The 6 Best Ruin Bars In Budapest

What’s something unique about contemporary Budapest? The answer, without a doubt, is ruin bars. These unusual drinking joints situated inside neglected pre-war buildings of the old Jewish Quarter 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.

If you've spent at least five minutes researching Budapest, 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 of the Jewish Quarter, furnished with clearance sales furniture 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 it's no longer the offbeat bar it 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 (prices have remained relatively reasonable). If daytime activities are more your speed, come for the Sunday morning farmers' market, taking place between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

A word to the wise: 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.

Instant & Fogas Ház isn't so much a typical ruin bar as a massive entertainment complex inside a skeletal 1861 building in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Featuring more than a dozen bar counters and several dance floors, come here if you're in the mood for dancing (other ruin bars offer little space for moving your feet). Note that drinks are pricey and that customers consists almost entirely of tourists – lots of fun-loving bachelor party crews.

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 weathered furnishings to modern fittings with lush greenery.

Mazel Tov's Israeli and other Mediterranean dishes are reliable and arrive without delay to ensure that tables turn over quickly in this wildly popular restaurant. I enjoyed the shawarma plate (€10) and also the spicy merguez (€12), a North African sausage made from beef here and paired with beets, tahini, and matbucha (skip the undersized and underseasoned beef kebab). Cocktails and plenty of Hungarian wines are also available. Reservations are an absolute must as the place gets mobbed by people every day of the week. Fogasház, a more traditional ruin bar, is next door if you'd like to compare and contrast.

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 coffeehouse during the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918), which makes the current ruin bar decor — featuring a mishmash of furniture including creepy dolls hanging upside down from the walls — all the more bizarre.

For the best experience, sit by the floor-to-ceiling windows (try to book ahead as Csendes fills to capacity with a tourist-heavy crowd). Before you go, you could also visit the adorable park around the corner, Károlyi-kert, known for its atmospheric location and manicured flower beds.

UdvarRom is a low-priced ruin bar in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Like other ruin bars, it's inside a weathered pre-war building, but the place is less creatively furnished and features items you'd normally not find in a ruin bar, for example flat screen TVs and punching machines.

Instead of the decor, the price points are the main draw here: wallet-friendly vodka shots and draft beers, hence the crowd of college students, both foreign and Hungarian. Note that the inside, once the courtyard of the building, is designated as an outdoor area so smoking is allowed and fully taken advantage of. There's a burger shop on the ground floor in case you want to keep your blood alcohol level in check.

Filled with a motley collection of colorful furniture, Szatyor looks like your typical ruin bar but it's different from those swarming Budapest's party district on the other side of the Danube. This updated ruin bar is situated on the fashionable Bartók Béla Boulevard in District 11, where middle-class Buda residents like to unwind in the evenings. Instead of scruffy students sipping low-priced beers, Szatyor draws a slightly older 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'll find them alongside pricey craft beers.

Attached to Szatyor Bar is a classically furnished café, Hadik, once a legendary haunt of Hungarian bohemian writers and poets. It shuttered after WWII but sprang back to life in 2010 after a long hiatus.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. To remain unbiased, I visit all places incognito and pay for my own meals and drinks. I never accept money in exchange for coverage. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider supporting me by making a one-time payment (PayPal, Venmo).