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Szimpla Kert is the most famous of Budapest’s awesome ruin bar scene. The venue is located in the city’s trendy 7th district (the Jewish Quarter), with Lonely Planet recently naming it the third best bar in the world.
A Ruin bar? What is that?
At the start of the millennium, ramshackle bars started to pop up in beautiful, old abandoned buildings in the city’s 7th district – a neighbourhood that was damaged and neglected after World War II. The owners of the bars usually didn’t have enough money to to furnish or decorate them properly so they were filled with anything they could find – cheap old furniture bought in flea markets with free artwork from local grafitti artists. The bars looked so run down that the name ‘Ruin Bar’ was born!
Ruin bars are now a firm part of Budapest’s nightlife and drinking scene. The popularity of these places with locals and tourists have totally transformed the local area, and now the Jewish Quarter has become very hipster with lots of trendy shops and restaurants popping up all the time.
Tell me more about the Szimpla Kert ruin bar
Szimpla Kert opened back in 2001 and was the very first ruin bar in Budapest. At first it was known as Szimpla Kertmozi (kertmozi is the Hungarian meaning for ‘garden cinema’) and was an open air cinema, cafe and arts space. It relocated shortly afterwards to an old fireplace factory on Kazinczy Street that was due to be demolished, and has remained in the same location ever since, but now simply known as Szimpla Kert .
Szimpla Kert’s building resembles a converted open squat, filled with an eclectric collection of quirky and arty decor. A lot of the furniture looks like something you’d find at your grandma’s house or down at a rubbish tip (it can feel like a bit of a health hazard at times!) Look out for the outdoor seating made from the body of an old Trabant car (so cool)! The walls of the bar are totally covered with creative art, and any visitors to the bar can contribute by leaving graffiti and stickers.
There are several rooms and bars of varying size located over two floors, and also a large outdoor terrace. You’ll also find 2 small gift shops and a shisha bar on the site. The crowd here is mostly young but you will see people of all ages here, including many families during the day. DJ’s play here from Thursday to Saturday night, and the bar is open until the very small hours of 4am!
The beer is fairly cheap but expensive compared to other bars in Budapest. There is also a restaurant area upstairs selling burgers and chicken wings and other snack food. If the food in Szimpla Kert doesn’t take your fancy then there is a fab street food place called KARAVAN next door selling a variety of yummy cuisine (think Thai, Mexican, Italian pizza and pasta etc).
As you can imagine the bar gets extremely busy at night (with long queues to get in) and it will be fairly difficult to find a good seat. Taking any decent photos proved a challenge too as it was quite dark, so I dropped by Szimpla Kert early one afternoon to explore the building whilst it was a bit more chilled and relatively empty (hence why my pictures have nobody in them!). If you have the time I would totally recommend you visit both day and night like I did.
In fact, if you are in town on a Sunday, there is a small farmers market running inside Szimpla Kert from 9am-2pm, along with some live jazz music and a weekend brunch menu on offer. The market has been running for the last 4 years and around 30-40 sellers sell a wide range of yummy local produce (cheese, honey, jam, syrup, vegetables and fruit, meats, freshly picked and dried mushrooms, truffle specialties and spices). Unfortunately my visit did not fall on that particular day so I didn’t get to check this out.
This bar is an absolute must do in most Budapest guidebooks and therefore it attracts a lot of interest from tourists. However do not let that put you off, the venue is such a great and unique place to visit – if you only get time to stop by one ruin bar during your trip, make sure you go to Szimpla Kert.
Address: Szimpla Kert, Kazinczy utca 14, 1075 Budapest
Szimpla Kert ruin bars alternatives
Since Szimpla Kert opened, many other ruin bars have been popping up trying to emulate it’s success. Most of them can be found in the same Jewish Quarter district, and bar hopping between the different ones is a great way to spend an evening in Budapest.
Check out our other Budapest blog posts:
- Top things to do on a weekend visit to Budapest
- Eating our way around Budapest on a food tour with Taste Hungary
- The best thermal Baths in Budapest
Photography is by Caroline Keyzor and Neil Hassall and is copyrighted. Please do not use without permission.