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Fireworks, air parades and a dazzling light show – Budapest celebrates national holiday on 20 August

Writers

  • We Love Budapest

19/08/2022 4.01pm

On Saturday, 20 August, Hungary celebrates St Stephen, the founder of the nation. In the evening, spectacular fireworks spread Hungary’s national colours of red, white and green across the night sky while a display of military air power takes place in the morning. Here are the main events to look out for.

Hungary's birthday celebrations have already begun, with a Festival of Folk Arts at Buda Castle. Showcasing the crafts of the Carpathian Basin, the festival presents traditional skills such as embroidery, lace-making and pottery, while artefacts made on the spot will be offered for purchase. This year, the festival's main theme is woodwork and the guest nation is South Korea

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

On the national holiday itself, Saturday, 20 August, ceremonies start at 8am on Kossuth tér, backdropped by the Parliament building. Official speeches by high-ranking politicians and a ceremonial military procession take place, while the nation’s tricolour is raised skywards.

Immediately afterwards, the Hungarian military present an air parade along the Danube, between Chain Bridge and Margaret Bridge. A festive parade also runs the length of Andrássy út, all the way to Heroes’ Square.

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

From 10am, 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 behind a glass showcase. Please note that this is extremely popular, so be prepared to queue. Tours finish at 6pm.

Photo: Hartyányi Norbert - We Love Budapest

From 5pm at St Stephen’s Basilica, its showcase relic, the embalmed right hand of Hungary's founding father King Stephen, will be ceremoniously carried around the streets surrounding Budapest’s most sacred site.

The day’s main event starts at 9pm, when powerful music starts playing around the Danube and a spectacular half-hour firework show takes place in Hungary's national colours of red, white and green.

Photo: Kálló Péter - We Love Budapest

Fireworks will be shot from the quays and the river roughly between Liberty Bridge and Margaret Bridge. Whether you position yourself on the Buda or Pest embankment, you should have a great view, but bear in mind that it gets extremely busy with thousands of bystanders watching.

If you'd like to climb higher, Gellért HillBuda Castle and Fishermen's Bastion are always good options. Festive lights will be painted onto Parliament, the National Gallery and Gellért Hill, accompanied by a drone display.

Note that 20 August is a national holiday and nearly all shops will be closed. Certain transport and traffic restrictions will be in place. Liberty Bridge closes to pedestrians, while buses 16 and 105, and trams 2, 19 and 41, will have modified routes at various times during the weekend. 

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