Ruin bars, SPA and other hidden gems in Budapest

Bulgarians are more similar to Hungarians than we think. They prepare Easter breads and use the saying “One shallow does not make a summer” just like us. The resemblance in pronunciation  between some of our words and their words is striking (ulica – utca, galab – galamb, igo – iga) In addition, we share a similar historical past and common enemies over the years. We were under Ottoman rule, and to this day we are still healing the wounds of the communist regime.

Although, at times, fate was also not very favorable to them, they managed to keep their zest for life  and their business sense.

The Culture of Ruin Bars

Fogas Budapest

The Hungarian ability to transform crises into opportunities manifested during the World Financial Crisis in 2008. Budapest locals came up with the idea to bring old and abandoned buildings to life by furnishing them with retro furniture and turning them into night life hubs.The phenomenon is also known as ruin bars. It  fundamentally changed the urban environment, enjoyed huge interest from all over the world and became a lucrative business over time.

ruin bar culture, Szimpla Kert

“Szimpla Kert” is the first bar of this type and the Mecca of this culture. Old bathtubs and hippie cars have been made to look cool and modern again, but this time  as places where you can have a drink with friends. Paintings, statues, lights and pianos peek out from the quirky rooms. Installation of several old TV sets, woven into a network, casts a red glow on the visitors.

Szimpla Kert girls

The party goes on  later at Akatzfa Street, the nightclub alley. After the merging of the Fogas and Instant clubs, all bars on the street belong to the same owner and close the range of entertainment services. Starting from a restaurant where to eat with  company, bars to unwind with a drink, and a few discos for every musical taste linked by all sorts of labyrinths where you can dance until dawn.

ruin bar culture

The tradition of non-standard interior solutions is preserved here as well. From the ceiling of one hall hangs a sparkly statue of a pig, and the yard resembles a circus playground. Remember to head to these places earlier than 12 at night, otherwise you will encounter kilometers of queues.

Szimpla Kert


Apart from its parties , Budapest is also known for its mineral springs and thermal baths and offers an authentic SPA experience in the most bourgeois setting possible – the pools of the Gellert Hotel. Crossing the threshold of the building, you will wonder how you happened to end up at a private party at the Great Gatsby until you are surrounded by grandmothers who train aquafitness.

Gellert SPA

The baths building is like a hybrid between an opera house and a train station, it has an outdoor and indoor pool, several saunas, changing rooms and lockers where you can safely leave your accessories. I recommend you to go on weekdays because it is cheaper and has no queues. In the indoor pool, you must wear a cap that you can buy from there.

Gellert SPA

Eat and drink like a Hungarian

After a relaxing day in the baths, we embark on a gastronomic journey. The national drink of the Hungarians Palinka is similar to the Bulgarian rakia, but their dishes are much heavier than ours. Their cuisine surprises with unusual combinations – pasta with chicken stew and potatoes for example. Paprika – the typical Hungarian red pepper is put on everything and is a trademark of the country. Langos is their favorite street food and served with cream, grated yellow cheese and garlic, but not for people with weak stomachs.

Cafe Gerbeaud

On the other hand, their desserts are a real delight for the senses. The emblematic “Esterhazy” cake is named after the Hungarian aristocratic family, very reminiscent of a French countryside cake and can be recognized by  the chocolate web – part of its decoration. If you want to taste these and other typical treats in aristocratic and refined atmosphere, the cafe “Gerbeaud” is definitely for you. Keep in mind that if you get sweets for takeaway the prices are in half.

For those who don’t have a sweet tooth and do not feel like walking through bourgeois pasty shops, but want to try  something authentic Hungarian, you can pick up pottyos from almost any supermarket – it has a variety of fillings and looks like Kinder Pingui.

Bonus – Top 3 Favorite Places of the locals

gastro bar Bors, street food Budapest
  1. Bors – the most delicious street food in town

Bors is a gastro bar – a dream come true of two chefs, located next to the Szimpla  Kert Ruin Bar and impresses with the combination of flavors and ingredients from different national cuisines. Their soups are divine and quite unusual. During my stay, I tried tzatziki soup with feta cheese and crispy fried onions for the first time there. The interior is inspired by Star Wars, and the staff are very smiling and welcoming.

Cafe Frei Budapest

2. Frei

Hungarian coffee chain offering over 70 different types of coffee recipes from around the world – Japan, Dubai, UAE, Latin America in a cozy setting

restaurant Puder Budapest

3. Puder

For more travel guides check out : Malta Travel guide: Valetta, Mdina, Comino, Gozo, Marsaxlokk , 11 typical things to do in Vienna while on Erasmus and Japan through the eyes of an extrovert.

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