About a decade ago, one of many abandoned buildings in Hungary’s capital was converted into a low-key club with little more than discarded furniture and artistic creativity, bringing about the first of Budapest’s so-called “ruin pubs”; these are now major attractions of the Magyar metropolis, with some of them frequented more by foreigners than locals. We take a look at some of the best ruin pubs out there nowadays, each with its own distinct ambience and unique temptations.
Anker’t, the summertime sister of Anker Klub, is one of the largest garden bars in downtown Budapest. Housed within the enormous building of a former factory, it is characterized by a minimalist interior, and is made up of huge connecting courtyards. The first party area is home to a long bar suited for socializing and crowd-scanning, and also a separated dance floor. The other courtyards were made for chilling, chatting, and occasional special events. This isn’t the cheapest place to hang out, but the party scene happening here is generally worth the cost. Don’t miss out on the tasty grilled dishes and freshly fried potato chips!
Once upon a time, the top floor of the communist-era department store at Blaha Square was nothing more than a dusty storage area, but after the party promoters of Corvintető took it over, it became one of Budapest’s most happening nightspots. No longer decorated with random mannequins, this is now an underground disco several stories up, with a sprawling rooftop terrace that frequently hosts movie screenings and fun theme parties. Corvintető takes pride in staying open till dawn almost every day, and hosts some of the coolest international and domestic DJs that grace Budapest’s turntables – with all of these fun facilities, this is one of the city’s best hookup spots.
Dürer Kert is nowadays regarded as a popular party spot for the more hardcore crowd, welcoming bands and musicians such as Rise Against or Chuck Regan. Due to its youthful, friendly atmosphere, Dürer Kert attracts the urban youth like Mick Jagger attracts women, mainly because of its diverse lineup and its gravelly garden suited for world-changing chats over a few beers. Concerts are also held on the garden stage, so you can basically dance wherever you want to. The only disadvantage we can mention regarding Dürer Kert is its location, since it is quite far away from the downtown area, although anyone spending the day at City Park will find it a convenient spot to kick back as evening begins.
Hidden away from the action while located right in the middle of it all, Ellátó Kert is found a few steps away from Kazinczy Street behind a nondescript plastic curtain – however, once visitors find this clandestine club, they often end up hanging out here for years. The regular crowd is made up of twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, bikers, skaters, tattooed musicians, pierced chicks, and dogs coming in all shapes and sizes. Spicy-hot Mexican dishes satisfy your post-booze hunger, while a faded pool table draws a motley crew of competitors. To literally top it all off, Ellátó Kert is tented and roofed during the winter months.
“Fogas ház” does mean “house of teeth”, but don’t worry, the only dentists found here these days are only making themselves comfortably numb. This pioneer ruin pub created a movement for the nightlife genre during its initial years when Fogas Ház functioned as a hub for arts and a gathering place for contemporary visionaries. After being rebuilt in 2010, the altered concept and the revamped design resulted in a major popularity spurt. The interior is stylishly dilapidated, the prices are not too high, and the dance floor cures your boogie fever, while an adjacent outdoor courtyard is now equally popular as the original premises.
Grandio is an urban jungle full of plants and crazy foreigners, as this laid-back locale also serves as a party hostel. Despite the chilled vibe, it is a regular scene of wild all-nighters where anything can happen. You can quench your thirst with the usual drinks, while grilled meals silence your groaning belly. Although the place has a Mediterranean feel to it, it’s not low-key at all, and the vibe urges you to release your inner rock star.
Located on Nagymező Street – also known as “Budapest’s Broadway” – Instant is a beloved spot of party animals, being a gigantic ruin pub complex occupying an entire building. The themed dance floors guarantee that you will find the songs you’d like to shake it to, while multiple counters and an awesome crowd ensure that you won’t leave either sober or before sunrise (Instant is proudly open until 6am every day). The psychedelic interior features highlights such as a boar-shaped disco ball, glowing butterflies, and humping foxes.
Kertem is like Rambo in the jungle: it hides between the bushes. This spacious garden bar is found within City Park – the second biggest park in Budapest – a few minutes’ stagger away from Heroes’ Square. Despite being big enough to house most of the animals of the nearby Budapest Zoo, Kertem gets really crowded at night, turning it into a cool place to hang out and get to know new people. The drinks are cheap, the concerts are free, there are a bunch of bike racks, they cook up tasty grilled dishes (try the Serb burger), and drunken eyes can follow the cute dogs and colorful fairy lights.
Király Street’s Kuplung is a real curiosity and an underground shrine. Hidden by a gateway that’s easy to miss if you don’t know where to look, it is housed within an old courtyard that used to be covered with graffiti and other mind-boggling pieces of urban art. After the whole spot was renovated and refurbished, the underground vibe and the urban art infusion still remains intact, but was sprinkled with pieces of trendy-ish furniture and minimalist design elements. Drink discounts are frequent, along with sports broadcasts, parties, live bands, and people of all styles and ages.
This new kid in town is already making a big impression – with a goal to create a modern kind of ruin pub, the creators of Mazel Tov took a neglected brick building and turned it into a genuine community center with simple-yet-innovative design and a charming garden, where Jewish culture is honored but everyone is welcome (including kids). Featuring a complete Middle-Eastern kitchen operated with tasty flair by the proprietor of Hummus Bar, Mazel Tov is a full-service restaurant as well as a happening club – cool DJs and live musical performances spice up the night here every evening.
For the sake of versatility, the brains behind Mika Tivadar Mulato decided to establish their alcohol-consuming, night-twisting, open-air institution along the favorite lane of Budapest’s pub-hoppers, Kazinczy Street. Not that they had any other option, since the garden is right next door to the main club, a den of delicious drinks, arts, and culture. As for the garden, you can gobble yummy grilled dishes, and have a good time with the urban youth while hanging out in old boats.
The mother of all ruin pubs is Szimpla Kert, the hub of Kazinczy Street’s ever-growing nightlife scene, one of the busiest party areas of downtown Budapest. The interior, courtesy of contemporary artists, looks as though it was put together from the selection of a secondhand shop selling electronic devices, prehistoric toys, old bikes, and even vintage Russian cars. After its inclusion in countless guidebooks, the crowd at Szimpla Kert is mostly made up of foreigners, although Hungarians also stop by the place due to the diverse selection of concerts. The booze assortment holds no surprises, while the menu consists of bar dishes. This remains a perfect place to get to know interesting people during an all-nighter.
In a lot of ways, there’s nothing special about Udvar Rom; it’s just a crumbling building where some wooden benches and tables were placed haphazardly in the courtyard, alongside a roughly constructed bar beneath some generic paper lamps overhead, and drinks are always served for cheap – and this is precisely what gives Udvar Rom its character: this is a Budapest ruin pub at its unpretentious best. Most of the clients here are local, and probably wouldn’t appreciate our including this place in this list, but if you want a truly laid-back spot for having a few drinks amid the genuine ruin-pub atmosphere of a decade ago, don’t miss this unexceptional-yet-extraordinary hotspot.
Pest VII, Klauzál Street 21.