Reinventing a Cityscape – A Brief History of Ruin Bars

One of the most prominent phenomena of Budapest’s nightlife is without a doubt its trademark bar scene that combines a wide range of subcultures from the city’s vibrant art life.

Ruin pubs have become the advocates of the celebrated Budapest party scene due to their unique, avant-garde approach to recycling, interior design and contemporary art. Thanks to its massive newfound popularity, this distinct style has been translated to various other types of establishments and foreign cultures as well. Surely, you are well aware of them existing and maybe even familiar with a few in Budapest or ones in your hometown, but, have you heard their origin story too?

To find the first sprouts of ruin bars one needs to look back to the early 2000s, when the city of Budapest presented an entirely different image. The now bustling Jewish district was littered with crumbling, ran down buildings waiting for demolition or rejuvenation. A small Hungarian artist community saw the potential in the unused urban buildings and in 2004 finally realized their groundbreaking concept creating the first ever ruin bar called Szimpla in the Kazinczy Street. The venue essentially became a bohemian center for the young artistic crowd with various used furniture, crazy and stunning urban artwork by local creators and one of the most eclectic designs anyone has ever seen in a pub. Szimpla became the gathering place for the young creative community of Budapest and soon the new favorite bar of the city. Its innovative style and popularity seemed to be infectious and started spreading all-over the city slowly breathing new life into several abandoned and neglected inner city buildings even contributing to the infrastructural development of the 2000s.

For the last decade, the area around Szimpla have become a party district with new, innovative ruin bars popping up all-around, repurposing unused apartment houses. Since its inception, these bars have become the number one tourist attractions of Budapest, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists into their unique atmosphere.
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