Budapest really is a unique city, and one of the things that make it so unique is something that until recently was a purely underground phenomenon: they call them ruin bars, and to drink at one is to experience a night out like no other.
After the war parts of Pest, especially the old Jewish quarter, fell into disrepair, and the communist occupiers did little to maintain them. Nowadays many buildings in the area are being renovated, but a more intriguing use of these ruins is to turn them into quirky nightlife hotspots. Last night I toured a few of these bars with my hostel, and each one has its own character and personality. One had a themed room featuring upside-down furniture on the ceiling, and another was decorated with rusty old bikes and featured live music.
As these venues are directly converted from existing buildings, the layout is typically unusual for a conventional pub. Many feature an inner courtyard overlooked by balconies, and you can sit and drink in actual former apartments, now decorated with an eclectic mix of flea market furniture and covered with graffiti.
The original, biggest and still most highly regarded ruin bar is Szimpla Kert. I visited this bar a few nights ago with my new American friends, and found myself back there on last night’s bar tour. The place is unassuming from the outside, but once over the threshold it feels like stepping into some kind of post-apocalyptic city. A mishmash of ornaments and lighting suspended above you (not to mention the Brazil-esque ducts), the awesome music and laid-back ambience make this a venue not to be missed if you are ever in Budapest.
I took a few pictures, but unfortunately my camera sucks in poor light, so rather than assault your eyeballs with a grainy blur, here’s an image I shamelessly ripped from the Internet to give you an idea of the place.