Porsche Travel Experience: the buzzing bars of Budapest
Discover the cool, ramshackle ruin bars of Hungary’s historic capital
Bar tables inside an old, ivy-covered building, from above
There are many reasons to visit Hungary’s elegant capital, Budapest. Among them are its ‘ruin bars’. Part of its lively creative scene, and housed in derelict buildings, they showcase a different side to the city
A Porsche Travel Experience invitation to a mystical worldThe façade is shabby and inside it’s uncommonly dark. The illuminated sign outside is the only indication of the existence of this pioneer of Budapest’s ‘ruin bar’ scene. Szimpla Kert, in the 7th District’s old Jewish quarter, is the very first and most famous of all ruin bars. When it opened in 2002 it was housed in the dilapidated pre-war building of a disused factory on Kazinczy Street. Today, Porsche Travel Experience participants pass through a plastic curtain into darkened rooms with graffiti-covered walls of crumbling masonry, furnished with recycled pieces that are dotted around them in haphazard fashion. The effect is strikingly eccentric, like something from the hit science fiction series Black Mirror.
Underground atmosphere inbrightly decorated bar
There’s a unique underground atmosphere in Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s first ever ruin bar
Due to the explosion in ruin bars across the city, Szimpla Kert – it means ‘simple garden’ – no longer enjoys its former reputation as the most unusual ruin bar. But it retains an enduring coolness, a role model for the many newer bars that have followed in its wake. The creative bar scene has taken this formerly sleepy district of Budapest – also known as Erzsébetváros –by storm. There is always something going on behind the shabby chic of its faded art nouveau buildings. As well as its bars there are antique dealers, street food sellers, design shops and concert venues.
Unique unusually decorated bar with plants and vintage furniture
Break in style is mandatory here - each ruin is furnished in a distinctive way
When Porsche Travel Experience participants step outside Szimpla Kert, there is tons of history right on its doorstep, like the nearby mikveh, or Jewish bathhouse. It’s a historic and also contemporary reminder of the 7th District’s long-standing Jewish heritage. The same goes for the enormous Dohány Synagogue. Situated just two blocks away, it’s the largest Jewish house of worship in Europe, its red brick façade built in the Moorish style during the mid-19th century.
Glazed entrance to a bar in an old stone building
What looks like a derelict building from the outside is in fact a hip bar on the inside | Credit: Studio Arkitekter
They say never judge a book by its cover Meanwhile, the new generation of the ruin building culture – or ‘romkocsma’ in Hungarian – reigns supreme. There are still plenty of people determined to buy up historic buildings originally earmarked for demolition. In turn, they fit them out with vintage furniture and accessories, often from Hungary’s communist era. A prime example is the Csendes Vintage Bar & Café, a former coffee house dating from the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Located on a side street, inside its high ceilings and décor have seen better times, but its quirky makeover creates a funky yet cosy atmosphere.
Restaurant interior with eccentric décor and figures suspended from ceiling
Extravagant figures add an extra touch of eccentricity to an unusual interior
Other ruin bars, such as the trendy Grandio Jungle Bar, also offer accommodation for Porsche Travel Experience swept up in ruin bar fever – which is easy enough to do. This tiny oasis, with its densely overgrown inner courtyard and innovatively upcycled furniture made from old garden chairs and tables, celebrates retro design with a youthful zest. Meanwhile, three streets away, beyond Klauzál Square, you can find Instant-Fogas. This huge venue, with 15 bars and eight dancefloors, is housed in a building dating from 1861. Its somewhat unkempt façade is in stark contrast to the vibrant nightlife activities that occur within.
The derelict façade of the on of the best known ruin bars
Behind its ruined façade many different you’ll find many different but always unique styles heritage
The upscale ruin bar right next door to Instant-Fogas is certainly a contender for the most original interior design and coolest ambience of all the ruin bars. Mazel Tov (‘congratulations’ in Hebrew) looks suitably down-at-heel from the outside, but step through its doors and you’ll find a stylish Middle Eastern restaurant. Dozens of lightbulbs are suspended from the ceiling, lush ivy twines around the inner balconies, and muted live music is your soundtrack. Trees under the covered patio create a relaxed atmosphere. Serving hummus, sabich sandwiches, falafel and couscous, this trendy joint is popular among Budapest locals, paying homage to the area’s Jewish heritage in the dishes it serves up. With the Hungaroring just to the north east of Budapest, the 7th District’s ruin bars are only a short hop away after a day out on the track. The Hungarian capital has so much to offer for an exciting stay. There’s plenty of luxury dining and accommodation of course. But its hip restaurant and ruin bar scene is so unique and memorable that they are a must visit, whether you’re here with the Porsche Travel Experience or on your own.This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.
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