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5 of the best ruin bars in Budapest

5 of the best ruin bars in Budapest

Budapest’s renaissance is being driven both by politicians at the top, and fun loving, culturally savvy youngers at the bottom. One of the distinguishing features of this “new” Budapest are ruin bars, a definite experience to be had when in the city. Here is a list of 5 different venues to explore, each with its own soul.

Budapest’s renaissance is being driven both by politicians at the top, and fun loving, culturally savvy youngers at the bottom. One of the distinguishing features of this “new” Budapest are ruin bars, a definite experience to be had when in the city. Here is a list of 5 different venues to explore, each with its own soul.

Between the grand Neo-Baroque architecture and its imposing castle, Budapest offers locals and tourists another special experience: ruin bars. The city is the bustling economic center of Hungary, with a strong youth-oriented fun culture, perhaps as a counter effect of the difficult years spent subjugated by the fascist and then the communist regimes. One of the most unusual forms of expression of this culture, ruin bars were born of the mix between the old commune style living and the newfound freedom.

The city’s social hubs, where dilapidated buildings have been reinvented into quirky meeting points for both young and old locals and tourists, ruin bars are hub of activity all day long. Furniture taken off the streets, “restored” decor, pieces of design or games like pin ball all coexist in these spaces, which are used for everything from co-working, meetings, markets and, of course, youngers flock to them in droves for evening entertainment.

Here are five of the best ruin bars in Budapest.

1) Instant A few minutes walk from the boutiques of classy Andrassy Street, located on Nagymező Street, Instant is a jumble of 23 strangely designed rooms sprawled across two former tenement buildings. A beloved spot for those looking to party, this ruin bar has themed dance floors, many bars and a mixed crowd of exchange students, tourists and, of course, locals. The mood is friendly, and though it’s a mind-boggling maze of rooms, dance floors, bars, courtyards and more quiet areas where you can just sit and chat with friends, it never feels dispersive. The decor is pretty out there, such as a boar-shaped disco ball, glowing butterflies, and foxes in compromising positions. Be prepared to be surprised. (Nagymező u. 38; +36 1 311 0704; hours: 4.00pm – 6.00am)


Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar photo: Tracy the Astonishing

2) Szimpla Kert The original ruin bar, which opened in 2001, Szimpla Kert is one of the biggest and most popular in Budapest. The space is dominated by a large courtyard surrounded by lots of smaller rooms and expands up onto more levels. The atmosphere is not as raucous as Instant, yet it definitely feels like the place to be. When exploring it, you get the feeling this bar has been curated by emerging young artists as it features an almost perfect eclectic mix of old and new, and a quirkiness, like the stripped-down Trabant (a communist-era car) turned into a booth to enjoy cocktails (the best seat in the house). More than just a place for night owls, Zimpla Kert boasts an almost endless list of activities such as concerts, guest DJs or film nights as well as a Sunday farmer’s market with delicacies from the surrounding Hungarian countryside and live jazz music, as well as a second-hand market once a month. (Kazinczy u. 14; +36 20 261 8669; Monday – Thursday, 12.00pm – 4.00pm, Friday: 10.00am – 4.00am, Saturday, 12.00pm – 4.00am, Sunday: 9.00am – 5.00pm)

3) Mazel Tov One of the newest ruin bars, Mazel Tov merges two of the city’s most distinguishing features: Ruin bars and the Jewish quarter. The idea was to create a modern ruin bar which maintained its easy and welcoming feel so the owners took a neglected brick building and turned it into a genuine community center with simple yet innovative design and a charming garden. More polished perhaps than other places in town, Mazel Tov honors Jewish culture, especially in the kitchen, which offers middle eastern fare that patrons can sample at any time of the day. (Akácfa u. 47; + 36 70 626 4280; Monday – Friday: 6.00pm – 2.00am; Saturday: 12.00pm – 2.00am; Sunday: 12.00pm – 12.00am)


Grandio ruin bar, photo: Zsoolt

4) Grandio Are you such a fan of the idea of ruin bars that you’d like to stay in one when visiting Budapest? Then look no further than Grandio, a ruin bar come hostel. Here foreigners and locals meet in a jungle-like garden where wild parties are a nightly occurrence. Cheap drinks and interesting conversation all add to the somewhat Mediterranean feel of this hostel/ruin bar. As well as cocktails, Grandio also serves some delicious grilled dishes. A sure to be fun-filled destination for backpackers curious to get to know Budapest’s new soul, especially when traveling in summer. (Nagy Diófa u. 8; +36 70 670 0390; open 24/7)

5) Brody Studios Thought not quite a ruin bar, Brody Studios definitely deserves a spot on the list at it has earned the accolade of Budapest’s multicultural bohemian hub. Hidden behind typically Hungarian heavy wooden doors, Brody Studios is a cultural center/celeb-spotting venue worthy of the hippest locations in London or New York. Here local artists rub shoulders with the international jet set as well as the occasional Hollywood star and fashionista. The members’ only club hosts its very own in-house artist program, as well as literary dinners, fashion shows and art exhibitions. If you happen to be in Budapest during one of the events open to non-members, make sure to visit the venue. The Brody Underground Cinema evening is a film night dedicated to locally made films and includes interviews with actors, filmmakers and producers. (Vörösmarty u. 38; +36 1 266 3707; see website for hours/events)

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