When I first visited Budapest in the early 2000s, there appeared to be no alternative bars. There were very few proper bars. There were, of course, many Bar Restaurants, an odd Cocktail Bar, and Nightclubs but there were only a few genuine bars.
The emergence of ruin bars in Budapest filled this void as well as contributing to Budapest's reputation as having some of the best nightlife in Europe. Visiting a Ruin bar is now considered one of the best things to do in Budapest.
Quick Intro to Ruin Bars in Budapest
A Ruin bar will typically have run-down furniture and be decorated with a lot of retro memorabilia. Most of them have a beer garden and are relatively cheap, although the newest ruin bars seem to be more upmarket and in turn more expensive.
Ruin Bars tend to be very colourful and photogenic. A lot of them are cultural centres, some host live music, and others are clubs. The benchmark for ruin bars in Budapest is still Szimpla Kert (the first Ruin Bar) and it is still one of the best ruin bars in Budapest.
History of the Ruin Bars in Budapest
The history of ruin bars in Budapest is rooted in the city's unique cultural and architectural evolution. The concept of ruin bars emerged in the early 2000s and has since become an integral part of Budapest's nightlife scene.
After the fall of communism in Hungary in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Budapest experienced significant urban decay and abandoned buildings in the city centre. Many properties remained unused and neglected, particularly in the historic Jewish Quarter.
These transformed spaces, now known as "ruin bars" or "romkocsma" in Hungarian, became a new kind of gathering place. The first ruin bar is said to be Szimpla Kert, which opened in 2002, although there were other pioneering venues around the same time.
The hallmark of ruin bars is their eclectic and bohemian decor. Each bar features a mishmash of vintage furniture, street art, graffiti, fairy lights, and various curiosities, creating a unique and artsy ambience.
Over time, ruin bars evolved into more than just nightlife spots. They became cultural hubs, hosting various events such as live music performances, art exhibitions, film screenings, and markets, contributing to Budapest's vibrant cultural scene.
The ruin bars quickly gained popularity among locals and visitors alike. Their offbeat charm and affordable prices attracted people looking for a different kind of nightlife experience. As word spread, tourists started seeking out these hidden gems, making ruin bars a significant part of Budapest's tourist attractions.
The success of ruin bars had a positive impact on Budapest's urban development. Many formerly abandoned buildings in the city centre were revitalized, and the popularity of ruin bars helped breathe new life into the surrounding neighbourhoods.
The Best Ruin Bars in Budapest
Here’s my comprehensive guide to the best ruin bars in Budapest:
1. Szimpla Kert
Szimpla Kert is one of the most famous and iconic ruin bars in Budapest. It is part of the ruin bar culture that has become a hallmark of Budapest's nightlife. Ruin bars are unconventional bars set up in dilapidated buildings, courtyards, or abandoned spaces. They often have a bohemian and artsy vibe, with mismatched furniture, graffiti-covered walls, and a diverse range of decor elements.
It is located in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest, which is known for its lively nightlife scene and vibrant street art. The bar is spread across multiple floors and features various rooms, each with its unique theme and ambience. From a shabby-chic courtyard to an atmospheric indoor area, Szimpla Kert offers an exciting journey through different spaces.
Szimpla Kert often hosts live music performances, DJ sets, movie screenings, art exhibitions, and other cultural events. This dynamic program makes it a lively and ever-changing venue. The bar serves a wide variety of drinks, including local beers, cocktails, and spirits. Some ruin bars, including Szimpla Kert, might also offer simple food options or street food stalls to complement the drinking experience..
- Opening Hours: 12 noon to 4 am Mon to Fri & 9 am to 4 am Sat & Sun
- Address: Budapest, Kazinczy u. 14, 1075 Hungary
Instant had to move probably because its landlord would not renew its lease. Luckily for them, another ruin bar called Fogas ház had some extra space and allowed Instant to move in.
Instant got to keep its unique identity with underground electronic music with psychedelic lighting and Fogas ház keeps its own identity. With Instant and Fogas ház now in the same building, this is easily the larger Ruin Bar complex in Budapest.
- Opening Hours: 4 pm to 6 am daily
- Address: Budapest, Akácfa u. 49-51, 1072 Hungary
3. Fogas Ház
Fogas Ház was founded in 2009, but since then it has gone through many transformations. This building complex now hosts four different Ruin Bars/Clubs all with their own unique identity: Fogaskert, Instant, Robot, and Lärm.
Fogaskert can provide you with the more "traditional" ruin bar experience with worn-out furniture, lots of weird memorabilia, and cheap beer. Instant features a unique ruin bar experience with light shows and electronic music. If you want to catch a rock music show, then Robot is the venue for you and if you are looking for more Electronic music Lärm is the place for you.
