Articles | 2019-01-25 -Adam
It’s nearly impossible to think about nightlife in Budapest without thinking about its world famous ruin bars. The ruin bars originate from the dilapidated buildings left following World War II, particularly in the city’s Jewish District. During the 2000s, some bright spark in Budapest decided to take a risk on some condemned building blocks and open up a bar inside. Roof missing? It’s the outdoor garden and smoking area! Old abandoned car? Spray paint it and turn it into a seating area! Old phone box? Build a robot out of scrap metal and stick it on in there!
With all the eclectic and creative decoration, the ruin bars have a shabby-chic vibe all of their own that is unique to the Budapest nightlife scene. With so many to choose from, we’re here to tell you our favourite ruin bars to help you decide where to go while you’re in the city.
First and foremost, we have to mention the original and most famous of Budapest’s ruin bars. Whether a traveller or a local, Szimpla is up there on things to do while you’re in the city. Szimpla hosts a shisha bar, a wine bar, craft beer, a garden seating area, and a diverse range of local live bands, as well as just being an endlessly interesting building to walk around to see the eclectic decor. Szimpla isn’t likely to feature on any package bar crawl in Budapest, so it’s definitely someone to check out yourself, perhaps as a pre-clubbing destination. Or it’s always worth a visit during the day for a more peaceful wander around - they even host a farmer’s market each Sunday until 2pm.
Built in the shell of a former meat-processing factory, this ruin bar is more cosy, chilled, and Mexican-themed (for whatever reason!). This does mean that there are cheap and cheerful tacos available for purchase in the back bar - obviously not authentic, but good for lining the stomach on a budget before you start partying. The avocado or beef tacos are definitely the ones to go for!
Anker’t is housed in a vast former factory and has some serious rustic charm while being made up of spacious indoor and outdoor courtyards. Popular with travellers, expats, and locals alike, it’s a great venue to party it up - especially at the weekend. On Friday nights Anker’t is also host to an LGBT+ night in the disco room (although you will find everyone there, regardless of their sexuality, because it’s such a fun time!) As well as hosting lively nightlife and DJs, Anker’t also offers vegan and flower markets on Saturdays and Sundays, and has a delicious streetfood selection.
Partnered with Instant, Fogas is one of the largest ruin bars in Budapest. More than just a bar, Fogas is where to go if you want to go clubbing and party away until the early hours. With all sorts of different rooms (including in the extensive basement), and each playing different music, there’s something for everyone. Just bear in mind that it doesn’t really get lively until around 10.30pm onwards - definitely head there early if you want to avoid the queues, but hang around for all of the dancefloors and areas to open and then fill up with fellow party people.
After the original Instant on Nagymező utca closed in early 2017, the famous ruin bar found a new lease of life by joining forces with Fogas. Housed right next door to Fogas, with linked buildings, Instant is another ruin pub turned club that is worth checking out - I mean, you might as well if you’re already at Fogas, right?? Fogas and Instant are definitely where to go if you want to get a real feel for Budapest’s ruin bars.
Formerly a boarding school ran by nuns in the 19th Century, before being a Soviet College after WWII until 1989, before being a Hungarian University…! Dürer Kert now exists within the former gym, chapel and lecture hall, and is definitely the ruin bar for you if you are a music fan - particularly if you want to discover some incredible Hungarian bands. While most ruin bars are located fairly centrally in Budapest’s Jewish District, this one is slightly further afield, but worth the extra time to get there. Even non-music fans should take the time and add going for a drink here as one of their must-do Budapest activities.
Retox is definitely one of our favourite ruin bars, but it’s not one for the faint of heart. The decor is definitely in line with other ruin bars, but the vibe is much much wilder. Doubling as a party hostel, this bar is exclusively international travellers and expats who go here to really let loose without boundaries. Expect to see ridiculous (but impressive) drinking challenges, partial nudity, dancing on tables, and the rest if you do decide to go here. Some evenings host special events, like Alcoholympics or their famous jager train. If you do visit, then make sure you check out if their back room is open (usually only on busier weekends) - you enter through a wardrobe to a tiny secret bar called Narnia. It’s not where the party is, but it’s super cute and worth having a look!
Grandio is another public ruin bar that doubles as a party hostel. Featuring a bit more of a mixed crowd than Retox, and being more chilled during the day, it’s the less intense of the two bars. The outdoor courtyard is filled with trees that in turn are filled with shoes and other donated belongings, eclectic mismatched colourful seating, graffiti covered walls, and a bar that is not only reasonably priced, but also serves up some delicious food. Try the burgers.
Let us know if you visit any of the bars and what you thought of them! If you would rather be shown around some of the main bars while you’re in Budapest then sign up for either our Ultimate Ruin Pub Crawl, or if you want something a little bit more silly and fun then there’s always Bingo Bar Crawl!