What’s something truly unique about 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 that mainly tourists and foreign students visit them these days. If you're looking for more Budapesters, try these local bars, too.
If you've spent at least 5 minutes researching the city's nightlife, then you may 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 quirky furniture assembled from clearance sales, and all in all exuding an inexplicably cool atmosphere..
Anker't is a ruin bar 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..
Instant & Fogas Ház isn't so much a ruin bar as a massive club featuring 18 bar counters and seven dance floors. This enormous venue in Budapest's party district is inside a landmark-protected building fom 1861 with a crumbling facade. Instant & Fogas Ház may not be the best place to experience the ruin bar ambience, but head over here if you're in the mood for dancing as other ruin bars offer little space for moving your feet..
Ellátó Kert is a ruin bar buried deep within Budapest's old Jewish Quarter, inside a U-shaped, brick skeleton that used to be a meat processing facility. The best part of Ellátó is its expansive outdoor courtyard, which feels like a charming oasis away from the throngs of the busy Kazinczy Street. During the colder months, head all the way to the back, where there's everything from comfortable sofas, a pool table, a makeshift Virgin Mary shrine (!), and a food vendor slinging Mexican food. For a Budapest ruin bar, both the beef tacos (€1.5 each) and the chicken burrito (€5) are surprisingly tasty.
Head to Mazel Tov if you like the ruin bar concept in theory, but prefer things more upscale. This Middle Eastern restaurant inside 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 cocktails, ham & cheese sandwiches to mezze plates, self-service to hostesses, and cheap furniture to a thoughtfully designed, industrial-chic interior with sleek wood paneling..
Csendes is a popular ruin bar in downtown Budapest, tucked away on a quiet backstreet. Unlike some other ruin bars with party vibes, Csendes is a mellower, sit-down venue best for conversations. 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, featuring creepy dolls hanging upside down from the walls, all the more bizarre. Try to book ahead of time as Csendes fills up to capacity in the evenings with a mix of locals, expats, and tourists.
Filled with colorful, eclectic furniture, Szatyor Bar looks like your typical ruin bar, but it's actually different from those swarming Budapest's party district on the other side of the Danube. This being Buda, instead of scruffy students sipping low-priced beers, Szatyor draws an over-25 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 here, you will find them alongside pricey craft beers..