Who’s ready for a quick history lesson?
Budapest is the capital city in Hungary, and Hungary was a communist country up until 1989 when the political system collapsed. Wait, don’t ex out of this story, I swear this is leading to somewhere fun: the reason you should care about Hungary and its political situation is for its ruin pubs.
I was in Budapest back in November, and quite honestly it was the best/worst/most random trip I have ever taken. Long story short, I had never planned on seeing Budapest during my European travels, but somehow I ended up there, in a horrifyingly unsettling hostel, during a torrential rain storm, on a bone-chillingly cold weekend. If my experience was an Ad Lib, the word “miserable” would be used in every adjective space. After day one of the trip, I swore I would never return to Eastern Europe.
Then l I entered my first ruin pub.
In my loosely European mindset, the only solution I had to counteract my misery was to drink. The Australian stoners who ran the world’s worst hostel recommended a local ruin pub, so I thanked them, wasted no time showering or making myself up, and wrote the illegible foreign “return to” address on my wrist just in case I got lost. I headed to Szimpla kert, where my perception of Budapest would forever change.
Ruin pubs are essentially old, abandoned communist buildings that have been turned into bars. They’re mostly located in the seventh district of Budapest (which was formerly a Jewish community) and get their name from their dilapidated structure that is brought to life by retro thrift shop decorations. These ancient buildings would literally be in ruins if it weren’t for the incredibly intelligent people who made them into bars for the masses.
On that note, here’s a list of the best ruin pubs in Budapest to get ruined at:
VII Kazincsy utca 14
Szimpla is the only reason I changed my mind about Budapest. This bar is the oldest and most popular ruin pub in Budapest. It is located downtown, and prides itself on its eclectic feel. The bar contains rooms upon rooms of people from all walks of life enjoying live music, cheap drinks and hookah. The lighting, vintage toys hanging from the ceiling, and strange furniture are enough to make you wonder if you are in an alternate universe.
VII Akácfa utca 51
For the artist at heart: Fogas Haz is known for being a local hang out to all contemporary artists in Budapest. The bar was revamped in 2010, but that doesn’t mean the shabby look is gone. The bar stayed true to its roots, but is an updated version of the old one. With a dance floor, fantastic margherita pizza, and of course drinks, I am not sure what there is to dislike about this ruin pub.
VII Nagy Diófa utca 8
A bar that combines polar opposites: a concrete structure filled with greenery for a relaxed get-together that ends in an all night rager. Check your coat and inhibitions at the door because if you end up at Grandio you are bound to be there until the sun comes up.
VI Nagymező utca 38
In a word: huge. Instant is the type of bar you go to when you want to dance away every last calorie in the copious amounts of alcohol you are guaranteed to consume. It has multiple bars and dance floors with different DJs, so it is impossible to not find a song that gets your boogie shoes started. There is not a shot you are leaving before dawn, so take a nice long nap before venturing to this pub/club.
VI Paulay Ede utca 33
I think the best way for me to describe this pub is to mention that it has a mile long counter at the bar. Yes, one mile. Bring your game face to Anker’t, because it is going to make a man of you. The courtyards are mostly for socializing, but if you are lucky enough (or unlucky if you are like me with minimal athletic ability) you may just find the beach themed soccer field and get pulled into the game. Between the soccer and the dance floor, there is no reason you should be bored.
My short descriptions don’t do ruin pubs justice, so you need to experience them for yourselves. After one of the most eventful nights of my life, which I will spare you the details of, I am now an advocate for all things Hungarian and highly recommend ruin pubs to anyone who is travelling Budapest. Do yourself a favor and get ruined!