Ruin Bars – a phenomenon that started in Budapest in 2001 with dilapidated or condemned buildings being turned into drinking dens and party places. Szimpla Kert, meaning simple garden, was the original ruin bar and many still say the best, and with that in mind I was keen to visit.
How honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I thought ruin bar would be like a ramshackle pub – as you can see Szimpla Kert isn’t much to look at from the outside. But inside is sensory overload. First of all it’s MUCH bigger than I thought it would be it’s not just a bar it’s an indoor / outdoor music and food venue with a market and garden.
The best way to describe Szimpla Kert is pretty-ugly, it’s crumbly and dilapidated with eclectic furnishings and graffiti on the walls but there is something strangely beautiful about it.
You can take a seat inside or outside, wander the cobbled streets, check out the famous disused Trabant car and admire the decor of fairy lights, disused bikes and bathtubs, disco balls and street signs.
The wine certainly isn’t the best I’ve ever had but it’s cheap! With Szimpla Kert being the pioneering Ruin bar, it’s very busy and somewhat touristy but I didn’t find this a problem at all as it was really atmospheric – this place truly is popular for a reason!
Vastly different to Szimpla Kert is Mazel Tov – a more upscale adaptation of a Ruin Bar. Found in the Jewish Quarter, Mazel Tov is more a bar-cum-restaurant serving Israeli food. If you didn’t already know, Mazel Tov is a Jewish / Hebrew word for congratulations often used at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.
As you can see the decor is vastly different to Szimpla Kert – it has that dilapidated facade with the feel of a converted warehouse and the charm of the bare brick walls that characterises a ruin bar but the hanging lights, and vertical garden and coordinating furniture give it that more sophisticated feel.
Oh…and it’s basically an Instagrammers dream! There’s an covered courtyard with a garden as well as indoor seating too.
So many people (thanks Vicky, Kelly, Kristabel) recommended a visit to Mazel Tov whilst in Budapest and with good reason.
As well as being a beautiful place, the food is tasty too with a menu of bar snacks, street food, salads and sandwiches. Mr S and I are huge fans of Israeli food and we loved the chicken soup, huge pitta bread, delicious spicy shakshuka as well as the Israeli salad and aubergine.
Mazel Tov was the ideal choice for lunch or brunch but there’s also live music and DJ’s in the evening making it perfect for partying too.
Szimpla Kert and Mazel Tov are two very different place but I definitely recommend giving both a try and checking out the Ruin Bar scene in Budapest.