There is excitement in the air. Scraps of conversation in many different languages ​​can be heard. With the first musical notes, the crowd begins to wave. A cry rises from thousands of throats. Sziget begins, and with it, Budapest’s summer party begins. .

96 meters high. That marks the height of Budapest’s two tallest buildings, including the Parliament, and no other building can be taller by law. You will not find skyscrapers here, but instead, architecture that impresses at every corner. Big-city life takes place within its gates; Hungarians sell lucky charms, offer goulash and excellent tokaj, giving you the opportunity to get to know the capital from A to Z in just a few days.

From intimate vineyards to steam baths. An excellent,langosh bought from a bottle green roadside booth. Tremendous monuments that cast their shadow on the pavements. Narrow buildings and urban nooks and crannies at every step encourage you to deviate from the designated route, delving ever further into the city.

The music of street performers transports tourists to a world where no one is in a hurry. Lantern light in the evening heralds the start of the city’s nightlife, which everyone can enjoy. After dark, Budapest transforms into one of Europe’s most charming capitals, opening its doors and inviting you to experience it from a different perspective.

Friends visiting Budapest
Friends visiting Budapest © iStock

Pest or Buda? Just Budapest

If we were to travel by time machine back to 1873, we could visit two cities separated by the Danube River, Buda and Pest. These cities merged to create a coherent whole, and yet so far, the inhabitants of the Hungarian capital’s western and eastern parts believe that “their” city is better than the other. After a few days in Budapest, you can clearly distinguish that the former Buda is the quieter part, reflecting the historical and melancholy atmosphere of the city. Pest, on the other hand, is a lively melting pot of restaurants with great food, including great Hungarian cuisine and deep-fried langosh with cream and cheese, wine bars offering the local, somewhat tart tokaj, and plenty of dance clubs. In other words, it is in Pest that big-city life takes place.

Sziget – one of Europe’s biggest music festivals

Approaching the festival, you’ll come across the K-híd steel railway bridge. Usually grey and blue, today it is bedecked in colour. As you walk along it, the ribbons attached to it flutter in the wind. You are less than a hundred metres from the mainland. Here it is – the Island of Liberty, surrounded by the greenery of Óbudai-sziget. Over six days and nights from August 10 to 15, this area will be visited by over half a million people, from all over the world. Here, in the heart of Budapest, you will feel at the epicenter of the festival universe. The Sziget Festival –  Europe’s largest music and artistic event – begins. You find out that love, freedom and art reign here. With a map in hand, you can plan what and when to see, where to go and who to listen to live. There’s plenty to choose from. Sziget not only offers concerts, but also artistic workshops and performances.

Woman at Sziget Festival
Woman at Sziget Festival © iStock

In recent years, the main stage has played host to Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Lana Del Rey. This year, you can expect Billie Eilish and Florence + The Machine. The biggest decision is how to be in several places at the same time! After all, for almost a week, as many as 1,000 different artists will perform in 60 locations on the island. You feel that right now you are fully alive. It’s summer, the sun beats down, warming your skin, your ears are filled with music and the multilingual buzz of people having a great time. You are looking for a respite, so you head to the shade of the trees, followed by the beach of fine golden sand.

Fireworks during St. Stephen’s celebrations in Budapest
Fireworks during St. Stephen’s celebrations in Budapest © iStock

Heaven on fire – St. Stephen’s festival

If you visit Hungary around 20 August, prepare for some unusual spectacles. This is when Hungarians celebrate St. Stephen’s Day, which is also a day off work. Parades, concerts and processions are held across many cities to commemorate the first king of Hungary, Stephen I, who was crowned by Pope Sylvester II himself. Craftsmen from all over the country come to Buda Castle in Budapest to display their amazing handicrafts. This is a great opportunity for collectors to find gems for their homes.

Most spectacular of all, is the capital by evening, where every year a phenomenal fireworks display takes place against the backdrop of the magnificent Parliament building overlooking the Danube. The night flashes with thousands of tiny lights. Sparks swirl over the river that divides the city, Gellért Hill rises above you. The largest fireworks display in the Old Continent illuminates the crowds who gather on the bridges and boulevards along the river, as a grand finale to the celebrations.

