Szimpla Kert

If you've spent at least five minutes researching Budapest, then you must have come across Szimpla Kert, Budapest's iconic ruin bar. Likely you're also familiar with the ruin bar (romkocsma) concept: makeshift bars inside dilapidated pre-war buildings furnished with furniture assembled from clearance sales and exuding an inexplicably cool atmosphere.

Today, Budapest has many ruin bars, but Szimpla Kert, which pioneered the genre, is by far the best known. Although Szimpla is no longer the offbeat bar it once was when it opened in 2004 — you'll likely have to navigate through camera-wielding tourists to approach the bar — it's still worth a visit for the experience (a glass of beer costs €3, meaning that prices have remained reasonable). Be sure to also explore the labyrinthine upstairs section, where lies among other things the beer bar of Mad Scientist, Hungary's top microbrewery. If daytime activities are more your speed, come for the farmers' market, taking place every Sunday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and featuring produce sold by suburban farmers (Háztáji Piac).

And finally, an oft-overlooked bit of urban history: few people know that there's a still-functional mikveh, Jewish ritual bath, right next to Szimpla (#16). It's run by the local Orthodox community and serves as a reminder of the neighborhood's Jewish past.

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