The Ruin Bars of Budapest … and 5 Other Historical Hot Spots

By Andrea Charriez

Your high school history teacher was right: The past is all around us, just waiting to be explored. Fortunately, now you can drop the textbooks and cafeteria food in favor of travel and adventure.

But before you jet off to see ancient ruins or make Indiana Jones proud at an archeological dig site, think about the history it’s easy to overlook while traveling. Sometimes you stare the past right in the face and don’t even know it.

Kelsey Knoedler, mastermind behind travel blog Hipstorical, is dedicated to seeking out all things “reimagined, reinvented and repurposed around the world,” sharing the backstory of buildings to show where antiquity and contemporary meet.

Check out this list of 6 historical travel spots curated by Kelsey herself before planning your next getaway.

1. Szimpla Kert in Budapest

They don’t come much more vintage then Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s most famous “ruin bar.” This watering hole (and others like it) earned their monikers by being built in the city’s District VII neighborhood, known as Budapest’s Jewish Quarter. Post-World War II, the neighborhood was left abandoned. Now, former homes and storefronts have been transformed into bustling hotspots for the city’s party crowd.

2. Ponce City Market in Atlanta

The locale that inspired Kelsey to begin Hipstorical, Ponce City Market started as the Sears, Roebuck & Company building in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. Now the imposing brick behemoth houses everything from artisanal restaurants to boutique shops to one-of-a-kind apartments.

“Ponce City Market defines hipstorical; it’s the perfect blend of history and hip,” Kelsey writes. “The market has given new life to an old beauty, preserving the original integrity of the building with a modern twist.”

3. Odeon in Dublin

Dublin has no shortage of history to explore, but set some time aside to take in a beverage or two at Odeon, one of the city’s most popular night spots. This bar began life as a train station – the Harcourt Street Railway Terminus, to be exact. The building was opened in 1859 and closed down almost exactly 100 years later. While rail cars have been traded in for whiskey shots, it’s still a haven for travelers.

Go ahead and treat yourself. After all, Dublin took home the #8 spot on our 2017 Travel Hacker list of wallet-friendly flights.

4. Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox in Denver

Like many frontier towns of its time, Denver was once home to as many brothels as dry goods stores. At Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, the red light remains on, even if it’s just for show. This bar and restaurant pays tribute to its historic past as an 1889 bordello, complete with risque decor to accompany its delicious dishes and cocktails.

Bonus: Denver gets two stops on our list, because there’s no way we could talk about historical buildings being transformed into popular hotspots without mentioning Linger, a one-time mortuary turned “eatuary.” Come for the morbid curiosity, stay for the sleek retro interior and delectable global comfort foods.

Now you see why Denver snagged the #6 spot on our 2017 Travel Hacker list of most popular destinations.

5. Trillby & Chadwick Detectives Agency in Helsinki

Straight out of a noir novel, the Trillby & Chadwick Detective Agency in Helsinki combines the best of modern nightlife and hard-boiled history. What began as a London-based private law enforcement and agency now serves as a contemporary speakeasy. Guests must find the hidden entrance located behind an unmarked door. If there’s enough room, you’ll be invited to step back into a time when the word “dame” was the height of slang.

6. The Brewhouse Inn & Suites in Milwaukee

Saying the residents of Milwaukee like their beer is in the running for understatement of the century. Their baseball team is called the Brewers, after all. But you too can show your appreciation for hops and barley by enjoying a sudsy stay at The Brewhouse Inn & Suites, the former home of Pabst Brewery. Don’t worry, the smell of beer has been replaced with a  “steampunk meets urban-contemporary” ambiance.

While these locales may only scratch the surface, consider them inspiration for your next historical sojourn. And be sure to check out Hipstorical for more blasts from the past you can explore yourself.