Shabby-chic bars in dilapidated old ruins make for wonderfully atmospheric nights out
Ruin bars in Budapest were born a little more than a decade ago out of the gentrifying urban decay of city’s 7th District. These creative and cobbled-together spaces quite literally hijack ruins, such as abandoned warehouses, empty parking lots, and historic buildings and call them home. Within the sprawling interiors and courtyards, you’ll find colourful kitsch, fairy lights, mismatched vintage furniture, peeling paint… and, for those looking for a good time, lively crowds, international DJs, and beer for pocket change. From the famous Szimpla Kert to the much more low-key spaces of Anker’t and Ellato Kert, an evening in ruins is certainly something to aspire to.
The granddaddy of Budapest’s modern ruin bars, Szimpla Kert was one of the first to set up shop in the trendy 7th District, all the way back in the early 2000s. These days, its reputation proceeds it and the crowd is often more international than local. But features like a huge garden, film screenings, a Trabant car-cum-table, and art installations make it well worth a visit.
A balmy garden by summer and a heated grotto in winter, trendy Anker’t falls on the less ruinous end of the spectrum, with its well-kept – but still industrial – connected courtyard spaces within a former factory complex. Head to the thumping main space for dancing, while other squares are better suited to down-tempo chatting and snacking.
Riotous Corvintető is in the middle ground where clubbing and retro urbanism meet. Occupying the roof and one floor of what was once an expansive department store, Corvintető’s rooftop terrace draws hoards in the summer months. The views are perhaps less appealing in the winter, but down below you’ll find a graffiti-scrawled annex packed with dancers.
In clued-up circles, Ellato Kert is revered as much for its lively garden as it is its. . .tacos? Unlikely as it sounds, the kitchen here turns out authentic Mexican fare, which makes for a surprisingly good accompaniment to the live music, art shows, table football, and myriad other distractions – not to mention the beer.
A buzzing, leafy courtyard is the beating heart of artsy Fogasház (don’t pay too much attention to the literal and slightly troubling translation “house of teeth.”) More cultural hub than wild club, the renovated, once residential space is regarded as one of the best ruin bars in Budapest with a painted atrium for dancing, a movie room, an arcade room, a theatre, and rentals ranging from bikes to shisha pipes.
With a terrace twinkling with jellyfish-shaped lights, an under-the-sea mural, and a giant paper whale skeleton hung from the ceiling, Kuplung has certainly undergone a (nautically oriented) transformation since its greasy days as an auto repair shop. Live concerts and table tennis make for early evening relaxation, but once the DJs take over, things get sweatier.
Unlike many of the ruin bars in Budapest’s 7th District, the aptly named Mazel Tov actively engages with the neighbourhood’s Jewish history. One part community centre, one part eatery (don’t miss the hummus, unless you’re worried about garlic breath), and one part club, this is a sleek and stylish newcomer to the area.
A theatre bar, art gallery, and cultural space opened by the owners of the Michelin-starred restaurant next door, the lovely Púder’s intricate interiors will have your eyes swimming. With high ceilings, colourful murals, and revolving installations from local artists, it’s as showy as ruin bars get. And speaking of making a show, grab one of the seats in the windows if you’re after an audience.
Persian carpets line the cement floors, chandeliers are strung from the ceiling’s exposed ducts, tables are made of reused chipboard, and the soaring interior space of Tébolykert sports its own graffiti murals. In short, it’s pretty much the Platonic ideal of a ruin pub – with the bonus that the food here skews more gourmet than usual.
A wild labyrinth of a venue, Instant is one of the largest ruin bars in Budapest and comprises two joined apartment buildings – and given that the rooms and hallways are all free to wander through, it’s easy to get lost. Thanks to some weird and wonderful installations (upside-down rooms, dentist chairs, suspended animal sculptures), you may just feel like you’ve fallen through the rabbit hole.