After spending our days in Budapest wandering around the city, exploring little hidden streets and seeing where the day took us, come dusk there was nothing I fancied more than….(if you know me you will know the end to this sentence)…
Yep, a nice cold cider.
Or ‘almabor’ as they say in Hungary. Doesn’t have the same ring to it does it?
I was sure that like any other capital city, Budapest would be home to loads of cool little bars and drinking spots – and how right I was. I really wanted to go to one of the Ruin bars that I had read so much about online, so the first one we stopped at was Szimpla Kert (I learnt that kert is Hungarian for garden)
From the outside, a decrepit, run-down and vandalised building. On the inside, exactly the same (I guess the clue is in the name ‘Ruin’ bar lol).
Occupying a formerly abandoned building and courtyard, Szimpla was by far probably the weirdest and most eccentric bar I had been to (note the past tense – I went to an even weirder one later in our trip, called Instant, which you can find out more about further down).
To try and describe Szimpla in one word is difficult, but if I had to it would probably be ‘ramshackle’ – in a state of severe disrepair. Heavily graffitied walls, fairy lights intertwined with branches and a vintage bicycle (?!), tangled electrical wires, and damaged old computer monitors. There were seats made from bathtubs, multiple cracked up disco balls, and a mannequins arm coming through the wall. Oh.
See. I told you it was weird.
A wide corridor with different themed rooms jutting off on each side, Szimpla was a lot to take in. A waterpipe shisha bar with a me-sized green and pink kangaroo statue in the entrance to the left, higgledy piggledy furniture and photographs in old ornate frames to the right, and people perched on high stools with their drinks.
The central corridor was not only a place to sit down with a drink, but a collection of items weird and wonderful, of lights, colours and patterns – almost like one of those weird art exhibitions where you’re not entirely sure if the things are meant to be like that or not. At the other end of the corridor – the courtyard and grill.
We ventured outside in our coats and woolly hats, and despite the October chill, outdoor courtyard was lovely and toasty, and had a real laid-back atmosphere. With a cocktail bar, a food bar at the back and unusual seating areas (the vandalised body of an old car for example) and lighting (sporadic hanging lanterns and mix n match lampshades), the courtyard was a perfect space to chill out with a drink, and talk about what we had done that day.
The ‘ramshackle’ theme continued throughout the outside area as well, with rusty old bicycles, half-burnt firewood and walls emblazoned with spray paintings and street art. I’m sure I saw some old chairs hanging from the scaffolding too – although I’d had a few drinks by this point lol.
The best thing I saw outside was a miniature green Cadillac-looking car with a gold spray-painted mannequin head in it wearing sunglasses. I know. Weird, but it wasn’t out of place because everything about this place was weird. Good weird though. Say weird one more time.
The courtyard had a makeshift canopy made from what seemed to be a huge patchwork sheet of colourful flags and patterns, and, to add to the weird charm, the outside was abound with overgrown plants and foliage, which alongside the patchwork sheet, created a natural shelter from the wind.
Judging by the lil makeshift stage in the courtyard and the writing on the chalkboard, there is live music there some nights too – most of which I believe is free.
I didn’t get to try the food because when I got to Szimpla I was up for a full on bev sesh, but I did see a mammoth burger with onion rings, the lot get taken to a table near us and yeah I was jealous ok.
I could definitely write a lot more about Szimpla, but I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
Or you could go and visit.
Szimpla was, ahem, an experience to say the least. There should be more places like this in the world, if you ask me. But for now, if you’re planning on visiting Budapest, I urge you to go and have a drink here.
Housed in a former car repair shop, Kuplung was a little more ‘normal’ than Szimpla, while still retaining the eccentricity of the Budapest drinking scene.
The main bar area was preceded by a dim concrete tunnel, with, similarly to Szimpla, the walls covered in illustrations, street art and colourful murals.
Most of the main area was open air, with an ‘under the sea’ theme running throughout.
It was illuminated only by several dozen different coloured jellyfish lights hanging overhead, which was pretty cool at night, as it looked like the illuminated jellyfish were just floating in the air.
The outside area was filled with mismatch chairs and tables, and plenty of people enjoying the atmosphere – quieter than some of the other bars in Budapest, but by no means less fun.
This place wasn’t huge – but the wall art really gave it some character, my favourite being the painting of the big blue whale, which seemed to span nearly the whole length of the outside area.
