How to celebrate August 20th in Budapest
On 20 August, the country celebrates St Stephen, founder of the Hungarian kingdom In 1000 AD. Spectacular fireworks spread Hungary’s national colours of red, white and green across the night sky, with some gold thrown in for good measure. Here are Budapest’s main birthday attractions.
Bear in mind that 20 August is a national holiday, when many shops and services are closed. On the other hand, many museums offer free entry on this day, including the Hungarian National Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery, the Hospital in the Rock Museum, the Railway History Park and the Aquincum Museum.
Hungary’s birthday celebrations start over the weekend, when the Festival of Folk Arts takes place at Buda Castle. Showcasing the crafts of the Carpathian Basin, the festival presents traditional skills like embroidery, lace making and pottery, while products made on the spot will be offered for purchase. This year, the festival’s main theme is traditional shoemaking and the guest nation is Japan. More details (in Hungarian)
On the day itself, Tuesday, 20 August, celebrations start at 8am on Kossuth tér, home to Budapest’s beautiful Parliament building. Official speeches by high-ranking politicians and a ceremonial military procession take place, while the nation’s tricolour symbol is raised skywards. Dynamic drumbeats accompany the ceremony.
Afterwards, from 9.15am an air parade sees pilots do amazing tricks and stunts directly over the Danube in the area of the city centre.
From 9.30am, free guided tours take groups around Parliament, Hungary’s stately governmental palace. Visitors can admire the marble-lined Grand Stairway, gilded Dome Hall and the Holy Crown of Hungary, secured inside behind a glass showcase. Please note that this is extremely popular, so be prepared to queue. Tours finish at 6pm.
Following a Holy Mass at St Stephen’s Basilica, its showcase relic, the embalmed right hand of Hungary’s founding father King Stephen, is ceremoniously carried around the streets surrounding Budapest’s most sacred site.
The day’s main event starts after sunset at 9pm, when powerful music starts playing around the Danube and a spectacular firework show takes place in Hungary’s national colours of red white and green. Fireworks will be shot from the quays and from the river roughly between white Elizabeth Bridge and yellow Margaret Bridge. Wherever you position yourself on the Buda or Pest bank, you should have a great view, but bear in mind that it gets super busy with thousands of bystanders watching. If you’d like to climb high to enjoy the fireworks, Gellért Hill, the Buda Castle or the Fishermen1s Bastion are always good options, while rooftop bars such as Intermezzo, 360Bar, St. Andrea and the High Note Skybar also await guests. Seat or table reservation may be advisable.