So you’ve found yourself in Budapest – get excited! In my opinion (and keep in mind I’m writing this before my first visit to Amsterdam) Budapest is the place to be. Overflowing with groovy bars, vintage shops, cute cafes and scrumptious food to fit every budget – its any twenty-something’s ideal hangout. There’s just something about the aesthetic that makes you fall in love with fun. Its got this underlying touch of retro, making it feel effortlessly hip, and instantly alluring. My absolute favourite thing about this city was the nightlife, its when it really comes to life. Now when travelling, I’m not a big party-goer but from what I saw (and heard whilst tucked in bed at a sensible hour) Budapest goes off after hours – so if you like that scene I can’t imagine you could go wrong here. This article however is all about what to do with yourself before you hit the clubs. Here’s three trendy and cheap ways to fill your night before the clock strikes midnight.
#1 Go to a Ruin Bar
Imagine drinking in a massive thrift shop. Set up in old abandoned buildings, Ruin Bars can often be made up of ten plus rooms that are a compilation of graffiti, flea market furniture, and quirky looking bars to snag a cheap beer from. Its absolutely the coolest place to start your night.
The upstairs level of a ruin bar called Szimpla Kert. There was foliage randomly growing throughout the many rooms.
Ruin bars are situated in the old district seven which was once the Jewish quarters of Budapest before it became abandoned during World War II. From the outside they don’t look like anything special, blending in between residential apartments and shopfronts with minimal signage; but on the inside its like a mad hatter’s tea party – only with alcohol! Inspired by the old underground drinking culture, the less than conventional interior provides an edgy yet cosy atmosphere to chill out and have a drink in.
We started our first night in Budapest in the original and most iconic ruin bar, called Szimpla Kert which, opened in 2001. And it still remains the king so if you’re only going to visit one – this is it! With almost twenty rooms including a massive courtyard (and an escape room!) there’s plenty of hip little corners to make yours for a drink or two.
This was one of the rooms in Szimpla. The old brick walls are swarmed with vintage knick-nacks.
Now you’ve had a few drinks and no doubt you’re starting to get hungry or need some food to balance out that alcohol, so either way you’re headed for food. Here’s where I’d go next:
#2 Food Truck Feast
Who doesn’t love some good street food? Its cheap, there’s variety and super laidback. Now like most of northern Europe, a large portion of the choices is burgers (YUM). There’s also tones of options for traditional Hungarian food, vegan dishes, desserts, and your token version of an Asian or Mexican meal – and a cheap bar of course.
The food truck yard for Karavan.
Despite being on track for a Food Truck setup on the other side of town, after leaving Szimpla we stumbled onto Karavan – a collation of food trucks right next door! Now in true food-truck form we were intent on trying as much food as possible so we shared a burger, a goulash serving, chilli fries and a traditional Hungarian hot dog. Oh and then had nitrogen ice-cream and a cinnamon chimney cone ice-cream for dessert… There were definitely NO disappointments and I’d go back in a heartbeat. Out of all the food we tried I do have to recommend a burger from Zing, it was the best burger I’ve ever had and I’ve spent the rest of my travels trying to find one that compares.
click to enlarge ^^
A good Food Truck Feast never goes short of filling and you can easily make it a quick pit-stop between Ruin bars, or a couple of hours of feasting and drinking under the stars without having to drop too many euros.
My final must-do way to fill in your evening is also in the seventh district and could easily be a short stop or you could spend your whole evening there.
#3 Gozsdu Udvar
Here is somewhere we stumbled upon very accidentally, funnily enough on our way to Insane, which is another ruin bar in the area. Gzsdu Udvar is a large courtyard made up of restaurants, bars, and arcades, that are all under a stream of lanterns and fairy lights making for a very aesthetically pleasing little hub to enjoy a casual night out.
One thing the Hungarian nightlife tends to nail is variety. Within the courtyard there is options for burgers, Mexican, seafood, and so much more. All the bars have a decent happy hour and they mostly all serve food as well.
This was the courtyard of a small Italian restaurant within the complex. It was absolutely pumping by seven oclock, making getting a table near impossible.
Now the coolest thing about this place – besides the pretty interior and choice of brilliant food – was the atmosphere. We went on a Tuesday night and the place was buzzing! There were big groups of young people, people who’d come from the office, dates, families, you name it everyone was there enjoying their Tuesday night. There were signs up as well about live music on the weekends which would add nicely to the lively atmosphere, implying that the weekends are even MORE sprightly!
We had pre-dinner drinks at a massive bar called Spiler, which takes up about a twenty-meter stretch of both sides of the arcade. With vintage posters lining the walls, colourful light-bulbs dangling from the ceiling and decent happy hour beer prices, it wasn’t hard to identify why this place was packed. It carried the relaxed atmosphere of the ruin bars but in a cleaner, more thoughtful interior. I’d definitely recommend having a drink or two here, the wait-staff were really friendly and the drinks delicious and from what I saw the food looked pretty tasty as well.
So there you have it – there’s three easily cheap, and groovy ways to spend your night before you hit the clubs. Be sure to immerse yourself in the groovy, undeniably hipster ambiance that riddles the once war-torn city; giving it a whole new lease on life. Budapest really does feel like a giant food filled, alcohol infused playground every night of the week.
After all, how many places do you know of that can turn a 400-year-old building into the happening place to be on a Friday night?