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.
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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.
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.
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.