Think those old, ruined building facades don’t hold any interest for Budapest’s fun-seekers? Think again. Look closer – closer – closer – and you’ll find venues unique to this Central European capital: The Best Ruin Bars of Budapest.
Budapest’s District VII: after WWII, a rotting, empty, rubble-strewn no-man’s land, a dark memento of the war years. During the previous regime (prior to 1990), no real effort was made to clean up this geographical heart of the city. It lay abandoned, useless, uncared-for all those years. Although the 1990s saw many internal improvements in the district, the older abandoned buildings remained empty and forlorn.
But then – in 2002 – the first of many small miracles occurred: some brave entrepreneurs decided to cater to the needs of residents and tourists looking for some inexpensive venues in which to enjoy beers and wines without stretching poor Mr. Wallet too tightly. And so, on ill-maintained Kazinczy utca, just a couple of blocks off Rakoczi ut, the first of Budapest’s soon-to-become-famous ruin pubs was born: Szimpla Kert (Simply a Garden). Szimpla Kert actually established the definition of a ruin bar: move into a dodgy old building before it’s demolished, collect all sorts of colorful odds and gadgets and whatever you can find, use them as furniture and decoration, and serve good drinks. That’s all. A great recycle bar at its finest. It was an instant success and the district has never looked back.
Today District VII’s Jewish Quarter has many exciting, fresh, unique places. The streets have been nicely renovated and there are amazing – and legal – street art murals on partition-walls, not to mention all the clubs, venues and bars. Also, you’ll find scrumptious street food places of all nationalities. And after a nice bite, let’s get a drink… at one of Budapest’s best ruin pubs, as shown below.
Anker’t Ruin Bar
Paulay Ede street is a hidden pathway through party District VII. Right behind the Ballet Institute on Andrassy Út you’ll find Anker’t, less touristy, good food and drinks, and one of the largest ruin bars in town. During the day – and of course, during the night – the Hungarian underground cultural scene shines brightly here, from zene-maniacs to musicians, from gardeners to activists. It often hosts cultural or art events and festivals, not to mention the Sunday Vegan Food Market with cooking workshops and other exciting pop-up events.
The coolest concert venue of Budapest is Dürer Kert, right next to the City Park. Housed in an old school building, the three inside venues have the hottest bands in town, from Hungary and other European countries. This ruin pub also hosts art events, goa parties, tattoo festivals, bicycle markets and slam competitions. There’s a huge garden outside where you can have a nice grill meal or enjoy a DIY BBQ with your friends if you rent a cooking pot and firewood. Have a walk in the City Park, then spend the whole afternoon, evening and night in the heart of the city’s music scene.
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The ruin pub people are always hungry for new open-air opportunities and word of mouth will quickly spread that a new one has sprung up in the 7th district. The latest addition is Ellátó kert. On a warm afternoon you can drink tonic water (lemonade is not yet available here) and check out the décor, somewhat similar to Fecske, or possibly reminiscent of the good old Kultiplex Garden (now just an empty lot).
One of Ellátó kert’s major draws is indoor table soccer, and, of course, its kitchen (with taco dishes and chicken) is also a crowd-pleaser. And possibly the greatest trump card of all: the cleanest bathroom in the entire neighborhood.
Élesztő Craft Beer Bar
Firmly inside the Jewish Quarter, check out Élesztő, the craft beer heaven of Budapest. They boast the largest and best selection of draught beers in town, focusing on the many and varied craft products of the Hungarian beer revolution. The former glassworks factory has kept pace with the times, with an industrial design for beer lovers, but it also has a great pub kitchen, cocktail bar and a cool little coffee and hot chocolate shop on its corner.
Instant had a long history as a ruin bar and club, but back in 2017 they moved and united with the also well-known and -loved Fogas ház, to offer a ruin-bar-club heaven, a night-out universe. Now, you’ll find every kind of music, from the hot popular stuff (Fogas or Instant) to underground electro (Larm) to real rock-metal (Robot), and there are often live gigs, too. Deep atmosphere, awesome interior, hidden rooms and wide dance floors – you really don’t want to miss this fascinating place.
Ah, the Dean of Budapest ruin pubs. Maybe you’ve already been there. If not yet, well, now is the time. Szimpla is the oldest and most popular ruin bar in town. There’s a wide selection of drinks, friendly staff, cultural events and live music; you’ll find pretty much everything you need for a night out. And there’s even a farmers market every Sunday with fresh, tasty food, to take away or just to taste there – the choice is yours.