Hopping Among the Best Ruin Bars in Budapest

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Courtyard of Szimpla kert ruin pub in Budapest

Take an abandoned building, Christmas lights, a bit of edgy décor, and a proper amount of liquor, and you’ve got one of our favorite places to visit in Budapest—a ruin pub. Concentrated in the VII district (aka the Jewish Quarter), Budapest ruin pubs are a mix of bars, restaurants, and sometimes even artistic and cultural centers. They defy easy explanation. And that’s part of why they’re so popular.

Each ruin pub in Budapest has a vibe all its own. From crazy funky to simply crazy to outdoor garden party, you can find pretty much any kind of ruin bar you’re looking for. On our most recent trip to Budapest, we went on a quest to see how many of these fun places we could check out in just a few short days. Here’s a look at some of the best ruin bars we discovered.

Szimpla Kert

Christmas lights, computer monitors, and eclectic decorations in a dingy room
Some of Szimpla kert’s eclectic decorations

Szimpla Kert is the granddaddy of the ruins pub. At over 16 years old, Szimpla is easily one of the most famous bars in Budapest and is exceedingly popular with tourists thanks to its inclusion in just about every guide book and website around. Just because it’s touristy doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit.

People sitting at a table inside a car covered with spray paint
An old Trabant transformed into a table at Szimpla Kert

The décor at Szimpla Kert is the definition of eclectic. Everywhere you look, there’s something unexpected and seemingly random. From disco balls and bright Christmas lights to a nest of old computer monitors that I’m pretty sure are a fire hazard, there’s something to catch your attention everywhere.

Szimpla Kert has a bicycle hanging from the ceiling, a old Trabant turned into a sought-after spot for drinks, and if you get tired of standing, you can take a seat on an old pommel horse. Why not?

People sitting on pommel horse in a courtyard
An old pommel horse becomes a place to sit

Around the various rooms and spaces at Szimpla Kert, you can find plenty of choices of cocktails, beer, and wine, all at prices that seem downright cheap if you’re coming from the US or many places in Western Europe. There’s also a reasonable range of food options, including sausage, chicken fingers, and an array of sandwiches.

Lest you think Szimpla is just about drinking and bar snacks, at its heart, it was designed as a community space, so it hosts open-air movie screenings and festivals. Its Sunday farmers market is also supposed to be fabulous, but we haven’t had a chance to visit personally…yet.

Interested in visiting the bars? Consider a small-group tour that will take you to some of the best. Check options, reviews, and prices.

Csendes Vintage Bar

Tables in a room with drawings and photos on the walls
You can draw on the walls at Csendes Vintage Bar

Csendes Vintage Bar is much smaller than Szimpla but has the same type of fun essence. Things get going early at Csendes when the café crowd takes up residence beginning mid-morning, followed by the lunchtime group and many others as day becomes night.

What makes this place stand out is the relaxed atmosphere (and great wifi) that allows people to linger pretty much all day, finding the particular time that suits them best at Csendes.

Hamburger and French fries

The “come as you are” vibe extends to the surroundings of this ruin pub. Csendes Vintage Bar has drawings, notes, and stickers, all punctuated by found items interestingly affixed to the walls. The mismatched tables and colorful chairs are the perfect places to enjoy some of the soups, salads, sandwiches and main dishes from the bar (I can vouch for the burger). Don’t forget to add your own art to the wall before you leave.

Grandio

Located at Grandio Party Hostel, Grandio Jungle Bar is a ruin bar and hostel in one. Its lush vegetation truly makes you feel like you’re anywhere other than the downtown of a major European capital. Combined with contemporary artwork, the trees give the space a unique décor.

Since this is a hostel, it’s often full of travelers and hostel guests, so it’s a great meeting point for young people. Grandio is open day and night, so visit on a warm afternoon to enjoy the space with a bit calmer atmosphere.

Mazel Tov

People eating in an airy courtyard with ivy and white lights

Our first visit to Mazel Tov came during our first trip to Hungary five years ago. We quickly learned how different it was from many of the other Budapest ruin bars. In fact, if you don’t look too closely, very little about Mazel Tov seems “ruined.”

Shakshuka, bread, and wine on table
Shakshuka and Hungarian rose at Mazel Tov

Where many of the ruin pubs have dark spaces and super eclectic decorations, Mazel Tov opts for giant skylights and clean lines. Although the space is covered, the outdoors comes indoors through trees and vines that hang from the upper story. More than anything, it feels like a chic patio, decked in white lights with trendy fixtures.

People eating at tables under trees beside a well-stocked bar

While still quite affordable (this is Budapest, after all), the food at Mazel Tov tends less toward pub grub and more towards Israeli/Middle Eastern specialties–falafel, hummus, pita, shakshuka. And, of course, it has a great selection of cocktails and Hungarian wines and many flavors of the Hungarian liqueur palinka. Like other ruin pubs, Mazel Tov offers an all-season space for music, the arts, and cultural events.

Fogas Haz

Caricature head outside the entrance to a building
The entrance of Fogas Haz

The whimsical Fogas Haz ruin bar (named after a 100-year-old dental ad found in the building) bills itself as a fusion of an arts center and pub, featuring programs like film screenings, exhibitions, and theater performances. When it’s not focused on cultural programs, the heart of Fogas Haz is its huge dance floor, a hub of nightlife in Budapest.

Bar courtyard with tree growing in the middle

We visited Fogas early one evening before the music really got going and watched a couple of games at their foosball table before enjoying a few of the offerings from the extensive cocktail list.

As we’re not much for the club scene, we stuck to the courtyard, with its giant trees dripping with lights. For the right guest (we’re not their target audience), this would be the place for late-night dancing.

Koleves Kert

Bar and swings at Koleves kert
Hammocks at the bar at Koleves

The atmosphere at Koleves Kert feels more like a playground than a ruin pub. From the colorful chairs to the swings at the bar to the cartoon artwork, this place is made for hanging out, no matter what your age.

Colorful tables at an outdoor bar with a trailer

In the afternoons, students from nearby schools come with their parents to play and relax in the sun. As the day goes on, the clientele gets a little older, but Koleves kert never takes on the club vibe of some of the other ruin bars. Instead, patrons take up space on the benches, enjoy a traditional Hungarian wine spritzer, and snuggle up under a blanket if the temperature drops too low.

A previous version of this article included Ellato Kert & Taqueria, which has since closed.

4 thoughts on “Hopping Among the Best Ruin Bars in Budapest”

  1. Brilliant write up of Budapest here Laura. Definitely one of my favourite destinations. We often stop here overnight as we drive across Europe. You’ve highlighted a few things I can put down for our next trip.
    Cheers
    James

  2. Great post! I love the pictures from Budapest! Everything is soooo vibrant! I Foods are soo mouth watering plus the ambiance of every restaurants: Really loved it.

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