Athletics Championships 2023

2,000 athletes from 200 countries worldwide will gather in Budapest between August 19 and 27, to take part in the 19th Athletics World Championships. This event is unique as it is being held by a country from Central and Eastern Europe for the very first time, beating Nairobi for the honour of hosting the event. This year’s mascot is a Raka sheep named “Youhoo”, a characteristic Hungarian breed with sharp, curly horns, chosen because the area where the stadium was built was once their pasture.

So, how to get to the newly built stadium? Take the 107 bus which will take you almost to the Nemzeti Atlétikai Központ, the National Athletics Centre. Its modern shape overlooks the 9th Ferencváros district on the Danube. Built at the end of the island, Czepel can accommodate over 37,000 people during the competition. Check your tickets for a spot under the characteristic roof awning.

Athletes running
Athletes running © iStock

You can immerse yourself in sprints, long jumps, pole vaults and hurdles, as your neighbours discuss the long distance running, hammer throws and discus events. Athletes appear on the treadmill and on the turf, their faces highlighted on big screens for easy viewing. Among the competitors are some truly world-class athletic stars including, among others, Erriyon Knighton, who is widely considered to be the natural successor of Usain Bolt; multiple champion Elaine Thompson-Herah and the new queen of athletics Sydney McLaughlin. There is silence for a split second. Then the starter’s pistol rings out and the first run begins.

Spa for the body and soul

There are over 100 spas in Budapest alone. The two most popular, Gellerta and Szehenyi, compete with each other for the title of the best. Steam baths are characteristic of the Hungarian capital, offering locals and tourists the opportunity to relax and revive. Their waters have a health-promoting effect that can be enjoyed in both indoor and outdoor swimming pools.

However, remember not to prolong your thermal bath too long – a maximum of 20 minutes is ideal. Gellert’s Baths make a special visual impression, as its interior looks like a Parisian art gallery. The walls are richly decorated with numerous mosaics, which will make you feel like you are in an oriental spa from several hundred years ago, where the richest inhabitants of the city used to come.

Girl in the subway in Budapest
Girl in the subway in Budapest © iStock

A subway as old as Europe

Budapest’s metro line M1 is 127 years old. This is makes it the oldest underground railway line in continental Europe. It was also the first in the world to be fully electrified and, since 2002, it has been on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List. Be sure to visit Budapest’s most iconic avenue, Andrassy ut, where, at the metro station you will board the historic yellow cars heading towards Hosk Tere station. This is the most beautiful metro station in Budapest, with an underground interior made of white and green mosaic and wooden ticket offices that take you to an age gone by. The courtesy of the local ticket inspectors, dressed in traditional costumes, will also impress. 

An oasis in the city centre

August in Budapest is coming to an end. The festival dust has settled, the remains of the fireworks have been cleared from the streets and your voice has returned after a few days of cheering. Your legs have already taken you to the Royal Castle, known as Budavári Palota, the Danube and to the parliament, ​​Országház. You’ve also enjoyed a tour of the filigree St. Matthias church and the Gellért Baths with its Art Nouveau décor. This is the perfect time to relax in true Budapest style. You leave the beautiful but crowded centre and follow the natural curve of the Danube. During your walk, you will see that there is plenty of wildlife to be found in the heart of the city. Travel around Háros Bay by public transport – initially, you wander along well-marked hiking trails. But then you relax and explore without a plan or a map.

On the banks of the Danube and the island lying next to them, you can admire a lush, green wild riparian forest. With every step you come across trees with gnawed bark – beavers live here. Look closely, maybe you’ll see one in the water. You let go of the tension, breathe deeply and expose your face to the sun. You have the impression that the city has been left far behind, although you can hear its murmurs from afar. You head north and pass a 1960s fishing club. A little further still are two places that are famous for fried fish and langos – Budapest’s favourite street food. You are stopped in your tracks by their tempting smell and the waiting queue. However, it is worth the wait to taste these beachside specialties. You move on with new energy. By the buildings of the former Törley sparkling wine factory, you feel like a true urban explorer. As sunset approaches, you head along the river towards the centre on foot. More amazing places await you tomorrow.



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