In Budapest, a dash of paprika is added to everyday life by the presence of a handful of very funky, alive and unique spaces known as Rom kocsma, or “ruin pubs”. These have sprung up spontaneously in the Jewish Quarter, where a host of crumbling but protected UNESCO World Heritage Site buildings await funding before they are rebuilt in their former style. The courtyards and gardens of these buildings, bombed during the Second World War, are festooned with retro furniture, graffiti and props that seem to be roiled from flea markets and junkyards. They are “eclectic, designed to be undesigned”.
Abandoned rooms are converted into bars, dens and private sitting areas, and filled with contemporary art and Soviet era kitsch. The admixture of a bar, music and dozens of trendy young citizens makes the pubs magical. Music concerts, film screenings, photography shows add further stimulation. These condemned buildings, often waiting to be razed, are now the hotspots where friends meet to enjoy the pleasant passage of time, to soak in each other’s company and to share some beer, wine, or the popular local tipple, palinka. It helps that these ramshackle buildings are centrally located in the seventh and eighth district.
Szimpla, on Kazinczy St in the Seventh district, occupies a massive space inside. An open-air courtyard packed a young, artistic crowd along the bar and at the tables. In another room, a cut-out bathtub with cushions was the sofa. Retro televisions nestled amongst plants, ad hoc furnishings and objects made nothing seem out of place. With Budapest’s reasonable pricing and varied architecture, film-makers frequently use its backdrops to portray a multitude of cities.
A striking installation of dozens of plastic rabbits made the ruin pub, Instant, appealing. A 10-minute walk from Szimpla in the Pest Broadway area, it has a completely different look — two tenement houses merge to form an open area circled by strings of rooms with a labyrinthine feel. The crowds heaved with the music and clever lighting enlivened the inexpensive décor.
Some of the most popular Ruin Pubs
Szimpla- Kazinczy Utca 14, between Wesselenyi and Dohany streets.
Instant- VI, Nagymenzo utca 38.
MUMUS- Dob Utca 18.
GRANDIO- V!! Nagy Diofa Utca 8.