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Ruin pubs are bars that used to be abandoned buildings in Budapest that later were renovated into bars in a minimalistic style. These aren’t just any bars; they are the soul of Budapest’s nocturnal scene, each with its own story and atmosphere.

Ruin pubs, born from the decay of urban spaces, have transformed abandoned buildings into eclectic, vibrant havens for nightlife. Originating in the early 2000s within the city’s 7th District, they represent a creative response to gentrification and a desire for community spaces filled with character and history.

Over time, these ruin pubs have evolved from their retro, eclectic beginnings to embrace a blend of modern design while still maintaining their unique, makeshift charm.

The ambiance of a ruin pub is unlike any other; it’s a fusion of history, creativity, and modernity, offering an immersive experience that goes beyond just a night out. From the atmospheric Szimpla Kert to the sprawling Instant-Fogas complex and the cosy confines of Füge Udvar, each pub offers a unique slice of Budapest’s nightlife. We’ll guide you through the best 12, detailing what makes each stand out.

Finally, we’ll equip you with practical tips for making the most of your ruin pub experience, including advice on what Erasmus students can drink there, information about plastic recups, what to wear, and how to stay safe in their neighbourhoods.

What is a Ruin Pub?

Ruin pubs, or ruin bars are bars that used to be abandoned buildings in Budapest that later were renovated into bars in a minimalistic style. Ruin bars retained the worn-out look of the building and used lots of random elements like discarded furniture as decorations. They are a quintessential element of Budapest’s nightlife, and are more than just bars; they are a phenomenon that captures the city’s spirit of creativity and resilience.

These establishments breathe new life into abandoned buildings, transforming them into vibrant social hubs. Predominantly located in the historic Jewish Quarter, ruin pubs are celebrated for their unique atmosphere, where history and modernity intertwine to create a space that’s as intriguing as it is welcoming.

Why are they called Ruin Pubs in Budapest?

The term “ruin pubs” reflects their genesis from the urban remnants of Budapest’s 7th District. At the dawn of the 21st century, amidst the city’s gentrification wave, these bars emerged as innovative uses for derelict spaces. They repurpose ruins – be it old warehouses, deserted parking lots, or historical edifices – into eclectic venues that embody a new lease on life, mirroring the city’s dynamic cultural resurgence.

Brief History of Ruin Pubs in Budapest

Ruin pubs are a testament to Budapest’s adaptability and artistic spirit. The early 2000s saw many central buildings abandoned, presenting a unique opportunity amidst the city’s gentrification. This is when ruin pubs came into the picture.

These spaces, characterised by their low-cost, design-forward approach, utilised everything from discarded furniture to art installations, creating community-centric venues that were both affordable and centrally located. The initiative started in the VII district but soon spread, evolving from underground haunts to mainstream attractions.

A temporary solution turned into a cultural icon. Despite this shift, the core of ruin pubs – fostering community and creativity – remains unchanged.

What is the Atmosphere and Ambiance in a Ruin Pub Like?

Imagine stepping into a world where every corner tells a story, where the past and present merge in an eclectic display of art, history, and innovation. This is the essence of a ruin pub’s atmosphere. With interiors that often leave walls unplastered and spaces filled with mismatched furniture and art, these pubs offer a sensory experience unlike any other.

The ambiance is both relaxed and vibrant, inviting you to explore and connect. It’s a place where the night comes alive, not just through music and drinks, but through the stories embedded in its very walls.

And Budapest has many of them. Here are 12 of the best.

Best 12 Ruin Pubs in Budapest

The 12 best ruin pubs based on our own and our students’ experiences are the following.

  • Szimpla Kert
  • Instant-Fogas Komplexum
  • Füge Udvar
  • Doboz
  • UdvarROM
  • Kőleves
  • Grandio Jungle Bar & Grill
  • Csendes Létterem Vintage Bar & Café
  • A Grund
  • Kertem
  • Red Ruin Bar
  • Szatyor Bár

Most of the best ruin pubs are in the 7th district, and almost all of them on the Pest side. Yet, there is one on our list (Szatyor Bár) that is located on the Buda side. It’s an amazing place that is absolutely worth visiting at least once during your stay!

1. Szimpla Kert

Address: Kazinczy utca 14, 1075 Budapest

Nestled in the heart of the city in Kazinczy street of the Jewish Quarter, Szimpla Kert stands as the pioneer of the ruin pub concept. Its labyrinthine layout, filled with quirky decor and plants, makes it a must-visit. The pub offers a range of drinks and a welcoming vibe that encourages conversation and connection, making it a favourite among students.

