Budapest Bars Off The Beaten Track
by Lucas Aresin
Years ago, Budapest's 8th district, framed by Kerepesi street, People's Park, and Corvin Pláza, Pest side, used to be a less pleasant part of town. Some would have called it a ghetto, others a crime-prone area. Meanwhile, Budapest's 7th district, containing the Great Synagogue and famous ruin pubs such as Szimpla Kert, was a vibrant place for young artists and underground culture.
Today, real estate prices in the 7th district have gone up, ruin bars move away and close down, whereas the 8th district has become more affordable. And with it, it has attracted many young people, artists, and their culture. Thus, there are a lot of lesser known bars and pubs in the 8th district that you should check out below (before they all close down..) - Sadly since summer 2017 a lot of them did actually close down, but we'll leave the pics for nostalgia and will add some updates soon.
Bujdosó Kert (closed down)
With its colourful walls, visible pipes and mismatched furniture, Bujdosó had all the rustic but charming elements of a true Hungarian ruin pub that you were maybe already used to, but had not explored beyond district 7 yet. This bar was a bit more hard to find, tucked away in a side street slightly off the beaten path, but in exchange it offered even more affordable drinks and fun stuff like acoustic blues-rock concerts, dance events and electro sessions. The list was long: there was light painting, table football, and Bujdosó Kert housed BP's first ever escape game: Parapark!
Jelen might be the most traditional pub on this list, which should tell you something about it, since Jelen is by no means a traditional one. It's a restaurant / pub with elements of a ruin pub with a young audience and occasional, free concerts where contemporary, local artists get a shot at the limelight. Jelen's big street-facing windows let in sunlight during the day, and multi-coloured neon light from the street at night. Lamps on the high ceiling bathe this place in warm light after dusk, and the fully-stacked bar in the background, with shelves of bottles in all shapes makes this restaurant feel authentic and cozy. The food is delicious, looks already amazing when it arrives on the plate and then sits on the mismatched, wooden tables as you fight to urge to Instagram the food.
For those who like it all in one, Grund is a great place to go. At its core, it's a beer garden. Sitting with a sparkling beer or a cooling lemonade under a sun umbrella gives you a nice feeling of summer even in spring. It's a perfect place to sit back, relax, and just do nothing for a while – a thing we don't do often enough in today's society. Ironically Google's Budapest HQ is right next door to this laid-back garden. It is inside the complex, which is like a maze: you can enter through a playground, get to an indoor bar and club next, go further and there's a secluded garden, turn around and you'll end up playing laser tag: a great example of Budapest in a nutshell!
Zsiga Bar (closed down)
Who doesn't know this problem? You want to be a good person and visit your grandparents on Sunday, maybe go to church, but you also feel the ever-present need to drown your Weltschmerz in alcohol at the same time? Well, that's where Zsiga bar could help you out in the past: this charming establishment felt a little bit like grandma's old living room. Flower-patterns on the tablecloths and at the bar, crimson-coloured walls, surreal Jesus imagery, hearty goulash, pálinka shots.. and a small winter garden used to await.
MÜSZI (closed down)
Art? On a different level. If you are an artist or you want to meet some, MÜSZI is a good choice. The original venue was less than a traditional pub or bar, and more of a creative, open center for the artistically minded (or those searching for a drink or two). If you weren't turned off by the somewhat hidden, uninviting green metal doors plastered in stickers and decals, you could find a great atmosphere inside: literally hundreds of chairs in big, open spaces, drinks, food, table football, board game nights and more. For those who found their creative spirit in the expansive halls of MÜSZI (2800 square meters), the center used to host on average 120 events per month, and there was space for lots of artists and creatives, as well as NGOs.
Csiga means snail, and the happy snail on the door sign invites you to come in and slow down a little. You come in, sit down at one of the charmingly mismatched tables, and order some of the good food, from fried salmon over veggies, or a burger with potato wedges in a little bucket. Csiga's interior has a curved staircase that leads up to an open, second level, that reminds me a little of a snail's house. And this reflects the design of this adorable place very well, I think – full of nooks and crannies, not geometric at all, but not crowded or claustrophobic on the other hand. It's next door to a lesser-known, local market at Rákóczi square.
Kék Ló (closed down)
Kék Ló aka the blue horse's unique point is that Virág Tóth designer dresses and clothing are a central part of the bar's design. Kék ló was also a kind of ruin bar, so you could expect a surreal interior with random objects scattered around the space. The way it was set up you might as well have called it a fashion pub. Kék Ló brought a unique atmosphere to the table that really had to be experienced rather than talked about .. think unexpected fashion shows with a horse head on and a random choreo..
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