On my journey of adventure I like to find unusual places, you have to do some of the touristy bits but it’s always good to find other stuff which you usually find by accident, by just walking through the back streets or just getting on a bus and getting off somewhere that looks interesting. However if you are pushed for time and you want to see as much as possible, within two days, in any place, it is always good to use search engines.
I usually Google “What to do free in Budapest” or whatever city I happen to be in. I am traveling on the tightest budget imaginable but I have found that many of the best things to see are free anyway, like the parks, monuments, street art, rivers, waterfalls etc. etc. i.e. “The best things in life are free”. Well Budapest has a lot to offer for free!
One of my favourite places in Budapest is the ruin bars. One of the most famous is Szimpla Kert on 14 Kazinczy Street in the Jewish district of Budapest, amongst all the trendy night spots and outdoor party places of Budapest nightlife.
Ruin bar was started in 2002 in another building but due to its immediate popularity they moved to its current address because there was so much more room, initially a factory with housing attached it had become dilapidated and set for demolition but the four owners saw the potential and opened the place as a community hub for anyone to go at any time just to hang out in comfortable arty surroundings.
The Jewish district is not far from the centre of Budapest, I was staying in a hostel on Andrassy Ut which is quite close enough to walk, or you can use the tram cars, buses or even underground, the public transport in Budapest is easy and fun to travel on.
Even though I have spoken about this as one of the free highlights of Budapest, obviously if you would like a drink in the ruin bar you have to pay for it, it’s about the same price as at the other local hostelries but so much more interesting.
The rooms have all been covered in graffiti style art; you can even add your own name to the wall. When you enter downstairs there is a dance room toward the back and a beer garden with an old decorated car with lounge seats to relax with your drink, in between there is a quirky room with old computer monitors and strings of lights all looking very electrical art installation like! There are pieces of bric a brac everywhere and I mean everywhere, old junk shop finds have been used as furniture, nothing matches, everything is just thrown together in an eclectic mish-mash of styles which all adds to the charm of this very chilled out space in the city.
In the nights it is party central and you often have to queue to enter, not because they pick and choose their clientele but because everyone wants to go there to feel the vibe, young or old, all are welcome. I went during the day, you get to see the place better and it is not so full, so you can walk from room to room marveling at all the different collections of junk in every nook and cranny, from old bikes to mannequins to light fixtures made from plastic glasses, it is an unpretentious artistic haven.
It’s not all about drinking and parties either; they have special events throughout the year and encourage all ideas for festivals or fun times. I went on a Sunday when they hold a farmers market in the downstairs central walkway area, with all local produce for sale from local cheeses to arts and crafts and traditional entertainers working the crowd.
It is built over three floors with every inch of wall covered in street art and every inch of space adorned with eclectic memorabilia. I just love it there, it had such fantastic relaxing atmosphere, and I could have stayed all day but needed to move on to see more of this fantastic city. I will write about Budapest in another blog post but the ruin bars deserved their own post, so glad I found them!!
After relaxing with my glass of Hungarian red wine which was quite nice and adding my name to the wall in one of the fab rooms I made my way back towards my hostel and found a quirky little diner selling traditional Hungarian Goulash which is made as a soup in the traditional manner, this I enjoyed with a Hungarian beer which was exceptional! I definitely picked the right time of the year to come, not too many tourists overcrowding everywhere. The diner was also tastefully decorated with music themed memorabilia, although it seemed a traditional Hungarian place there was a very distinct American diner theme with burger style meals on offer as well as the traditional fayre.
It’s always worth exploring as much as you can on foot, this is when you come across these quaint little places, as a rule I hardly ever eat out, mainly because I am on a tight budget but also because I see eating out as a social thing and traveling solo I prefer to buy at supermarkets and eat in the local park or somewhere of interest. I don’t mind having a drink in a bar on my own, there is always someone to talk to but in restaurants people tend to be in their own parties, so I avoid it mostly.