You’re probably super impressed with our efforts to learn more about fascism and communism and what life was really like in Budapest during those times… How we spent an afternoon in the House of Terror and went on not one, but two three-hour walking tours in the past two days… After spending a week in Bosnia and Herzegovina trying to wrap our heads around the Balkans and the Bosnian War. Well, get ready to be equally impressed with our mission to check out as many ruin pubs as we could in one day.
It’s a day of drinking, folks!
In abandoned Hungarian buildings in the Jewish district of Budapest that have been transformed into what is arguably one of the coolest drinking scenes around the world. Yep. I said it: around the world. A few months ago, Al Jazeera published this pretty good read about the ruin pubs, and if you want even more information, a list of ruin pubs, a map, or even drinking coupons; then go here. (We totally should have gotten the coupon book when we first arrived to Budapest, if you like beer, or just hanging out in cool places, you should probably invest in one!)
So we got up and had breakfast… Andrew did some travel research, I blogged, and then we decided at around two in the afternoon, we could probably make our way to our first ruin pub of the day… I have to admit, we checked this out the other night after our tour and I loved it. But I wanted to take more pictures and figured it was a good excuse to return.
First stop: Szimpla, the original (and oldest) ruin pub. It was built, or transformed I should say in 2001. Even though I was here last in late 2006 (or maybe it was early 2007?) I don’t remember any ruin pubs being popular. We went out, and I remember the few places we went being very (VERY) cool- but not ‘ruin pub cool.’ According to Lonely Planet, it’s the third best bar in the world (in 2012). It’s kinda like that feeling you get of being ‘home’ when you’re drinking on a patio in Chicago, only edgier because you’re in an abandoned building surrounded by eclectic retro decorations and art installations and oh right, carrot vendors. One night we even walked past one guy performing a magic trick (which we read is a scam, so be careful!) while two fratty looking boys smoked shisha as they watched. I loved it. It’s laid back. It’s unpretentious. It’s just… cool. You can walk in as a tourist and take pictures before you sit down for a beer or you can meet your friends and film an Indian drum music video. We saw both. Simultaneously.
Yep, that’s a car in the middle of the garden. The interior had been redecorated. I was hoping it would have comfy old cushioned vinyl seats, but they had been replaced with a more outdoor appropriate bench. Although empty in the middle of the afternoon, I found the random rooms off to the side of the main entrance area just as interesting as the garden out back!
Carrots for sale? Yes, please! It’s very hard to turn down a fresh carrot. We actually went back another night and I was really sad there weren’t any carrot vendors walking around… I should mention too, that when we went back (on a Friday night) it was PACKED. There were security guards. There were groups of stag parties. There were locals expertly weaving their way through the crowd. Andrew and I didn’t even try to squeeze into the garden area and instead sat on an unclaimed bench in the main entrance area and people watched for at least two solid hours. It was awesome.
I guess some would say that the best part(s) of the Jewish Quarter are the ruin pubs that are scattered throughout. Obviously, we enjoyed them immensely. The beer was good. The atmosphere at each was pretty unique. There were a lot of international food choices in or near the ruin pubs… The list goes on. But one of my favorite parts was walking to and from each pub. The street art, the architecture, even the dilapidated buildings were fun to pass by, and of course stop and photograph.
Not far from Szimpla, is Koleves Kert (our second stop). It’s nice. In the afternoon, it was calm and quiet, but when we walked by on Friday night, it was bumpin’. I might go on a limb to say that this was the least, perhaps, unique kert. I love being in a garden, but as far as enjoying it because it’s a garden in Budapest, I don’t know if it’s worth it. The bathrooms were really nice though! I especially liked the rear-view mirrors in lieu of the more traditional type above the sink.
Directly across the street from Koleves, is Ellátó, garden and taqueria. Our third stop had a lot more character than Koleves (sorry, Koleves) but not as much as Szimpla or Fogas and the tacos are crazy small. Seriously. Crazy. Small. (There’s another taqueria next to Szimpla, so go there to get your fix.) It was still fairly early in the evening (ahem, afternoon) so maybe it’s more fun when there are more people around, but I wasn’t feeling it…
I thought perhaps we just haven’t seen a taco in awhile, and maybe sizes have shrunk… But even on the back of the door in the ladies room, one girl scrawled “THE TACOS ARE TOO SMALL!” and I wished I had my own Sharpie to scrawl “AMEN!”
Fourth stop, Fogas. Probably my second favorite ruin pub. They have chicken wings, people. How can any pub go wrong when there are cheap chicken wings available? It, like Szimpla has a lot of different rooms although, my favorite was the main garden mostly for the giant circus like ceiling.
We retraced our steps a bit for our fifth stop, Kuplung.
It looks super pretty with all of the jellyfish lamps hanging over the garden area. Had we known it was going to fill to capacity in the garden, perhaps we would have stopped in earlier instead of skipping over to Fogas. Because, instead of sitting outside and enjoying the ambiance of the garden, we had to sit inside.
And it was awful. Stop, if you can sit outside… skip it if you can’t. It’s advertised that there is dancing late night though, so maybe that’s worth it as well!
Sixth stop, Anker’t, the trendiest of trendy ruin pubs. Moby-esque music plays in the background. Wood beams and corrugated steel glow under both stark neon and soft paper lamps. The burgers looked ah-mazing. But I wasn’t hungry (after wings at Fogas, remember?) and sadly declined when Andrew asked if I wanted to order one. Every table was full, and often chairs were taken from tables of two. I’m curious what this place would be like really late. Would it stay the same amount of trendy? Would it get crazy? Go find out and tell me.
Seventh stop, Most. It was right around the corner from our apartment. It’s not on the ‘ruin pub website’ rather it’s one of their ‘recommended’ bars. It felt more like a restaurant than a ruin pub. I mean, it was a restaurant, and I think our waiter was disappointed we only ordered drinks in the garden. If you want Hungarian food (albeit a bit overpriced) go here. Perhaps the wine (bor) is great if they have an entire bar set up for it. But just to have a beer… nah…
To be fair, we also went to Instant on two other nights. Perhaps you’ll stop here at the end of one of your walking tours (we did on the Communist one). It was also right around the corner from our apartment and I was shocked to see a line down the block at around 11 one Friday. It felt a lot like Szimpla, only not as cool. The inside ‘garden’ had a retractable glass ceiling that was closed both nights we went in. It’s big. There are lots of different rooms, but it just felt like it was trying too hard. It was more on the ‘weird art’ style of things than the ‘retro cool’ that I like. If you’re into things like a herd of rabbits suspended from the ceiling, or photoshopped ‘family’ portraits, or even a very creepy mental-institution-like bathroom on display, then knock yourself out, otherwise stick to Szimpla or try somewhere new!