like to drink, you’ll enjoy the creativity and unique nature of these pubs.
While Szimpla is the most popular of the pubs, there are plenty of others to check out as well. Let’s take a look at what each of them has to offer.
The abandoned factory that Szimpla resides in was destined for demolition. Now, it’s a huge open-air cinema and bar that attracts locals and foreigners alike.
Since Szimpla is the most popular, you’ll mostly find tourists grabbing a drink here, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. The place is awesome and you should at least walk inside and see what it’s all about.
Once you’re inside, it opens up to a huge open air old factory. Depending on when you go, there might be live music with people dancing or everyone might be sitting around the tables just hanging out.
The ruin pub is filled with decorations and furniture that you won’t find at any bar you’re used to. There is a car that’s used as a table, bicycles hanging from the ‘ceiling’, and some of the weirdest artwork you’ve ever seen. When you’re out in the courtyard, you’ll find tarps and fabrics above you rather than a roof. If it starts to rain, don’t expect to keep completely dry.
There are multiple bars where you can order a drink. Since you’re in Hungary, you might as well try their fruit brandy called Pálinka. You’ll usually find flavors like plum, apricot, apple, and other fruit varieties. Just know that you’ll feel a bit of a burning sensation as it goes down. It warms you up real quick!
If you’re looking for a more relaxed environment, head upstairs and relax around one of the many interesting tables. Don’t expect to find many matching chairs or tables. The furniture seems to be made up of a hodgepodge of old chairs and tables that someone picked up from a garage sale.
Szimpla’s popularity in Budapest encouraged the owners to expand the business. They now have another operation in Berlin, spreading the ruin bar love to another city.
Since many of these bars are out in the open air, with nothing overhead, they are only open during the spring and summer months. Anker’t is one of these places that is closed during the fall and winter so make sure to visit Budapest during the summer.
This place is a must-see as well. The building is definitely ruined, but it has such a cool atmosphere inside.
Anker’t is also built inside a former factory, but instead of crazy stuff on the walls, it has more of a minimalist look and feel. It doesn’t even have doors or windows!
Although this place is a bit more expensive than some of the other ruin bars, it’s a fun place if you’re looking for more of a party scene. At night, you can enjoy the dance floor, DJ’s, and fun atmosphere.
It’s made up of multiple courtyard areas, so if you’re looking to chill out after a day of exploring Budapest, it’s also great for that. Anker’t’s uniqueness is the fact that it has these multiple courtyard areas so you can get a different vibe depending on where you go inside.
If you’re looking for a club-like atmosphere, you’ll find it here. If you’re looking for a laid-back, beach-like atmosphere, you’ll find it at Anker’t as well.
Where Szimpla built an atmosphere of old and eclectic, Mazel Tov took the opposite approach. Mazel Tov has a modern look and feel that is simple and inviting.The Jewish phrase ‘Mazel Tov’ means Good Luck in English adds to the fun vibe that this place evokes among its guests.
Although these places are known for being bars, they also serve amazing food. Mazel Tov serves, as you may have guessed, Israeli cuisine.
This ruin bar is housed in an old brick building. The lightly colored brick walls are enhanced by the bright lights above, white pebbles spread across the floor, and green plants dangling from the ceiling.
It’s modern and rustic at the same time and is another fun bar to add to your list. Mazel Tov doesn’t attract the party crowd that some of the other bars do. If you’re looking for a fancier ruin bar, Mazel Tov is your best bet.
Where the others on the list are ruin bars, Corvintető is more of a ruin club. It’s located on top of an old department store. It’s open from 6 pm – 6 am, which definitely attracts more of a party crowd.
It originally started as a rooftop terrace bar, and then the floor beneath was transformed into a night club. Underground DJ’s come out at 10 pm to liven up the night and keep the party going until the next morning.
Don’t go here for the food though. Locals and tourists alike have complained about the food and the conditions of the kitchen. Stick to the drinks instead.
This place is also known to host movie nights and theme parties just to keep things interesting. If you’re looking to party, Corvintető is the place for you.
Grandio is an interesting place because it’s not just a bar. Grandio is also a party hostel, known for wild parties. If you’d rather party than sleep, you might want to consider Grandio as a place to stay.
Where many of the bars claim to be garden (kert) bars, there is literally plants and trees throughout this place. You feel like you’re in a garden. In the daytime, you’ll find locals relaxing and enjoying a couple drinks, but at night it’s overrun by backpackers.
Grandio is part of pub crawls, so there are usually a lot of partying backpackers that take over the place at night.
Although Kuplung is no secret, it’s easy to miss if you don’t know where to look. What was once a repair shop, was transformed into another ruin bar that you won’t want to miss. Kuplung, meaning clutch, in English, is not only a bar but also and event space.
At night, it’s a party. But it can also be a place for theater, films, or other exhibitions. Kuplung is diverse in what it has to offer to the community, which is what makes it so unique.
When you walk into Instant you’ll feel like some artists went all out with this place. You’ll find creatures hanging from the ceiling as you’re walking around inside the old brick building.
According to Instant’s website, it claims to be the largest ruin bar in all of Budapest. If you’re trying to meet someone here, your best bet is to meet them outside. With 26 rooms, 7 stages, 7 bars, and 2 gardens, finding someone isn’t going to be easy.
Instant is constantly keeping up with what people want to hear and offer a wide variety of musical tastes for the guests to enjoy. Instant is also nice because you can find places that are relaxed and there are also parts of it where you can party hard. With a place this big, you’ll be sure to find something you enjoy about it.
If you’re going to Budapest don’t miss out on these unique bars. You aren’t likely to find anything like them anywhere else on your travels. Even if partying isn’t your favorite activity, just visit a few of these bars and enjoy the atmosphere.
There are plenty more ruin bars beside ones on this list. If you’d like to learn more about other ruin bars check out WeLoveBudapest.com’s excellent article on the pubs. And, as with all businesses, some change names, go out of business, and new ones open up.
Most people visit Budapest for the amazing bath houses but don’t forget about the other interesting parts of the city such as these bars. If you’re traveling alone or even with a small group, the ruin bars are great places to meet people.
If you go to the more popular ruin bars mentioned above you’ll be sure to run into some other travelers that you can share stories with over some drinks. Everyone is there to have a good time and you’ll be sure to enjoy yourself as well.
What’s awesome is that they are all fairly close to each other so walking from one to the next isn’t an issue at all. You’ll also love how cheap many of the beers are. If you’re looking to have a good time on a budget, Budapest is certainly a place you should consider visiting. The beers are only $2-$3 rather than $6-$8 like you’ll find in popular bars in the US.
There are also nearby streets that offer delicious food if you find yourself getting hungry late at night.
Although you might fall in love with the first ruin bar you visit, I recommend visiting as many of them as you can. You’ll appreciate each bar for its uniqueness and the creativity that the owners bring to these places.