Ruin bars and relaxing spas – that’s why you come to Budapest. And while spas have been here since the Ottomans, ruin bars are a contemporary phenomenon, an after-dark trend that took off in the empty residential buildings and urban wastelands of District VII. Stuff the space with skip-found furniture and random knick-knacks picked up at flea markets, paint the walls garish colors, set up a long bar counter and perhaps a corner for DJ decks and – ta-da! – your ruin bar is complete. Soon cool antiquated pieces started popping up on every nearby street corner. District VII is now ruin bar central, bare-brick venues a dime-a-dozen anywhere within the Grand Boulevard. But which of these evocative havens still stand out from the crowd? Check out our list, the latest in our series of Ultimate Budapest.
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Housed within the huge building of a former factory, Anker’t is a lovely alfresco garden in summer and a heated grotto during winter. It is made up of spacious connecting courtyards enhanced with an extensive bar, a roomy dance floor and chilling zones for lounging. Instead of a typical ruin pub interior, Anker’t features a minimalist chic industrial design and unique atmosphere, and providing a regular home to rowdy parties, film screenings, cultural events and Sunday markets regularly.
Stepping into this laid-back locale is a surreal experience for sure: mannequins, old toys, vintage knickknacks and a hobby horse hang above your head, abstract drawings adorn the walls, while century-old chandeliers and huge ornate columns enhance the charm of Csendes. The vibrant buzz attracts artists, students and couples for drinks, chatting and chilling, as this is more a café that transforms into a civilised bar in the evening than a pub per se. However, it overshadows rival venues with its characteristic individuality, which makes it worth a visit. In summer, check out the adjoining Csendes Társ serving as a lovely old-timey terrace by the wonderful inner-city green oasis of Károlyi-Kert.
Ellátó Kert (Bezárt)
Hidden away from action while located in the midst of it all, this clandestine club is found behind a nondescript plastic curtain a few steps off Kazinczy Street. And once you poke your head inside and take a peak, you might end up staying for hours. This ramshackle pub is revered for its vibrant courtyard that is open over summer, while in winter a temporary roof keeps the cold outside. Ellátó is highly frequented by an eclectic hip crowd and offers tasty authentic Mexican dishes just right to ease a post-booze crave. Don’t forget to try their Pinky”, a pink grapefruit infused vodka shot.
Élesztő is not so much a ruin pub because of its looks, but rather for its unique buzz and succulent suds. Although it’s a bit off the beaten path, this is the place to go for quaffing quality craft beers, as an ever-changing selection is provided here from 20 taps in total. Venture into the labyrinthine interior spaces of Élesztő and discover a vast selection of delicious wines, grilled meats, hot chocolate and pálinka brandies. Fun-filled Sunday farmer’s markets and sundry cultural events are also often held here.
Fogas Ház is one of the vanguards of the city’s ruin pub scene, enhanced with an eclectic, stylish and dilapidated design and dance floors to keep you moving all night. A popular techno club, Lärm, a dimly-lit wine bar with a roof terrace, Liebling, and another mega-popular ruin pub, Instant, are all elements within this cool party-complex, a major urban compound for all kinds of fun-seekers. Prices are reasonable, so dancing until dawn is often the norm.
UdvarROM and Füge Udvar are the most fuss- and frill-free places of all, found right next to each other on Klauzál Street. Stepping inside either, you find yourself in the courtyard of a crumbling building, where wooden benches have been placed haphazardly and drinks are served for cheap. Locals often fill the roofed and outdoor parts, and you can play pub sports such as ping pong, pool and table football here. These places are super-chill drinking zones, ruin bars at their unpretentious best, providing a fun and affordable night out with your mates.
What makes Grandio stand out from the rest is if that one last drink was one too many, you can just stay the night as the building also serves as a party hostel. The garden looks like a jungle full of junk and plants, and anyone who enters is in for a madcap jamboree where you can unleash your inner rock star. This place is the playground of party animals, filled with all-nighters all the time.
Kuplung on Király Street is a shrine of underground lore, through easy to miss along the thoroughfare leading to it. Having found it, you can unwind over delicious drinks in the slender courtyard enhanced with minimalist design and urban art, and join the jumping crowds who pack the place almost every night when local bands play.
Púder Bárszínház és Galéria
The ruin pub of restaurant-lined Ráday Street might seem a bit more upscale, yet it is an intriguing hangout and a hotspot for regular cultural events. The interior is true eye candy created by visual wizards, enhanced with colorful murals covering surfaces from floor to ceiling. Installations from local artists regularly adorn the walls. Púder is a quieter hangout that its counterparts, but it is well worth a visit for a few drinks shared with friends.
As the pioneer of ruin pubs, Szimpla was one of the first to set up shop in hip District VII, and remains the most authentic of the genre. The interior looks like it was assembled from a second-hand shop selling old toys, bikes, all kinds of knickknacks, even Russian cars, complete with the works by local artists. As Szimpla is featured in every guide book, the crowd here is more international than local, but Hungarians often show up when local bands play live. Frequent community events such as Sunday farmer’s’ markets make this a site for inside-out delight.