- Opening Hours: 4 pm to 6 am daily
- Address: Budapest, Akácfa u. 49-51, 1072 Hungary
If you are looking for a more chilled-out "traditional" Ruin Bar Grandio is the place for you. However, it does have a reputation for wild parties late into the night. Grandio also happens to be one of the best party hostels in Budapest. It has a large courtyard which is surrounded by the balconies of the hostel rooms.
Grandio's Bar is decorated with the usual rundown furniture and some unique murals and art pieces. A good idea might be to stay in a dorm bed (in the hostel), that you can crawl into after a hard night in the bar.
- Opening Hours: claims to be open 24/7
- Address: Budapest, Nagy Diófa u. 8, 1075 Hungary
5. Mazel Tov
Mazel Tov is for people who like the Ruin bar concept but who prefer it to be more stylish. I think that they are trying to create a new kind of ruin bar. Here you will not find run-down furniture and old junk on the walls, but a carefully thought-out design.
The bar's ambience is one of its highlights, featuring a beautifully restored and spacious courtyard that creates a chic and welcoming atmosphere. The unique decor, including hanging plants and fairy lights, adds to the enchanting setting.
The Bar serves Middle Eastern cuisine that caters to all diets be it vegetarians, vegans, and carnivores. It is located next door to Fogas ház in the Jewish Quarter.
- Opening Hours: 12 noon to 1 am Mon to Wed & 10 am to 1 am Thurs to Sun
- Address: Budapest, Akácfa u. 47, 1072 Hungary
As with Mazel Tov, Doboz is a more upmarket Ruin Bar. It has more of a contemporary design while still retaining some of the characteristics of a traditional ruin bar. Doboz is situated along Klauzál Street and is one of the largest party venues of District VII. It was named after a large red box-shaped piece of art located in the venue ("doboz" means box in Hungarian). The standout attraction of Doboz is the King Kong sculpture which hangs from a tree in the middle of the garden.
- Opening Hours: Closed Sun & Mon, 5 pm to 2 am Tues, 5 pm to 5 am Wed & Thurs, 5 pm to 6 am Fri & Sat
- Address: Budapest, Klauzál u. 10, 1072 Hungary
7. Dürer Kert
Dürer Kert is situated in the former University building and has become established as one of the most vibrant clubs of recent years. Dürer hosts live shows (on the garden stage), DJ sets (there are multiple dance floors), and various other events. Similar to most of the other ruin bars, Dürer has a large (pebbled) beer garden.
- Opening Hours: Hours vary so check the opening Hours page on their website
- Address: Budapest, Ajtósi Dürer sor 19-21, 1146 Hungary
8. Ankert romkocsma
Anker't is a ruin bar on a pleasant Budapest backstreet relatively close to both the grand Andrassy Avenue and the gritty Jewish Quarter. Anker't claims to have the largest beer garden in Budapest.
The beer garden is undoubtedly the centrepiece of the bar/club and includes an indoor hall, a total of four bars, a dance floor, and two food stalls, one of them is a burger joint and the other serves vegan pizzas.
- Opening Hours: Closed Sun, Mon & Tues, Wed & Thurs 4 pm to 3 am, Fri 4 pm to 5 am & Sat 4 pm to 3 am.
- Address: Budapest, Paulay Ede u. 33, 1061 Hungary
9. Csendes Vintage Bar & Café
Csendes is yet another popular ruin bar located close to the centre of Budapest. This is a must-have and chilled-out ruin bar. This high-ceilinged Bar/Cafe space used to be a grand coffee house during the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which makes the current ruin bar decor, featuring creepy dolls hanging upside down from the walls, all the more weird and unusual.
- Opening Hours: Mon to Wed 10 am to 12 am, Thurs, Fri & Sat 10 am to 2 am, Sun 10 am to 12 am.
- Address: Budapest, Ferenczy István u. 5, 1053 Hungary.
10. Szatyor Bar
Szatyor Bar is located on the other side of the Danube in Buda. This looks like your typical ruin bar but it is more upmarket than the usual ruin bars you find in District VII. The food menu is small but the dishes are good but more expensive than usual ruin bar prices. They also have a large selection of craft beers. Szatyor Bar attracts a slightly older crowd than most other ruin bars.
- Opening Hours: Tues to Sat 12 pm to 1 am, Sun & Mon 12 pm to 12 am.
- Address: Budapest, Bartók Béla út 36, 1111 Hungary.
Final Thoughts on the Best Ruin Bars in Budapest
I hope that you enjoyed our list of the best ruin bars in Budapest. These are in no particular order, as they are all good in their own unique way. My personal favorite is Doboz.
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