It’s hard to think of a long weekend in Budapest without mentioning those ever famous ruin bars. In the long span of the city’s history, these pubs are just a blip in its historic lifetime, but even in the last 15 years Budapest’s ruin bars have evolved into an attraction that is almost as popular today as Fishermen’s Bastion or Buda Castle. They are often considered the best bars in town with probably the most affordable drink menus you can not miss whilst enjoying Budapest nightlife.
History of Ruin bars
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In the early 2000s, the inner part of the 7th District was full of abandoned buildings. Once the site of the Jewish ghetto, the historic Jewish Quarter became dilapidated in the decades following World War II, after the deportation of some 10,000s Jews. In 2002, the people behind a placed called Szimpla opened up the very first venue in Kertész utca – where you still find Szimpla Café today. However, the real hit happened in 2004, when Ábel Zsendovits and his friends decided to gamble on a building complex in Kazinczy street, which marked the official start of the legendary ruin bar era the World knows so well by now.
Szimpla began as a small experiment, a bar set up in an abandoned, ran-down factory building offering affordable drinks for the creative crowd in the city. Szimpla became a bohemian hub after the crumbling building got spruced up with local design and vintage, mismatched furniture. Its chaos and eclecticism has turned into a trend and inspired and keeps inspiring an entire generation of people.
Evolution of Ruin bars
As ruin bars very quickly became an iconic part of the cityscape, people started to come to Budapest specifically to have a drink or two in these now iconic buildings. More bars popped up following the concept of the ruin bar look and feel, like the legendary Instant-Fogas Complex , which is the collaboration of the Instant and Fogas Ház. While places like Fogas Complex and Szimpla were meant to be alternative cultural hubs, they eventually changed direction to cater for party crowds, whilst places like Instant with their surreal decor spanning an entire apartment block, offered places for pure hedonism.
The look and feel
As mentioned above, ruin bars have been around since the foundation of Szimpla Kert that has been the mecca of the ruin bar era. These bars are primarily found in Budapest’s 7th District (the old Jewish quarter) and its neighbouring areas in the old ruins of abandoned buildings, factories, warehouses, stores or lots. This district was left to decay after World War II, creating a perfect place to develop an underground bar scene. (Not so underground)
From outside these bars look like normal Budapest townhouses. They don’t have large signs leading the way, you don’t hear any loud music, and there’s no queue of people outside waiting to get in. But once you walk into the inner courtyard, you find yourself in the middle of a hip, artsy, and funky place bustling with crowds chatting, dancing, and enjoying a very unique, laid-back atmosphere.
In a ruin bar you feel like you’re drinking at your local thrift store. None of the furniture matches. They are old and eclectic. You may also feel like you’re visiting your grandmother’s house. The ceilings are all designed differently. The building purposefully haven’t been renovated, there are still holes in the walls and visible pipes everywhere to keep the look and feel eclectic, authentic and full of history of the last century.
Popular as a night out in Budapest, ruin pubs also offer a range of activities during the day, with many functioning as community spaces and live music venues. Szimpla Kert holds a weekly farmer’s market on Sunday mornings, or occasionally a vintage clothes market, while Anker’t screens films and holds markets.
Drink prices in ruin pubs
You’ve probably heard urban legends about how affordable Hungary is so you might be wondering how much a pint of beer or a glass of wine costs. In Budapest, tourists can purchase both a glass of wine and a bottle of lager for less than €4 – wine can cost less than 2€, whilst a bottle of lager is around €2-3 – while cocktails, such as a Mojito or Cosmopolitan, the most expensive drinks in the city, were priced at €5 A round of ten different drinks comes to about €24 in total.
The coolest ruin pubs in central Budapest
Szimpla Kert for creative, environment friendly vibes
The opening of Szimpla Kert in 2002 was a milestone in the alternative life of Budapest. Converting an old factory into a huge open-air cinema and pub, they created a unique framework for hosting concerts, theatre shows and many different cultural events. Szimpla defines itself as a ’cultural reception space’, indicating the intention to embrace genres and performers off the mainstream, presenting them in an informal atmosphere. With constantly supporting initiatives for urban sustainability, Szimpla has been serving as an ultimate incubation house of green ideas from the very beginning, too.
The Szimpla lifestyle is brought to life by culture, creativity and constant change day by day. Everybody and anybody can make themselves at home, have a rest or have fun when visiting Szimpla in Budapest. Right from the beginning, their main mission is to shape the environment and make it more liveable and human friendly. Searching for the cultural treasures of both Hungary and the World, introducing and managing creative talents and their products as well as implementing and operating models that help sustainable development in many walks of life are all the things Szimpla lives by.
Kazinczy u. 14, szimpla.eu – Open 15pm-4am on Mondays until Thursdays, 12pm-4am on Fridays and Saturdays, and 9am-5am on Sundays.
Instant & Fogas Complex for the biggest parties in the city
The immense club kingdom of Instant and Fogas is concentrated into 2 neighbouring buildings in 49 Akácfa street and offer inexhaustible amount of fun in all aspects on almost every single day of the year. Intant and Fogas ház used to be two separate ruin pubs, but they have recently decided to unite their forces to create the kingdom of ruin pubs in the heart of Budapest.
