Throughout my time interrailing in Europe there is no doubt in my mind that the absolute best night out I had during the whole month was in the city of Budapes(h)t. Budapest is the European city to go to at the moment. It’s overtaken the likes of Prague and Amsterdam with it’s stark contrast of Buda with the Fisherman’s Bastion and gorgeous churches with Pest and the Jewish quarter.
I was in Budapest for 5 days total. When I arrived from Salzburg I was sick and exhausted and for a couple of days I just couldn’t seem to find the feel of the city. I started to question the hype around it, that was until I had a night out.
I was staying in Multipass Hostel one of the smaller more boutique hostels. The potential sleepless nights that might come with more party orientated hostels didn’t appeal to me. Despite it being small the hostel was still really sociable and we all ended up going out in a big group playing drinking games on the floor of the dorms is still one of my best memories of making new friends.
But lets get down to business and talk about the Ruin Bars of Budapest. What the hell are ruin bars you ask? They are what they are. Bars, that are ruined and tumbling down.
What are ruin bars?
About ten years ago an abandoned derelict buildings started being converted into artistic, edgy nightclubs and bars. The unique atmosphere and the sense that anything is acceptable (pig as a disco ball anyone?) makes them irresistible to travellers and an amazing place to meet new people.
I was lucky to hit two of the biggest ruin bars in Pest in one night: Szimpla Kert and Instant.
Here was where we started our night. Located in the Magyar area, Szimpla which opened in 2002 (and then relocated in 2004) is probably Budapest’s most famous ruin bar. As someone walking in for the first time you won’t know where to look. Part of the charm of the decor is that anything goes, so anything is put in there among the crumbling walls and the mass of people who come for the relaxed vibe. There’s a bath cut in half, a room full of tv screens, graffiti absolutely everywhere on the walls, there’s no roof, just a parachute to shield you from the rain. But everything works. Szimpla feels welcoming, it isn’t pretentious, it’s a place where everything and everyone can go and everything and everyone will fit in.
This everything goes mantra really does extend to everything. On one of our visits we got a hookah pipe and we even made the most of the snacks that were on sale: raw peeled carrots, actually really good with a beer.
If you go to Budapest I highly recommend you visit. It’s geuinely one of the best bars I’ve ever visted and I can definitely attribute that to the relaxed atmosphere. It’s definitely not swanky or posh but if you want to drink beer, eat carrots, smoke a hookah pipe, meet new people, write on the walls, chill out in a bathtub, dance like crazy to funky music and become a sweaty mess because you’re having so much fun then Szimpla is for you.
Instant is a perfect follow on from Szimpla. It definitely has more of a club vibe, and the theme for the decor is very Alice in Wonderland. I mean take a look at the picture, there are white rabbits hanging from the ceiling. What you don’t see in this picture is the gigantic owl with the body of a woman, wings and the hooves of a horse watching over the bar.
A word of warning about Instant, if you go in a group, don’t separate! You will never find each other again. It’s massive and is made up of old houses with an infinite number of rooms all decorated differently with higgledy piggledy furniture everywhere. Another word of warning, if you walk into a deceivingly quiet room just be on guard for couples getting to know one another, I had a few awkward encounters.
Quirky & Awesome
My favourite room was the club room that had the gold disco ball shaped like a giant pig revolving on the ceiling. I don’t remember much about the others…
My night out at the ruin bars did not disappoint and it ignited my love for the city of Budapest. I was that friend that night, the one that had to be dragged home by everyone else in the group because I was just having too much fun and I didn’t want to go to bed!!!
I got back to the hostel at 6am after eating a kebab sat on the street.
Back in our dorm my roommates all passed out. Still feeling hyper after the buzz of the night I decided to shower the sweat of the ruin bars off me and walk down to sit on the Chain Bridge watching the early activity of the morning and taking in my new found love for the city.
The hangover later was painful, but it was oh so worth it.
Have you ever visited Budapest? What did you think of the Ruin pubs?
If you’re going you can find more information on all of Budapest’s ruin pubs on ruinpubs.com.