If you’re spending any time in Budapest, one thing you must do is visit a ruin bar or two. Ruin bars are unique to Budapest; they started popping up just about 15 years ago in the seventh district in the historic Jewish quarter of the city. They are built into old abandoned houses, factories and other buildings that were damaged during World War II and instead of fixing them up first, they just set up bars inside them!
To get a taste of the nightlife and the ruin bars in Budapest, we did a pub crawl on our first night in the city. We did a tour through Trip to Budapest Free Walking Tours (though this tour wasn’t free, it was 10 euros) and even though it was a Sunday night, we had a blast! They have pub tours daily that you don’t even have to sign up for in advance, you just show up. We had about 10 people on our tour and had a great time hanging out with the group and our guide for a few hours.
Throughout the tour we visited 4 different bars and our tour fee included drinks at the first three, so we got to try a few local Hungarian drinks. The first bar, called Szomszed, was on a pedestrian street called Gozsdu Udvar that was lined with cafes, restaurants, bars and patios. Szomszed had great live music and our free drink was unlike any other shot I’ve had before – it was raspberry syrup with vodka that was pushed through a little gadget that oxidized it and you had to shoot it right away while it was still fizzy!
Our next stop was a bar connected to a hostel called Ellatonaz and it was pretty dead since it was a Sunday night (though it seemed like it’d be a fun place on a busier night!). But we did get to try palinkak, a very strong fruit flavored liquor that is homemade (basically Hungarian moonshine) that was just made legal in the last few years. The next bar, Ellato Kert, was much busier and had a really fun chill vibe with an open air bar and a big patio in its courtyard.
And we finished the night at the original and most famous ruin bar, Szimpla Kert! It was such a neat place, full of random décor all over – from mismatched chairs and tables to a bathtub to an entire car! We had a lot of fun hanging out with some of our new friends from the tour even after the tour was over.
And to top off a fun night, we also had a celebrity sighting… We saw Chris Noth aka Mr. Big from Sex and the City just hanging out at Szimpla too!
We had such a fun night on the pub tour – not only was it a great way to check out the nightlife, but we got to see some cool spots with a local guide to show us around and made some new friends!