I’m convinced that the ruin pubs in Budapest have some sort of magical powers. Normally, I enjoy the following things in bars: clean and matching furniture, a clear drink menu, and a space that is at least fairly easy to navigate. Ruin pubs are typically lacking all three of these qualities. What they do have, however, makes them some of my favorite places in Budapest.
Ruin pubs have supposedly popped up since 2001 due to young men looking for cheap places to drink (aren’t they always?). Ironically, they have now become major money-makers for their owners, drawing in everyone from hostel guests to tourists enjoying retirement. Upon my visits to ruin pubs, I’ve always encountered a variety of people inside. With that being said, the atmosphere does seem more attractive to young, artistic, trendy, or adventurous types.
So what can you expect when you visit a ruin pub? The staples seem to be art, mismatched furniture, affordable drinks, and a whimsical atmosphere. You can read about my two favorites below. I would also suggest trying the free pub crawl on your visit to Budapest – the guys who lead it are fun, safe, and informative.
Szimpla Kert is the original ruin pub, and a favorite for locals and travelers alike. While the entrance is rather unassuming, this place is huge. There are a multitude of rooms, floors, and activities. There’s even a map posted, just in case you get lost in the labyrinth.
You can choose to get lost wandering through the bar, settle down in one room (there’s definitely plenty to see there too), or enjoy the patio atmosphere.
If it seems a little dingy and hipster to you, try to visit with an open mind. This is one of the liveliest and most interesting bars I’ve ever experienced, and it’s worth a little post-pub hand sanitizer.
Walking through Instant feels a bit like being transported to Alice in Wonderland. With twisting paths between the 26 rooms, it’s easy to get turned around – especially when it’s dark and you’ve had a few drinks. Brace yourself for furniture on the ceiling, flying animals, and retro art.
Locals warned me that the bar’s free entry policy can lead to some less than ideal company, but I never encountered a problem. My only complaint: the bathrooms were truly terrifying. Avoid at all costs.
Overall, this was my favorite ruin pub. Meeting plenty of friendly people and settling into a sheet music-covered room made for several great nights.
Would you leave your comfort zone to experience a ruin pub? Even if eclectic pubs are not your thing, there’s plenty more to do in Budapest! Check out this great list of things to do in Budapest from The Crazy Tourist.