2. Instant-Fogas komplexum

Address: Akácfa utca 51, 1073 Budapest

Located next to Szimpla Kert in Akácfa street, in the proximity of Blaha Lujza tér, this vast venue combines multiple bars and dance floors, offering a diverse night out experience. Its unique decor, featuring recycled objects and imaginative art, creates an unforgettable setting for enjoying music and drinks with friends.

3. Füge Udvar

Address: Klauzál utca 19, 1072 Budapest

A relatively newer addition in the next street to Instant-Fogas, Füge Udvar offers a cosy ambiance with its intimate spaces and creative interior design. It’s perfect for those looking for a relaxed evening with good food and drinks. The place tends to be quite crowded, especially because of its relatively narrow interior. And because it’s very popular, so make sure to book a table in advance!

4. Doboz

Address: Klauzál utca 10, 1072 Budapest

Featuring a striking design and a central tree sculpture (yes, there is a huge tree right in the middle of the dance floor, sometimes with a wooden sculpture pole dancing on it), Doboz attracts a younger crowd with its energetic atmosphere and varied music selection. If you not only want to have some drinks, but also a party as well, this is definitely your place!

Doboz can be found in the same street as Füge Udvar, literally one minute away.

5. UdvarROM

Address: Klauzál utca 21, 1072 Budapest

This hidden gem right next to Füge Udvar offers a cosy courtyard setting, ideal for those seeking a quieter night out. With its friendly vibe and selection of drinks, it’s a great place to relax and chat.

6. Kőleves

Address: Klauzál utca 37-41, 1075 Budapest

Known for its garden bar in the summer, Kőleves offers a laid-back atmosphere with a focus on quality food and drinks in the Kazinczy utca of the Jewish Quarter. It’s a perfect spot for a chill evening with friends. Especially if you want to have a nice dinner as well!

7. Grandio Jungle Bar & Grill

Address: Nagy Diófa utca 8, 1072 Budapest

Set in a hostel courtyard, this pub offers a lively, international atmosphere. With its jungle-themed decor and amazing menu, it’s a fun spot for a night out.

8. Csendes Létterem Vintage Bar & Café

Address: Ferenczy István utca 5, 1053 Budapest

Csendes Vintage Bar & Café is located at Astoria, next to Múzeum körút, in the close proximity of many universities. As its name suggests, this pub offers a quieter, café-like atmosphere during the day, transforming into a lively bar at night. Its vintage decor and wide selection of drinks make it a charming spot for a night out.

During summer, the pub’s outer part is also available, right at the edge of a lovely small park called Károlyi-kert.

9. A Grund

Address: Nagy Templom utca 30, 1082 Budapest

Located close to Corvin-negyed, a neighbourhood where Ferenc Molnár’s book Paul Street Boys takes place, and where Hungarian partisans fought bravely against the Soviets in 1956. Grund offers a spacious outdoor area and is perfect for warm evenings. Its vibrant and spacious atmosphere, fueled by DJ sets, and its fair alcohol prices make it a popular choice among students.

10. Kertem

Address: Könyves Kálmán körút 25, 1101 Budapest

This ruin pub is a bit further away in the 10th district of Budapest, so you have to travel more if you want to visit it. But if you are looking for some adventures away from the busy central parts of Budapest, it’s the place to go!

This open-air pub in a park setting offers a relaxed vibe, making it ideal for casual gatherings. Its simple, yet inviting ambiance is complemented by a selection of drinks and snacks.

11. Red Ruin Bar

Address: Irányi utca 25, 1056 Budapest

Red Ruin Bar is located in the proximity of Budapest’s Quayside, a couple of minutes walk from Ferenciek tere. With its unique communist-themed decor, Red Ruin offers a humorous take on communist history and its most notorious figures. It’s a great spot for those looking for a distinctive experience and a wide range of drinks.

12. Szatyor Bár

Address: Bartók Béla út 36, 1111 Budapest

Located away from the busiest nightlife spots on the Buda side in the famous Bartók Béla út, Szatyor Bár offers a more laid-back experience with its artistic decor and friendly atmosphere. It’s ideal for students looking to unwind in a less crowded setting.

If you’re there, it’s worth visiting other amazing places on Bartók Béla út, including cafés, ice cream parlours, and restaurants. This part of the city offers a breath of fresh cultural air!

And while you’re there, why not discover the Buda part of the city?

What Should Students Know About Ruin Pubs?

