One of the unique establishments of Budapest is the ruin bar or “romkocsma”. In a not entirely original idea, entrepreneurs used old derelict buildings, hallmarks of inner city Budapest, and without renovation and sparse furnishings opened fun, tolerant and quality bars. Lacking the formality of bars and pubs but having the same amount and variety of alcohol (if not greater), the idea caught on and now there are literally a hundred or so such establishments. If you are looking for the the most massive one, you should go to Instant.
Located in the famous theater street Nagymező utca, the surreal forest landscape and bar/disco that is Instant is in reality two old apartment buildings, joined together in an installation that spans 26 rooms, 7 stages, 7 bars and 2 courtyards. The installation and the theme of the place is an Alice in Wonderland style enchanted forest, complete with fake trees, mirrors, rabbits, foxes, mad hatters and a ton of strange taxidermy. In one particular room everything upside down, with animals chasing each other on the ceiling, while near the entrance a family photograph of a rather Lovecraftian nature hangs next to a still working but really old pinball machine (Monster Bash, one of my favorite Midway Bally games). In short, the place has a unique and truly bedazzling atmosphere, and the amazing drinks and cocktails certainly add to the experience.
The second bar near the entrance on the first floor has a truly amazing selection of Pálinka, the notorious elixir of the Hungarians. Pálinka is a strong alcoholic schnapps like drink, made by distilling the fermented remains of fruit twice. Truly good Pálinka has nothing in it except fruit, while many commercial types put sugar in theirs to help fermentation. The Pálinka here is the real deal, and you can find many of the best distilleries as well as the most unexpected flavours as well. Usually, Pálinka falls somewhere in the plum, apricot, grape trinity, with pear, apple, cherry, and quince also being used . Here you can taste such exquisite treats as gooseberry, strawberry, cranberry, black currant, mulberry, cornell, black cherry and even cumin seed. A large variety of beer is also available, as well as an excellent wine list with tons of great Hungarian wine to choose from.
The Vaddiszkó or Wild disco blasts pop music and is an all night rager, the first ever dancefloor, the Mole hall provides a more familial atmosphere with a small stage and nice sized dancefloor, and the semi outdoor, and perhaps largest Tisztás (which means glade in Hungarian) is where all the really big events take place. There is something for everyone here, and you can get away to a quiet corner even with the largest of crowds, and get cna get lost in one on most nights of the week, as the forest is ever open- seven days a week, with events going on every night.