Redefining Ruin in Budapest

To view more photos and videos from Budapest’s ruin pubs, browse the #Ruinpub hashtag.

Budapest’s seventh district was left war-torn and abandoned during World War II. Today, these semi-destroyed walls in the city’s Jewish quarter are bursting with activity, creativity and community in romkocsmák, or ruin pubs.

The pub Szimpla Kert opened in 2004 and pioneered a trend that has been sweeping the city for more than a decade: turning old, unused spaces into vibrant places for community to come together. Most ruin pubs are filled with mismatched and repurposed furniture, funky art installations and a lot of style. At Szimpla Kert, for example, tourists and locals alike can enjoy afternoon drinks from the seat of a stripped-down Communist-era car in an open-air garden or visit an art exhibition in this factory-turned-apartment-complex-turned-bar. At night, local DJs transform the space, blasting soundtracks through winding dance rooms.

Ruin pubs inconspicuously take the place of abandoned rooftops, apartment building and car parks, and offer concerts, theater performances, film screenings, art exhibits and community workshops—far more than local Hungarian food and drink.