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Playgrounds for Grown Ups

By Laura Blake

Posted: 4th March 2014 14:37

We’ve got a feeling that a lot of you will be visiting Hungary with one mission in mind – to become fully-fledged members of the ‘alternative pub’ scene that thrives with such wild abandon.  For those that don’t know what we’re talking about (though we’re pretty sure we got your attention with the word ‘pub’) pay attention, because you won’t want to miss out on the chance to party in a place where there are no rules. 

 During the late 1980s, pop-up pubs, bars and beer gardens began to appear, as if by magic, in abandoned plots and buildings ear-marked for demolition as young Hungarians sought to rebel against traditional culture, and create places where they could be themselves.  These venues were packed with rejected furniture, decorated by local artists and christened ‘ruin pubs’. 

Over 20 years later, Budapest’s ruin pubs are still going strong.  Sure, some only last a few months before closing doors – but then you’ll discover it’s just upped and moved to another location.  Today, the alternative pub scene is characterised by unique atmospheres, bizarre but beautiful décors, live music and parties that last all night, and they buzz with a sense of spontaneity that cannot be found in traditional bars and pubs.  No two are the same; some are only open during the summer, some are half pub-half vintage clothes store, others moonlight as bars but by day transform into art galleries.  There are hundreds of ruin pubs to choose from, but here are a few of our – and Budapest’s – favourites.

Corvin Tető

For the best views of dawn breaking across the city, head to Corvin Terrace.  Accessed by a rickety lift that doubles up as a mini bar, this huge terrace is only open during the summer and is delightfully 80s retro.  Known for promoting reggae-dancehall artists, Corvin Tetőis one of the craziest clubbing experiences you’ll ever experience.

Kertem

By day this pretty garden, located in City Park, is popular amongst families and loved up couples enjoying a romantic stroll.  By night, it is transformed as crowds gather to relax, drink extremely cheap beer and make new friends beneath the gently twinkling fairy lights.  Kick back underneath a canopy of trees and enjoy an evening of alfresco socialising. 

Szimpla Kert

One of the forerunners of the ruin pub phenomenon, Simpla Kert (literally translated to ‘Simple Garden’) has become a cult destination.  Despite repeatedly moving to new locations, it remains one of the most popular alt pubs; wherever it moves, you can be sure that the open-air theatre and exhibition space will have moved with it. 

Dürer Kert

Dürer Kert feels a bit like an SU bar – not surprising, really, as it’s located in the former building of the ELTE University Faculty of Arts.  Table football, ping pong, live music, cheap hot food and even cheaper drinks – Dürer has everything you need to live the laid back Budapest lifestyle. 

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