A ruinous good time

Interestingly, ruin pubs have a short history—they are only two decades old. In the 20th century, Budapest’s Jewish Quarter was the site of a Jewish ghetto. World War II and the Cold War saw the area fall into ruin, populated with ghostly, derelict and abandoned buildings. In the early 2000s, a couple of entrepreneurs decided to take a chance on one such building, giving birth to Szimpla Kert, and to the concept of ruin pubs. Szimpla Kert or ‘simple garden’ soon became a hub for creative folk, attracting people with its eclecticism and vintage mismatched décor and grunge hipster vibe.

Initially started as get-together spots for locals, these ruin pubs quickly gained popularity and became a top tourist attraction. It is easy to see why—ruin bars offer entertainment, affordable drinks, the chance to meet locals and other travellers, and the chance to party at a unique (sometimes underground) location. While similar in décor and vibe, they have some unique characteristics. Füge Udvar is an open outdoor space under an ancient fig tree with its own escape room. Dzzs is where local creatives hang out and its mishmash décor allows art, some of it provocative, to take centre stage.

Instant & Fogas is easily one of the biggest—actually a combination of two ruin bars—and even has bouncers at the entrance. It is a labyrinth of seven dance halls, each with their own music and DJs and 18 bars. One can spend the night here, dancing away under a circus tent, while admiring the owl portraits and floating bunnies overhead. Beyond music, there’s entertainment in the form of pool tables, foosball, and arcade games. Open till the wee hours of the morning, there’s a huge terrace for those seeking some quiet time too.

Nearby Csendes Létterem offers the ruin bar experience minus the noise. It’s the rare ruin bar that is open during the day, functioning as a café. At night, lit by two vintage chandeliers, the ruin bar is where people go for a drink, and to admire the walls that are an ode to every kind of creative expression: overflowing with notes, letters, creepy dolls, knickknacks, second-hand treasures, toys and even art.

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