We’ve posted about the top 5 things to do in Budapest already, and in that post I said Szimpla Kert deserved a post of its own. Here it is!
Ruin Bars – bit of background
Ruin bars are unique to Budapest and were a totally new experience for us. They are usually large abandoned buildings – old warehouses or apartment blocks – that instead of being left to rot, have been transformed into a labyrinth of small bars and seating areas. In Budapest, there are a handful that get the most coverage in travel guides, including Foga Haz, Instant, Kuplung, and Szimpla Kert. They range from really the quirky and ‘rustic’ to clean and classy experiences.
We visited Kuplung and Szimpla Kert (two of the less clean and classy ones) in Budapest, and here’s our run down of them both. Both deserve at least one visit if you find yourself in Budapest. Our night in Szimpla Kert the night before my birthday will go down as one of the best nights out we’ve ever had and was well worth the hangover the next day.
Szimpla Kert (14 Kazinczy Street, Budapest District VII)
Szimpla Kert (translation, Little Garden) is the trailblazer of Ruin Bars in Budapest and it’s one of the coolest bars we’ve ever been to. It really embodies the quirky nature of Ruin Bars and offers seriously cheap drinks in a laid back and friendly atmosphere.
The scale of the place is hard to describe. You walk in through a large walkway that then splits off into smaller bars, but ultimately you’re always in the same building, under one roof, although it’s hard to remember that sometimes.
Drinks and food are cheap. You can get a good pint of larger for £1.50. Grab a beer or a cocktail and walk around – pop your head into the many smaller rooms as you stroll past, go upstairs to see even more bars or head outside to the garden and have a drink in an old car.
There’s an area for open air cinema, you can rent shisha pipes, listen to live music and there’s a large outside area with cosy heaters. In all there are about 10 individual rooms with bars, split across two floors, and each is more random than the next. It’s like a huge old antique shop with mismatched ornaments and paintings on the wall – a real Aladdin’s cave of bars and décor. There’s graffiti on the walls, creepy dolls and parts of fairground rides along with both good and bad artwork. You could walk around 5 times and still not see everything. In the summer months there is a Sunday food market next door too.
Once you hit 9pm, the atmosphere in here cranks up a notch as locals and tourists alike pour in. You’ll be lucky to get a seat!
We popped in on our way back to our apartment on a Sunday night, around 8:00 and were lucky enough to grab a table. Soon afterwards we met a couple of girls visiting from Sydney and we ended up drinking all night with them. At one point we looked up and the entire main walkway was filling with people dancing. There was a really cool vibe there and what started out as a quick drink turned into a night of drinking, talking and dancing the night away. I saw in my 29th birthday with a table of new friends counting down to midnight with tequila shots at the ready. It was a really memorable night, which is actually surprising considering how much we drank!
Kuplung (46 Kiraly Street, Budapest District VI)
Kuplung (known as the ‘one with the whale’ – see photo below!) is also located in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest. It’s not quite as big as Szimpla Kert, but is still definitely worth a visit. Go on a Monday – all drinks are discounted 50% ALL DAY!
This iconic bar used to be a large car mechanics but is now a busy bar and popular music venue. It’s one of the oldest Ruin Bars in Budapest and is fairly hard to find – you might miss it if you weren’t looking for it.
We visited Kuplung a couple of times. Maybe we’re biased but it didn’t have quite the same quirkiness as Szimpla Kert, which could be a good thing, depending on your taste.
It does have a large restaurant it the back though, which we heard does excellent food in the evenings.
If you’re in Budapest, make sure you give a Ruin Bar a try, it is tradition after all!