The area to the right was sort of hidden under a shelter, with foliage beginning to climb up the wooden posts.
This was where the bar was – and the first thing that caught my eye under here was the cocktail menu scrawled all over blackboard behind the bar. There were flippin’ loads of them to choose from.
The under the sea theme even carried on on the cocktail board too – with lil drawings of scuba diving animals, a cartoon submarine, and other carton sea folk too.
I can’t even remember what cocktail I went for in the end but it was probably raspberry related. I do remember it was tasty though. The prices weren’t bad either and on Monday drinks were half price all night too.
There seemed to be some sort of reggae concert going on in the back too, but you had to have tickets to go in, which we didn’t want to pay for (cheap I know), but you could still hear the music in the outside area so we boogied there instead.
I’d definitely go to Kuplung again. It wasn’t as intriguing as some of the other bars in Budapest, but was perf for a chilled out drink – I imagine it’s probably even better in summer too.
Ok. I’m not really too sure where to start with Instant, and although this post is about bars in Budapest, this place was sort of in between being a bar and a nightclub.
My first impressions weren’t great either. I hadn’t taken my ID out because who even gets IDed in Europe right? Wrong.
The bouncers (who were rather rude btw) let us in anyway – after we paid them! It only worked out to be about a fiver, but they almost started grabbing it out of Dom’s wallet. Not cool.
Anyway, we were in. Not quite. We were stopped on our way into the main part, by a staff member telling us we HAD to put our coats in the cloakroom otherwise we weren’t allowed in. What?
NOW we were in – although I was slightly annoyed about the whole bouncer/jackets situation.
Nothing a double vod couldn’t fix though – and a few moments later all (most) sour thoughts had disappeared.
And rightly so because this bar was STRANGE. Like Szimpla’s older, weirder cousin with what seemed to be about 20 different rooms.
So, I’m going to try and give you a bit of a walkthrough of our route down to the main sort of ‘square’ (disclaimer: as this was the last stop on our mini bar crawl I was kiiinda drunk by this point so umm.. yeah).
It appeared we had entered on the top floor, a labyrinth of rooms to explore, and overlooked the main square below sort of like a balcony.
There seemed to be about 10 or 15 doors coming off at various parts of the balcony bit, which went around the whole perimeter of the main square (I hope this makes sense – hopefully the pictures should explain it better).
We turned left into one of the little doorways (I say doorway but it was more like someone had just punched a big hole in the wall really), and this room was decorated like a living room, and playing Sean Paul. Right.
The music was relatively loud, and the room was packed with people cutting some (rather awful) shapes, which was why I mentioned earlier that I found it to be more of a night club than a bar.
Further on there was a quieter room full of retro arcade games and pinball machines, and out the other way was a hidden little bar area with bare-brick walls and a mirror-mosaic pig hanging from the ceiling (?!).
After grabbing another drink, we decided to forgo the other rooms, although I heard that the rooms vary hugely from techno and dnb to chill out rooms with sofas. We headed downstairs to the main area, filled with tables, chairs and sofas.
In the centre was a huge, old tree, which was so tall I’m sure it was nearly going through the ceiling. The tree was surrounded by dozens of bunnies hanging from the ceiling as if they were leaping through the air, and a disco ball. Of course.
The walls of the main room were painted with strange (kind of disturbing) art, like Victorian families with their heads replaced by furry animals, and Mona Lisa spinnin some tunes.
There was also this weird sculpture thing hanging in the wall, which was an owl’s head on a human’s body with angel wings – painted all white. Yeah it was quite weird and I kept thinking it was looking at me as I’m sure its eyes were lit up.
After having a little boogy, and seeing a painting of a man with a cheese puff for a head, we decided to call it a night – still pretty much as confused as we were when we went in.
Would I recommend going to Instant? Yes, of course – it would be foolish to go to Budapest and not have a drink in Instant.
The art and décor is eccentric to say the least, and with 25 rooms (10 more than I first anticipated) there’s loads that I didn’t even get to explore.
As I said earlier, for me, Instant was more of a club than a bar, so if you’re after a chilled out drink, this prrrrobably isn’t the best place.
It’s definitely worth a visit though – it’s a pretty surreal place, and I don’t think I’ll be forgetting that owl statue in a while.
Those were only three of the bars in Budapest – there are loads more that we wanted to go to, but didn’t have the time. Have you been to any of these places? I’d love to hear what you thought of them.
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