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The Globe and Mail

Dark and dirty: Have you checked out Budapest’s 'ruin pubs'?

A renewed nightlife means the city is now the top destination in eastern Europe

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Szimpla Kert was the first of Budapest’s ‘ruin pubs,’ set up in formerly abandoned buildings.

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In the past year 11 new bars and clubs have opened on a single block.

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The trend has helped attract a flood of tourists and made the Hungarian capital the top destination in eastern Europe, ahead of Prague and Berlin, according to a Euromonitor ranking.

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But the popularity of these pubs has pitted residents against bar owners and politicians, who are enjoying the tourism boost.

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Residents complain about the noise and litter as authorities cannot afford adequate cleaning or more than two or three police patrols.

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About half of the four million annual visitors to Budapest are estimated to visit Kazinczy Street, the alley where Szimpla stands alongside dozens of other similar venues.

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Last year a new law allowed police to shut any bar based on security concerns. Nearly every bar in Kazinczy Street was told to shut from midnight to 6 a.m. But the orders were ignored and not enforced.

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Kek Lo (Blue Horse) is another destination for the 50,000 people who hit the downtown area on busy evenings.

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Bar owners, many of whom are residents themselves, said the benefits outweigh these problems, with the bars attracting money and boosting property prices in the area despite the economic slump.

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