Europe

Partying Amongst the Ruins

A Guide to Budapest Nightlife

If you’ve done any research on Budapest before visiting you’ve probably come across something called ruin bars. What started as a small experiment to give young creatives a place to gather, quickly became the city’s claim to fame as one condemned building after another was turned into the most eclectic bars imaginable. 

The history of ruin bars goes back to the 1900s. These buildings reside in the VII district of the city and at one point formed the Jewish ghetto. But, following WW2, these buildings were left abandoned and unused. That is, until 2002 when a group of guys turned one of the buildings into the city’s first and most iconic ruin bar, Szimpla Kert.

More buildings were recycled into alternative spaces, turning the VII district into the party hub of Budapest. Eventually, word got out about the unique party experiences one could have and travellers began to flock to Budapest.

Today some bars stay true to the original idea of providing counter-culture spaces for young Hungarians. Their bohemian vibes are created from the graffiti and mismatched furniture that litter the floor. Some bars like Szimpla Kert provide a fully immersive experience with their unique drink selections and unusual performances and various forms of entertainment.

Other bars have commercialized and modernized their aesthetic. The popularity of watering holes turned them into alternative super clubs like Fogas Ház that cater to a wide audience of partygoers.

Without further ado, here are some ruin bars that you can’t miss on your next trip to Budapest:

(1) Szimpla Kert

The original ruin bar boasts a large space with rooms of various themes and an old, stripped-down Trabant (communist car) that you can have a drink in. This bar goes down in my books as providing one of the most unique party environments I’ve ever been in.  I went on two separate occasions. The first time I was amongst fellow partyers, sipping on a delicious lavender cocktail and sitting on a beanbag while we watched the most confusing and slightly disturbing animated film play on a small screen, while the bass of dance music thumped from right outside the door. The second time a movie was projected onto a giant screen in their outdoor courtyard while in another room people watched a zoomed live video of a man’s reaction to a person playing the piano two feet away from him. I joined the thousands of others that had left virtually no space on the walls untouched and my Australian friend took a picture on a giant kangaroo statue.

(2) Instant-Fogas Complex

Spanning an entire apartment building, this club is made up of over 20 rooms, 6 different bars, 3 dance floors, and 2 gardens. My experience with Instant-Fogas was more reminiscent of the typical clubs I’ve been to. There was music playing, people dancing, and drinks littered everywhere. But in typical Budapest fashion, the club had its quirks. As the biggest ruin bar in Budapest, there’s something for everyone here. Each room has a different style of music and is filled with eclectic decorations and graffiti adorning the walls. Just when you think you’ve explored it all you find another room or another bar. If you’re looking to dance and have a good time this would definitely be my recommendation.

(3) Doboz

One of the most modern ruin bars that greets you with a tree in the middle of its open courtyard.

(4) Grandio

The perfect ruin bar for travellers to start their night and meet up with other travellers because of its attachment to a hostel and large outdoor courtyard.

(5) Dürer Kert

A former university building that offers its party-goers the opportunity to play foosball, Ping-Pong, darts, and more while they party.

(6) Mazel Tov

One of the newest ruin bars, that acts as a restaurant for Jewish cuisine by day and a party hub with DJs and live entertainment by night.

(7) Csendes Letterem Café & Bar

A more laid-back ruin bar that still offers a cool vintage aesthetic for you and your friends to share a drink in.

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