The Szimpla Life

Hiding behind a nondescript facade on Kazinczy utca in the heart of Budapest, lies a vast grotto of eclectic decor, electric lights, satisfying beats and pleasingly cheap booze. Welcome to Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s first, and indeed greatest ruin pub.

Transforming doomed and derelict buildings into lively drinking dens, ruin pubs took over Budapest’s nightlife back in 2001, when Little Szimpla came to be (metamorphosing over time into Szimpla Kert [Simple Garden]) and joined by many others, including Anker’t, Fogas Ház, Dürer Kert and Instant.

Szimpla is the biggest and most famous of the ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary

I defy anyone to walk into Szimpla and not have their face instantly taken over by a grin that stretches from ear to ear. Upon arrival, that feeling which consumes you when reveling at a festival is certain to ensue, as your eyes drink in the simply odd decoration. Filled with tat – miss-matched furniture, a bounty of lampshades, glass cabinets displaying dusty clothes and with writing in all languages scrawled across the walls – this place may sound like a shithole, but it’s a charming one.

Szimpla is the biggest and most famous of the ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary

An extensive space, Szimpla is a warren of quirky rooms within which to sit, drink and chat – which plenty of people do (but not too many so it’s rammed) and all sorts, from tourists to locals, both old and young. There are several bars, which means there’s little queuing time to get that all-important refreshment, and if in need of a snack, besides the delicious-looking pizza slices on offer, we spotted an attractive girl wandering about selling carrots.

Szimpla is the biggest and most famous of the ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary

Szimpla is the biggest and most famous of the ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary

Named Simple Garden, there is of course a large outdoor space here, where rusty cars have been transformed into drinking booths and a sizeable projector screen allows for movie nights. I must admit the toilets are a bit grim (the ladies’ ones upstairs are mere holes in the ground, so I’d opt for the more substantial services on the lower level), but I’ve been in some pretty dire loos in central London. Not that I make a habit of it.

Szimpla is the biggest and most famous of the ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary

Szimpla is the biggest and most famous of the ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary

DJs play a diverse mix, but not too intense so that you can no longer converse, and there’s often live music out the back. With an atmosphere you want to bask in, and gather up to take with you when you have to leave, Szimpla is a delight to behold, and indeed be a part of. A wondrous place, whether it’s the constantly changing computer visuals, Tubby, the glowing chicken-wire and coat-hanger fish, or the hookah-pipe nest round the corner, I do believe I fell head over heels for the Szimpla life.

Szimpla is the biggest and most famous of the ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary

Szimpla is the biggest and most famous of the ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary

Szimpla is the biggest and most famous of the ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary

Szimpla is the biggest and most famous of the ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary

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