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How to celebrate carnival season in Budapest and beyond

Costume parades and carnival masks denote Budapest’s farewell to winter. With the onset of ‘farsang’, or carnival season, Hungary’s capital sees colourful crowds flooding to masquerade galas and themed events. See how this phenomenon is observed across the city and countrywide.

Ushering in the coming of spring, farsang celebrations take place across Hungary to scare off evil spirits.

This colourful festive period stretches until Ash Wednesday, this year falling on 6 March, when Lent begins the run-up to Easter. However, in stark contrast to fasting, farsang celebrations see a diet rich in meat and sweets. A staple for the season is the carnival doughnut, a treat of powdered sugar and jam.

Meanwhile, in the southern Hungarian town of Mohács, a ritual carnival is such an ingrained local tradition that it has been named a UNESCO cultural heritage event. The annual Busójárás Festival, taking place this year between 28 February-5 March, involves six days of strange characters in eerie masks and furry costumes making as much noise as possible to chase away winter – or the Turks, depending on which story you believe. Mohács is also known as being the site of two seminal battles, one in 1526 which ushered in the Ottoman occupation, another in 1687 that helped end it. The most raucous of the Mohács processions takes place on Farsang Sunday.

For carnival parties in Budapest, revellers don bizarre outfits at District XIV club Dürer Kert, hosting a double bash of live shows on 8 and 9 February. Sadly the Elephant Ball on the Saturday is already sold out, but tickets remain for Tribute Farsang on the Friday.

For another real-deal costume party, head to Gólya, a District VIII hangout with dilapidated charm, hosting a fancy dress competition on 15 February. Farsang celebrations are also taking place at the focal Akvárium Klub on 8 February. At the more bohemian end of the scale, the Brody Studios at Vörösmarty utca 35, District VI, is holding an all-night carnival-cum-costume party on 16 February from 8pm. Admission is 3,000 forints, free for members. One rule, though – no costume, no entry.

Then on 23-24 February, Gesztenyés Park behind the MOM Sport Center is hosting a daytime Carnival Doughnut Festival, where classic cakes, street food and hot drinks will be served in heated tents. Admission is free.

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