Budapest has a reputation for being a party city, but few visitors know how complex and eccentric the city’s nightlife really is. From rooftop bars and decadent spa parties to jam-packed discos, Budapest has an abundance of venues where you can slam a drink or dance till dawn. On our latest visit to Budapest we stumbled upon the Ruin Pubs, a chain of funky bars that are unique to the city.
What are the Ruin Pubs?
In short, the Ruin Pubs are quirky bars and nightclubs opened in abandoned buildings. An ingenious way of recycling spaces. They are a hybrid of bar, nightclub, café, and beer garden, that have been built in dilapidated spaces in Budapest’s District VII.
This site was once the Jewish ghetto. But after the deportation of the Jews this area of Budapest became derelict in the decades following World War II. The only structure that survived decay was the Jewish Synagogue, but the rest of the buildings in the ghetto were in a dismal state.
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A Brief History of the Ruin Pubs in Budapest
The Ruin Bars started as an experiment in the early 2000, with the creation of Szimpla Kert (Simple Garden), a bohemian bar set up in an abandoned building on Kertész utca. The project was the idea of a group of college graduates with a vision.
They set up the bar in this delapidated building offering affordable drinks for the young crowd in Budapest. And so Szimpla Kert became the great-grandfather of all ruin pubs, where all of it started. Later on the bar moved to Kazinczy utca.
Szimpla Kert shortly became the hottest place to party in Budapest. But at the same time, the opening of the bar created a trend for reusing abandoned spaces. The following year more ruin pubs started to pup up all around the city.
In the early days, many of of these ruin pubs had to be closed down due to legal problems concerning the safety of the buildings. But eventually, the bars became such an iconic part of the city that people would come to Budapest especially to sip a glass in these crumbling taverns.
What to Expect When Visiting the Pubs
Some of these bars are so inconspicuous among the buildings that they are difficult to spot. They rather look like old homes. There are no marquee signs, no loud noises, and no people waiting in line to get inside. But once you walk into the inner courtyard, the entire area is bustling with crowds talking, dancing, and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere.
An estimated 30 ruin pubs are now in the city, each one of them with its own personality. But they all have a few things in common: an old abandoned building, raw-brick walls covered in graffiti, mismatched furniture, funky props and a bohemian atmosphere.
The ruin pubs don’t take long to visit, so make sure you drop by even if you only have one or two days in Budapest.
Over the years the Ruin Bars evolved into more elegant places like Mazel Tov, with shabby chic furniture and much higher prices. But you can still see many of the original ones, from 20 years ago.
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Where to Find the Ruin Pubs in Budapest
The ruin pubs have become one of the great attractions in Budapest. Ask any local about the best things to do in the city and he/she will surely mention this place. The intriguing pubs are found mainly the city’s Jewish Quarter, but you just have to know where to look in order to find them. Here are some of the most famous ones:
Szimpla Kert –the city’s first ruin bar– (Kazinczy utca 14, 1075 Budapest)
Kőleves Kert (Kazinczy utca 37-41, 1075 Budapest)
Ellátó Kert (Kazinczy utca 45,1075 Budapest)
Grandio (Nagy Diófa utca 8, 1072 Budapest)
Instant (Nagymező utca 38, 1065 Budapest)
Anker’t (Paulay Ede utca 33, 1061 Budapest)
Some of the ruin pubs offer live music on the weekends, as well as film nights and art exhibitions. Some even have light food and hostel accommodations. So if you are in town for some fun, Budapest’s ruin pubs will surely not disappoint you.
We went to a couple but we did not like the ambiance. I guess its ok for a drink and a visit like any other touristy place.
This is my kind of city tour: beer and adventure! They look so cool and interesting but you’re right definitely for the younger crowd.
I guess you could do a city tour of the Ruin Pubs, but you’ll have much more fun exploring them on your own.
I’m hoping to visit Budapest this Fall and the ruin bars are high on my list of things to do. I didn’t realize there are 30 of them to visit! I’m for sure packing a sharpie so I can leave my mark
Years back we visited Budapest with our kids. We couldn’t make it to these places. The ambience looks so different. Very unique bar idea. Great pictures.
