Halloween in a Budapest Ruin Bar
Budapest has many hidden delights, but none more unique than the city’s homage to the neglect of its historic Jewish quarter. Ruin bars are the new phenom of café life in District VII.
Combining the post-war Metabolism architecture trend with an oversupply of abandoned buildings, stores, and lots, ruin bars are a cornerstone of Budapest’s nightlife now twenty years in the making. The Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe, is right around the corner from Szimpla Kert. The ‘mecca of all ruin bars’ where I spent my evenings.
Inside it was noisy, packed with young people and bric-a-brac decor. Surprisingly, it also felt a little reckless. Unlike a lot of repurposed industrial spaces in the US, Budapest’s ruin bars manage to retain a grimy sense of authenticity. There’s no stylized decrepitness…Let’s just say I didn’t use the bathroom or lean on the walls.
I went after sunset on a rainy evening, ordered a cherry beer, and watched the locals smoking hookah — lounging in bathtubs prettified with mismatched brocade pillows. (I passed on the bathtub part. Probably needed three more cherry beers for that experience.)
For it being Halloween, I didn’t see a single person wandering around in polyester baseball outfits, circa 1920, or whatever flimsy lingerie animal homages trended this year. The surreality of my surroundings seemed the stand in for costumes.
Truly, my most ‘Halloween’ night yet.