Several Americans, a couple of Swedes, a solo traveler from the Netherlands, and a group of Germans—These are the people living with me in my hostel during my week-long stay in Budapest. Although we all traveled here for different reasons, a unifying factor amongst the hodgepodge of visitors is a single identity. Each traveler that crosses my path describes how the capital of Hungary is a beautiful city for sightseeing by day and the “party capital” of Eastern Europe by night.
Each night outside the hostel window, the party continues until as late as 5:00 am when the last of the partiers makes their way home. With a wide array of ruin bars and a growing influx of foreign tourists ready to experience the Hungarian nightlife, bars and clubs are packed every night of the week.
Budapest’s ruin bars, or Romkocsma in Hungarian, can mainly be found in District VII of Budapest, the Jewish quarter and, as per the name, a part of the city left in ruins following World War II. Although the area is set to be demolished, the neighborhood has experienced a rebirth since the opening of the first ruin pub, Szimpla Kert, in 2002.
Szimpla Kert represents a clash between the old and the new of Budapest in a stunningly eerie but also exciting style. Party lights hand from crumbling stone walls. The music rhythm blares over the loud speakers as the rhythm moves through the visitor’s feet, dancing away on the bumpy stone floor. The club hold 600 people at any given time, but each night thousands of people pass through the doors of the bar. Szimpla Kert elevates a historical backdrop and infuses it with a modern flare, captured by the vibrancy of the club scene and the ever-changing guests.
While the ruin bars are an exciting way to experience Budapest, they are not the best way to meet locals as they primarily cater to English-speaking tourists. Outside of our waiters at restaurants and the receptionists at our hostel, it took about three days to actually meet someone that was Hungarian. As a truly international city, an in-depth knowledge of Hungarian is unnecessary as almost everyone has a working knowledge of English. This trip while an excellent dip into Hungarian culture and history sets the stage for the next portion of my trip as I leave for a homestay in Oradea, Romania on July 1. Here, I will live with an ethnically Hungarian population for three weeks.