Exploring Budapest’s ruin pubs is an adventure in itself. Here are some tips to ensure a memorable experience:

  • Ruin pubs offer a vast selection of drinks, from local Hungarian beers to international favourites and cocktails.
  • Some ruin pubs make it mandatory to use a dedicated plastic cup (called ReCup) for your drinking. This initiative aims to reduce plastic waste, although opinions on its fairness vary highly.
  • You can also have food, like hamburgers, french fries, grilled sandwiches etc. in ruin pubs. These kitchens tend to be open until around 10 pm. Not every ruin pub has a kitchen, though.
  • You can wear any kind of outfit to a ruin pub, there are no rules.
  • The neighbourhood in the 7th district near Szimpla Kert and Füge Udvar is a bit dangerous. Many folks try to sell drugs, which is in a lot of cases not even real drugs, but just parsley.
  • There will be a lot of people there, especially on Fridays and Saturdays at night.
  • Prices are quite high in comparison with the average bar prices of Budapest.
  • Staff are either friendly or a bit impatient, it’s quite random. But they tend to be a bit impatient during busy nights (understandably).
  • Ruin pubs are quite loud, especially when there’s also a party or just music.
  • It’s worth booking a table at these places in advance, especially if you go with a bigger group.
  • Although pouring questionable materials into your drink is quite rare, it’s always wise to keep an eye on your drink at all times.

What Types of Alcoholic Beverages Can I Buy in a Ruin Pub?

Ruin pubs in Budapest are renowned for their extensive selection of alcoholic beverages, catering to all tastes and preferences. Whether you’re in the mood for innovative cocktails, a shot of traditional Hungarian pálinka, or a pint of international or local beer, you’ll find it here.

The diversity extends beyond the drinks; many ruin pubs feature different bars within the same venue, each with its unique menu. This variety ensures that every visit can offer a new experience, from tasting Hungary’s renowned craft beers to indulging in classic pub drinks with a modern twist.

Do I Have to Use Plastic ReCup in Ruin Pubs in Budapest?

No, not every ruin pub makes it mandatory to use a plastic recup for your consumption. Some places let the consumers choose, whether they want to drink from a plastic cup, or a glass.

Plastic recup is a plastic cup that is used for drinking in a ruin pub. This plastic cup must be purchased once (typically at your first alcohol purchase) for an additional 200-300 HUF fee, and then consumers can use it throughout their night.

When consumers are done with the drinking, they can decide whether they want to keep the cup or not. If not, they can redeem it back for the purchase price. Some places redeem the cups for a plastic or digital token that can be used at another place, thus a consumer doesn’t have to buy the recup again.

Plastic cups are of great debate in Hungary. On one hand, it acts as a tool of environmental protection (as it produces less plastic waste). On the other hand, many pubs and ruin bars abuse this policy and employ legal (but annoying) tactics for not paying back the money for the cup.

One of these tactics is by operating only one counter, where these plastic cups can be redeemed, and where the staff employee works painfully slow. If there’s a huge mass in front of it, consumers tend to bring the cup with them instead. And the place thus made some money.

In addition, one must admit that these plastic cups look quite cool and can be used at home for numerous purposes, and/or can function as a souvenir from a ruin pub.

Can I Buy Food in a Ruin Pub?

Yes, many ruin pubs offer a variety of food options, ranging from quick snacks to more substantial meals. The kitchens in these pubs typically serve up a delicious array of street food, including burgers, french fries, and grilled sandwiches.

Bear in mind that the kitchen of ruin pubs tend to operate only until around 10 pm. After that consumers can’t buy food there. So plan your visit accordingly if you’re looking to dine as well as drink.

What Should I Wear to Ruin Pubs in Budapest?

You should wear your average, everyday outfit for a ruin pub. There are no rules! However, if you feel cute, cool, manly, in the mood for some party time, then dress accordingly!

Is It Dangerous Near the Ruin Pubs in Budapest?

While Budapest is generally a safe city, like any major urban area, it has its less secure spots, particularly late at night near popular nightlife locations. The areas around ruin pubs, especially in the bustling 7th district, can attract individuals looking to take advantage of unwary tourists through scams or petty theft.

In addition, shady figures of Budapest night tend to be in the proximity of these places to make some money by ripping off or scamming tourists. Or worse case scenario: by robbing them.

One of the typical scams they try to pull off is selling sham drugs (like parsley or sugar or flour). Especially in front of Szimpla Kert, and also in the whole Jewish district (as many of the party places are there).

We strongly advise you to drink responsibly, always mind your surroundings, keep an eye on your belongings, and travel with someone when you go home. Even better if you leave the place in a group.

We cannot stress enough that Budapest is generally a very safe city, but as every major city (“Major City!”) has its dangerous parts. However, by staying vigilant, keeping an eye on your belongings, and travelling in groups, you can safely enjoy the vibrant nightlife Budapest has to offer. Remember, common sense and awareness are your best tools for a secure and enjoyable night out in the city!

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