What’s a unique thing specific to contemporary Budapest? The answer, without a doubt, is ruin bars. These impossibly cool drinking joints inside dilapidated pre-war buildings have taken Budapest by storm. Know before you go that ruin bars have become so popular (and increasingly pricey) that it's mainly tourists and foreign students who visit them. If you're looking for more Budapesters, try these local bars too.
If you've spent at least five minutes researching the city's nightlife, then you will already have come across Szimpla Kert, Budapest's iconic ruin bar. Likely you're also familiar with the ruin bar (romkocsma) concept, but for those who remain unaware, here's a quick refresher: ruin bars are makeshift bars located inside dilapidated pre-war buildings, furnished with quirky furniture assembled from clearance sales, and all in all exuding a inexplicably cool atmosphere. .
Anker't bar is located on a charming Budapest backstreet just a stone’s throw away from both the grand Andrassy Avenue and the gritty Jewish Quarter. As soon as you enter, you will recognize a ruin bar before you: the scaffolded, crumbling facade of the almost 200-year-old building (it was built in 1833) hides thick, skeletal brick and limestone walls. .
Csendes is a popular ruin bar in downtown Budapest. This high-ceilinged space used to be a grand coffee house during the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which makes the current ruin bar decor complete with creepy dolls hanging upside down from the walls all the more bizarre. Csendes tends to get jam-packed by the evening with a mix of locals, expats, and tourists. Rather than the raucous drinking joint of its peers, Csendes is a mellower, quieter, sit-down café.
Mazel Tov is for people who like the ruin bar concept in theory, but prefer things more upscale. This Middle Eastern restaurant in Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter does have a disintegrating facade like other ruin bars, but the inside is a different story. Cheap drinks have been upgraded to fancy cocktails, ham & cheese sandwiches to a range of trendy Middle Eastern mezze plates, self-service to hostesses, and cheap furniture to a thoughtfully designed industrial-chic interior with sleek wood paneling. .
Ellátó Kert is a ruin bar inside a brick skeleton of a U-shaped, former meat processing facility buried deep within the old Jewish Quarter. The best part of Ellátó Kert is its atmospheric outdoor courtyard, which is sufficiently secluded from the busy Kazinczy Street to feel intimate. Being in the heart of it all, however, Ellátó Kert, like other ruin bars in Budapest, is especially popular among tourists, and, unfortunately, binge-drinking and rowdy groups of bachelor party crews who come here for the relatively cheap alcohol. You will find more locals and less of a testosterone-fueled crowd if you visit outside of peak hours (basically not on a Friday or Saturday night)..
Fogas Ház is an enormous ruin bar located in Budapest's party district, inside a 1861 landmark building with a crumbling facade. Although it started out as a cheap ruin bar for locals, Fogas Ház has become somewhat pricier over the years, meaning that these days it's mostly an international crowd that comes here. In fact, know before you go that Fogas is particularly popular for alcohol-fuled bachelor parties, in case that's not (or it is!) the crowd you care to mingle with. .
Although Szatyor Bar looks like a regular ruin bar complete with communist-era light fixtures and vehicles hanging from the walls, it's actually different from the ruin bars that swarm District 7. Instead of scruffy students sipping dirt-cheap beers, it draws an over-30s crowd where shirts and skirts outnumber hoodies and backpacks. Duck confit and sous vide venison leg are rarely part of the ruin bar culinary repertoire, but you will find them at Szatyor Bár, alongside pricey craft beers..