The 7 best Budapest ruin bars

Occupying dilapidated pre-war buildings in Budapest’s old Jewish quarter, ruin bars in Budapest reimagine abandoned warehouses and historic buildings as characterful, colourful places to have fun. By day, these legendary bars are laidback spots to perch and linger over a flat white. By night, they transform into hedonistic playgrounds for after dark hi-jinx. During WW2 District VII became a ghetto and once abandoned, the area was left to ruin. In the early aughts, savvy entrepreneurs transformed these derelict spaces into stylish, inclusive drinking dens adorned with all manner of eclectic décor like mismatched furniture and outlandish antiques. From sophisticated eateries serving immaculately crafted cocktails to thumping nightclubs for dance floor all-nighters, here Mr Hudson presents Budapest’s best ruin bars.

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1. Szimpla Kert

The godfather of ruin bars, Szimpla Kert was the first to lay roots in the area at the turn of the millennium. A sprawling network of atmospheric rooms with cosy nooks and long corridors lead to a plant-bedecked courtyard, complete with its own disused Trabant car. From salvaged street signs to fairy lights and giant disco balls, Szimpla Kert’s wildly extravagant interior laid the blueprint for all other ruin bars that followed. The bar’s now-infamous status means it draws a largely international crowd of decadent thrill-seekers and you’ll find big-name international DJs keeping the dance floor jumping weekly. The beauty of Szimpla Kert is its multipurpose fluidity. With an open-air cinema, restaurant and shisha bar, Szimpla Kert wears many hats. Be sure to dust off Saturday night’s excesses and return on Sunday for a local farmers market where you can sample fresh regional delicacies.

Szimpla Kert | Photo: Anna Honfi

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It’s at Mazel Tov where Budapest’s discerning sippers and diners congregate over authentic Israeli-fusion dishes like chicken with couscous, sun-dried tomatoes and pickled sumac onion

2. Mazel Tov

Mazel Tov is a relative newcomer on the ruin bar block in Budapest, but its sophisticated elegance and award-winning dishes have redefined the ruin bar experience. In the atrium courtyard, verdant vines tumble down from the ceiling creating a sense of indoor-outdoor calm, while rows of string lights twinkle overhead. It’s at Mazel Tov where Budapest’s discerning sippers and diners congregate over authentic Israeli-fusion dishes like chicken with couscous, sun-dried tomatoes and pickled sumac onion. Wash your meal down with a gin-infused Jewish Punch cocktail, or if you’re feeling brave, opt for lethal local tipple palinka – a fruit brandy of epic strength that’ll put hairs on your chest.

Mazel Tov

3. Púder Bárszínház

Part bar, part restaurant, part theatre and all-round cultural hotspot, Púder Bárszínház is a lively ruin bar just moments from the busy Kálvin Square. Located next to Budapest’s only Michelin star restaurant, Costes, it certainly keeps good company. On any given evening, you could catch a theatrical workshop, live music performance or literary reading. But star of the show at Púder is undoubtedly its mesmerizing floor-to-ceiling mural, courtesy of artist Bertalan Babos Zsili. The eclectic ruin bar’s globally inspired menu is the big draw – be tempted by their goose liver terrine with red wine or porcini cream soup with roasted gnocchi. Follow dinner with a Hungarian craft beer or theatrically inspired cocktail like To Be or Not to Be, a marriage of gin, elderflower and cucumber.

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4. Doboz

More refined than ramshackle, Doboz is a ruin bar that puts a little more pizazz in your night out in Budapest. Adorned with stylish art installations by Hungary’s coolest artists, Doboz (meaning, ‘Box’) centres around a vast square courtyard floodlit a deep ruby-red, from which grows a 300-year-old tree, complete with a King Kong sculpture. Imaginative, masterfully mixed cocktails are the order of the day – try the Can-Can, a fruity medley of vodka, Frangelico, strawberry, apple and lime. Two dance floors guarantee that whatever tickles your musical fancy there’s a flavour for all denizens at Doboz, be it heavy hip-hop beats, Latin vibes or pulsating house.

Budapest | Photo: Bence Balla Schottner

5. Szatyor Bar and Gallery

You’ll have to hop over the Danube to reach Szatyor Bar and Gallery. Unlike other Budapest ruin bars, this one is located on the chic Bartók Béla Boulevard in the well-heeled 11th District. Here, exquisite plates like venison steak or salmon tartare are served with a side order of history – the place is attached to the infamous Hadik coffee house that was a magnet for Budapest’s literary set in the 1920s. Indeed today it still draws an artsy crowd, lured by the bohemian ambience, ever-changing cultural program and of course, excellent coffee. Szatyor Bar and Gallery’s extraordinary décor is exceedingly in keeping with ruin bar whimsy. A crazy array of lampshades dangle from the ceiling while furniture in all colours of the rainbow rests upon gigantic Persian rugs.

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From morning ‘til night, buzzy Csendes Létterem slowly mutates from a chilled breakfast café to an alluring drinking den that attracts Budapest’s hip crowd

6. Instant Fogas

More fun than you can shake a pink glow-stick at, Instant Fogas is less a ruin bar, and more a labyrinthine nightclub sprawling its way across seven floors of party mayhem. When it comes to having it large in the ‘pest, this sonic cathedral is where revellers worship at the altar of sound. Whatever your mood, there’s a themed room for it, be it the techno-centric Larm, the urban Frame or rock-heavy Robot. Take a break from the chaos by sitting out under the stars at Instant Fogas’ softly lit chilled-out rooftop bar, Leibing. Open every night of the year until 6 am, Instant Fogas offers a non-stop party marathon for those with the stamina.

Instant Fogas | Photo: Máté Földesi

7. Csendes Létterem

All gilded Doric columns and chandeliers so vast they look like they’re about to buckle the ceiling, Csendes Létterem is as surreal as it’s unique. One of a kind vintage items adorn the walls, while artfully mismatched furniture lend a playful vibe. From morning ‘til night, this buzzy bar slowly mutates from a chilled breakfast café to an alluring drinking den that attracts Budapest’s hip crowd. Serving up tasty regional dishes like goulash, Csendes Létterem is a superlative spot to unwind an evening over a bowl of hearty beef stew accompanied by lashings of local wine. Hungary has a long (but little known) history of producing incredible wine, like Tokaji. Sip and savour while the music’s tempo gradually quickens as the night unfolds.

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