With its rich history, picturesque skyline and quirky spirit, Budapest is a top tourist pick for more reasons than one. You may not even need any particular reason to visit the Hungarian capital city. However, if you’re weighing a visit to Budapest against a visit to another destination, please consider the following: RUIN BARS.
A calque of the Hungarian ‘romkocsma’ (literally translated, ‘pub in a ruin’), these no-frill bars are located in dilapidated pre-war buildings that have been converted into eclectic drinking dens for locals and tourists alike. We’re talking abandoned factories, department stores and former apartment complexes all turned into bars or clubs.
With so many now to choose from (and most, if not all, are worth a visit), here are our top 5 picks that embody the best of the ruin bar phenomenon.
The original romkocsma that started it all and, for many, still the best. Some old furniture and artsy decorations inadvertently wrote the DNA for every ruin bar to follow. Szimpla Kert has since become a cult pick for tourists, so don’t come here expecting to mingle with the locals. Instead, come to get lost in its labyrinth of eccentric rooms, themes and experiences.
Stepping into this more relaxed ruin pub is most definitely surreal. Mannequins, old dolls and toys, vintage knickknacks and an enormous hobby horse hang above your head. The walls and ceilings are layered with a frantic curriculum of curious. Despite the chaotic decor, Csendes (translating as ‘quiet’) lives up to its name: an easygoing daytime cafe that smoothly transitions into an affable bar in the evening. The food here is also worth mentioning, so be sure to come hungry.
One of the newer ruin bars, Mazel Tov is worthy of celebration. This cavernous yet chic brick complex, located in Budapest’s Jewish neighborhood, serves as a community arts center, a Middle Eastern bistro (don’t miss the homemade hummus or the shawarma platters!), and the perfect spot for your swanky night out. L’Chaim!
Púder Bárszinház is a fortress (literally) of culture and culinary science. Its excellent sense of purpose gives time and space to visual arts and literature, has a studio theater in the back, and provides musical entertainment during the evening hours. Bright murals painted from floor to ceiling and regularly changing art installations make Púder as extravagant as ruin bars get.
Fogas Ház, Hungarian for “House of Teeth,” is an exuberantly lively multi-level party complex. Inside the bare bricked and chipped walls is Budapest’s hottest techno club, which even features a bike shop and a vintage clothing store. Take your cocktail and your dance moves inside the club or outside on one of the drinking terraces, or play a game of beer pong or two. Whatever you choose to do at this ruin bar free-for-all, you won’t be disappointed. (Maybe just a little hungover.)