The run-in pubs are definitely not fit for kids, Indrani. Maybe when they will be older, hahaha!
So true that the bars do not disappoint in Budapest. These are great tips and suggestions to for pubs and I’ll have to look up the ruin bars in Budapest
There is something very rustic and haunting about these pubs. Considering how they have sprung up, I am sure they have their own stories to tell. A few melancholic and a few nice. I sure would like to know them all over a drink.
Linda (LD Holland)
We are sorry we missed going inside a Ruin Pub when we were in Budapest. I did not realize there were over 30 in the city. Whenever we went past one, they looked very busy. And so unique in their design. Definitely will try one on a return visit.
Thanks for the tips and suggestions to look up these ruin bars in Budapest. I love how the spaces have been upcycled to become the hippest spots in town. There is a chance we’ll be heading to Budapest this Summer, so thanks for including the addresses 🙂
Oh! I loved reading this! I know so little about Budapest, and this ruins pubs idea has such a great story behind it, and a real discovery to check out them all. Thanks for introducing me to this, definitely bookmarked for my first visit to Budapest.
I remember going to a few of these in the city and a huge one with many little bars and dance floors, it was quite lively in the area and fun to experience after a nice long dinner.
What a great way to utilize abandoned spaces and homes. Have never heard about these ‘Ruin pubs’ before. Glad, you introduced us to this through this post. I wonder if the structures are safe though!
It is, isn’t it? I thought so too.
oh my goodness, how super cool! I am absolutely loving the idea of the ruin pubs – what a great way to make use of abandoned buildings – hopefully none are haunted hehe. Very cool to learn there are more than 30 ruin pubs in the city, what a fun way to explore Budapest. It would be fun to explore each of its unique personalities and take photos of the graffiti, and mismatched furniture. Plus I’d imagine the drinks would be fun too!
I was in such a “ruin bar” in Prague and felt it was really atmospheric but i did not know that it was so famous in Budapest. That might be just enough reason to finally plan a trip there. Ruin bar hopping sounds like a great way to spend the evenings 🙂
Oh, I didn’t know Prague has ruin bars as well. I’d love to visit those too.
Budapest is surely a cool place. I love the nightlife there. They have the coolest pubs and this Ruin Pubs that you have mentioned of is certainly a place where I would love to hang out. Such crazy designs on the walls, definitely attractive!
I have never heard of ‘ruin pubs’. What a great idea for the old abandoned buildings. A great way to bring back life to areas in a city! Thanks for sharing. It is definitely something I would like to do when visiting Budapest.
I love the concept of a “ruin pub”. I haven’t heard of these before, but they sound like really neat. I would be very interested in learning more about the history behind each building as I visited. Thank you for the sharing- I’ll definitely add these to my list of “must-sees” for Budapest!
That’s a nice and interesting concept. Had not heard about ruin pubs before. Though I am a teetotaler would still like to explore them. Nice piece, thanks for sharing.
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Corey at fifi + hop
Absolutely love this! What a great way of recycling empty space. I’ve never been to Budapest, but now I know where to go when I do. #theweeklypostcard
Elaine J Masters
I’ve been hearing about the ‘ruin’ bars! This is perfect timing as I’ll be visiting Budapest soon. Great post and pictures.
Hope you’ll have a good time in Budapest, Elaine. Let me know how you liked the ruin bars.
Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields
These sound fascinating. I love abandoned buildings and to find a use for them like this is so clever. i wish I had known about them when we were in Budapest a few years ago.
I’d like to say that these ruin pubs are awesome and I’m sad I didn’t know about them the first time we went to Budapest, but when we go again one day, we’ll definitely check some out!
Nothing is lost, Lolo. You live in Europe so Budapest is just around the corner from you.
This is an interesting bar idea. I wonder if it has spread to other cities. I guess it would have to be cities with abandoned buildings.
As far as I know, Budapest is the only city that has the ruin pubs, but it’s possible that other places in the world adopted the idea too.
Fabolous place and description of it. We got to the place right off the plane coming from LA, nice intro to Budapest’s nightlife !