Celebrate Hungary’s foundation with fireworks and festivities in Budapest
On Monday, August 20th, fireworks blast across the night sky over Budapest and in many other towns around the country. This marks the culmination of an important national holiday, celebrating Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen, and the foundation of the Magyar state. Prior to this spectacular pyrotechnics show, solemn processions, gastronomic gatherings and concerts will be held at city landmarks, while major museums and Parliament offer free admission to visitors. Events take place not only on this ceremonial day, but all weekend long. Here’s a summary of the various happenings.
Festival of Folk Arts
Over four days, Buda Castle will be home to the annual Festival of Folk Arts, showcasing the arts and crafts of the Carpathian Basin. Visitors can see embroidery, lace making and pottery, while products made on the spot will be also offered for purchase. As guests of honour this year, Kazakh craftsmen will display silver jewellery, while Persian masters demonstrate weaving techniques using special golden thread.
Street of Hungarian Flavours
Over the long weekend, Várkert Bazaar will transform into a gastronomic fair, offering the traditional food of Hungary and the surrounding region, smoked, cured or cooked, and spiced to perfection. This is also where the country’s 2018 honey-walnut birthday cake and a sugar-free dessert with almonds and cottage cheese will be first offered to the public for sampling. Traditional breads also feature, crispy on the outside and soft within.
Várkert Bazaar, every day from 10am
Official speeches by high-ranking politicians and a ceremonial military procession on Kossuth tér are among the most symbolic events marking St. Stephen’s Day. Towered over by the Gothic splendour of Parliament, this focal square is where the nation’s tricolour symbol is raised skywards in front of celebrating crowds. Dynamic drumbeats accompany the ceremony.
Kossuth tér, from 8:30am
Air and water parade
Continuing the August 20th celebrations, agile aircrafts perform stunts over the downtown section of the Danube, right in front of the Parliament, between the Chain Bridge and Margaret Bridge. Meanwhile, military vessels and speedboats ply the Danube to split the water as part of the spectacular parade.
Danube area in front of Parliament, from 9:30am
Parliament tours of the Holy Crown of Hungary
Beginning at the Alkotmány utca entrance, free guided tours take groups around Parliament, Hungary’s stately government palace. Once within the edifice, visitors can admire the marble-lined Grand Stairway, gilded Dome Hall and the Holy Crown of Hungary, secured inside behind a glass showcase.
Holy Right Hand Procession at the Basilica
Following Holy Mass at St. Stephen’s Basilica, its showcase relic, the embalmed right hand of King St. Stephen, is carried around the streets surrounding Budapest’s most sacred site. The procession, both military and ecclesiastical, begins at the Basilica and ends at Szent István tér.
Free museum visits
On national holidays, major Budapest museums grant free access to visitors to see their exhibitions. This year, the biggest crowd is expected in front of the Hungarian National Gallery that is currently hosting Frida Kahlo’s heart-wrenching Mexican art. Complimentary access is also provided to House of Terror, with a focus on the atrocities committed under Hungary’s Communist regime. On Monday, the large-scale permanent and temporary exhibitions at the Hungarian National Museum are all free to visit, as well.
Free jazz concerts at the Palace of Arts
Pianists, guitarists and clarinetists entertain jazz aficionados within and outside the Palace of Arts, Budapest’s contemporary cultural centre found along scenic tram line 2 on the Pest riverfront. These free concerts start at 5pm and take place at three different venues around the building. From 6pm, clarinet virtuoso Joe Fritz and his quintet play tribute to the King of Swing Benny Goodman. From 8pm, the Hungarian Police Big Band keeps spirits high with two performances before and after the fireworks show.
Palace of Arts, 5pm-11pm
Rooftop dinner parties
Working up an appetite for the fireworks, panoramic Budapest restaurants host dinner parties, where guests are served an explosion of flavours with unlimited food and drinks. Tuscan veal stew and lemon brûlée are just two items on The Hilton Budapest festive menu (16,500 HUF). Found right by the Danube Promenade, InterContinental’s Corso Gourmet serves goose liver terrine and smoky grilled dishes (23,900 HUF). In District VII, Araz will set the tables atop the Continental Hotel Budapest, where the fireworks will be accompanied by goulash soup and mangalica pork spread (10,990 HUF).
Fireworks show over the Danube
Beginning at 9pm, powerful music starts playing around the Danube Promenade, in anticipation of the fireworks show, the main spectacle of the night attracting thousands of people to Hungary’s capital every year. Best viewed from between Chain Bridge and Margaret Bridge or just beyond, the grand pyrotechnics sensation spreads Hungary’s national colours of red, white and green across the night sky, with some gold thrown in for good measure. The panoramic vantage points of Fishermen’s Bastion and Buda Castle are equally well-positioned locations to enjoy the display.
Danube Promenade, from 9pm