When looking for places to go out in the evenings or to spend the whole night somewhere a bit wild, one has to contemplate a handful of factors to make sure all needs would be fulfilled. Fortunately, you get to skip this planning-thinking-deciding phase, by having all facilities together that a party fiend might possibly desire. Instant & Fogas have 8 bars altogether to keep you fuelled until the end of your stay, but there is also a bunch of solutions to ease your hunger. For complete courses and fine treats accompanied with top quality wines and spirits you should definitely check out Liebling, but as long as you are satisfied with a small nibbles, quick grilled snacks and pizzas are also available. Just follow the delicious scent of freshly cooked food and you’ll easily find where to get them.
They also have 1,200 square meters dedicated to hosting music events from a wide range of genres separated properly from each other. While this isn’t a brand new concept for Instant or Fogas, by establishing the complex and forming new rooms the entire idea manifested on a whole new level.
Budapest VII, Akácfa u. 49-51., instant-fogas.com – Open every day 6 pm – 6 am
Mazel Tov for an upscale ruin bar experience
This is one of Budapest’s newest ruin bars. Mazel Tov (located in the old Jewish quarter) is a community centre and restaurant serving traditional Jewish cuisine by day. At night, the courtyard is a party with DJs and live entertainment entertaining guests. Head to Mazel Tov if you like the ruin bar concept in theory, but prefer things more upscale. This Middle Eastern restaurant inside Budapest’s buzzing Jewish Quarter does have a disintegrating facade like other ruin bars, but the inside is a different story: Cheap drinks have been upgraded to cocktails, ham & cheese sandwiches to mezze plates, self-service to hostesses, and cheap furniture to a thoughtfully designed, industrial-chic interior with sleek wood paneling.
Mazel Tov’s Israeli and other Mediterranean dishes are reliable and arrive without delay, to ensure that tables turn over quickly in this wildly popular restaurant. Reservations are an absolute must as the place gets mobbed by people every day of the week. Instant and Fogas is next door in case you want to compare and contrast.
Akácfa u. 47, www.mazeltov.hu/en. Open every day 12:00 pm.-0:00 am.
Szatyor Bar and Cafe for the posh Buda crowed
Filled with colourful, eclectic furniture, Szatyor Bar looks like your typical ruin bar, but it’s actually different from those swarming Budapest’s party district on the other side of the Danube. This being in Buda, instead of scruffy students sipping low-priced beers, Szatyor draws an over-25 crowd where shirts and skirts outnumber hoodies and backpacks. Duck confit and sous-vide venison leg are rarely part of the ruin bar culinary repertoire, but here, you will find them alongside pricey craft beers.
This updated ruin bar is situated on the fashionable Bartók Béla Boulevard in 11th District, where middle-class Buda residents wind down in the evenings, who are more discerning drinkers and eaters than the tourist-heavy partygoers in Pest. Attached to Szatyor Bar is a classically-furnished café, Hadik, which has earned a place in Budapest’s collective memory as a legendary haunt of bohemian writers and poets in the 1920s. It shuttered after WWII, but was finally revived in 2010 after a long hiatus.
Budapest, Bartók Béla út 36, table reservation: reservours.com/szatyorbar/tablereservation/en , open Monday-Wednesday and Sunday 12 pm – 23 pm, Thursday-Saturday 12 pm – midnight
Wherever you decide to spend the night, any of these places will guarantee an unforgettable time. Ruin bars are now par t of our culture and the era they created keeps inspiring the younger generation of people to stay creative and re-create the cityscape in our beloved city.
Our city-centre hotels for visiting the Best Ruin Bars in Budapest
If you’re a night owl who’s planning to stay out late, it’s important to live close to the city centre, because nobody likes to spend a long time travelling back to the hotel once the party’s over. Choosing a downtown hotel will allow you to have a shower and get off to sleep in no time at all.
Danubius Hotels offers 5 city-centre hotels in Budapest: the Hotel Astoria City Center, Hotel Erzsébet City Center, Hotel Hungária City Center, Radisson Blu Béke Hotel and Hotel Gellért. All the hotels are fully air-conditioned and pet-friendly. Check out on a map: Best Area to Stay in Budapest for Nightlife
Hotel Astoria is within walking distance of Gozsdu Court or Kazinczy Street, so you won’t need to worry about getting a taxi or night bus back. Astoria is within walking distance of Erzsébet Square, Gozsdu Court, Kazinczy Street and the surrounding ruin pubs.
Hotel Radisson Blu offers a stylish, peaceful place to stay on the bustling Grand Boulevard. It’s a stone’s throw away from the bars on the Grand Boulevard, and very close to Kazinczy Street and the heart of the city’s nightlife area.
Hotel Hungaria is next to the busiest railway station in Pest, but still close to the centre. It is situated only two stops away from the night spots and bars of District 7, and the No. 24 tram takes you directly to the Budapest Park concert venue.
Hotel Erzsébet City Center is a modern hotel within easy reach of the River Danube, Deák Square or the Bálna.