Ruin Bars in Budapest

IMG_3882Most people who hear about Szimpla, the first and most well-known ruin bar in Budapest, know of it as a place to drink, see music or films, hang out and party.  I found out about it because I was looking for a place to eat and it was recommended.  By the time my friends and I got there it was past time to eat, and food is more or less an after thought, at least at night.  They do have a legit cafe but it’s more a during the day thing. And it would be a good place to have a nice lunch in or sit the garden courtyard.

First off you may be wondering: what the fuck is a ruin bar? Well it’s very much as it sounds, an abandoned old building, that is pretty much ruined, that has been taken over by counter-culture types and transformed into a bar/club.

I see it as a legacy of the soviet era where the country fell into disrepair and people were poor. No investment was made in maintaining infrastructure, many buildings were abandoned and left to decay.  It’s a credit to the entrepreneurial spirit of the folks of Budapest that not only have they found a use for these empty shells of buildings, but they have brought life to them. Szimpla is often called one of the best bars in the world by those folks who like to make list about such things.  IMG_3884The night we went to Szimpla we also went to another bar, which was usually at one address, but had taken over this new place, it was kind of confusing, but fun and once we found out the real address we were suppose to be going to it was easy to find.  Most of the ruin bars are in the 7th district which is the old Jewish Quarter.  At night the entire neighborhood is one big party, dwarfing the madness of the Lower East Side in Manhattan and making it seem almost quaint and insignificant.  IMG_3863Once we found the ruin bar we were looking for I was surprised how different it was from Szimpla which has an Alice in Wonderland non stop, graffiti ridden, art everywhere, projections, movies, performance and different design themes for each room (see the video below). It’s an orgy of excess where decay is celebrated.

Ankert is minimalist by comparison. IMG_3861It’s also only a seasonal affair. I liked this place, it was a beautiful summer’s night where you could sit under the stars and lanterns, drink beer and chat with friends. Or if you wanted to dance there were several dance floors and a young sexy ground. I kind of hated the angry dj and impossible to dance to music (though that may just be my age) and there was no food, which I was expecting, just saying that I think of the many ruin bars Szimpla is the only one with a cafe.

Yes I know I’ve been home for a month now so why am I still writing about it!  Well I find ruin bars to be a unique phenomenon, made possible because of cheap real estate, creative business people, a willing culture that loves to have a good time and is perfectly suited to these sprawling clubs where exploring the building itself could qualify as a nights entertainment.headerBesides being a great way to spend a night out in Budapest, ruin bars, in their own small way represent the history of this great city, its slow spiral into disrepair and decay during the soviet era and the new life that is literally rising from the debris (or in the debris?).

I hope that the current far right government doesn’t take this new found zeitgeist and extinguish it by returning Budapest to the era that help create these ruins.

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note:
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