Multicolored fireworks light up the night nationwide as the highlight of Hungary’s August 20th celebrations, an event-filled occasion that honors the country’s first king, St. Stephen, and the foundation of the state. Those who frolic amid the cheerful Magyar crowds in Budapest can enjoy numerous events throughout the day citywide, including military processions, guided tours to the Holy Crown, a traditional festival featuring folk arts, and illuminated dinner parties at many of the city’s panoramic restaurants, before the day concludes with spectacular fireworks blasting across the sky.
Raising of the Hungarian Flag
The festival kicks off with an official ceremony held on Kossuth Square in front of the Parliament, when the nation’s tricolor pride is hoisted high into the sky. This solemn ritual is surrounded by high-ranking politicians and impressive military processions amid dynamic music.
Kossuth Square, 8:30am-9:30am
Street of Hungarian Flavors
Savor many of Hungary’s traditional treats at this alfresco fair set up around the recently renovated Várkert Bazaar, near the Buda side of the Chain Bridge below the Buda Castle. Here, anyone can try and buy Magyar delicacies, including succulent cheeses, sweet marmalade, and meaty treats, along with local potables like fruit juices, craft beers, wines, and pálinka specialties. A selection of local freshly baked pastries are also available to taste, including crispy bread, soft scones, and milk loaves. Those who want to take a slice of Hungary’s 2016 Birthday Cake (or the sugar-free national cake) can immerse in scrumptious pleasures at this festival that continues through August 21st.
Várkert Bazaar, 9am-midnight
Guided tour in the Parliament
Visitors can admire the neo-Gothic Parliament House on Kossuth Square both outside and inside by signing up for a guided tour to visit the ornate Grand Stairway, the majestic Dome Hall, and the treasured Holy Crown of Hungary within this attractive architectural landmark.
Parliament House, 10am-6pm
Festival of Folk Arts
Learn about rare old-fashioned Hungarian crafts that are still created by hand today, and browse assorted local products including traditional pottery, old-school wooden toys, heritage furniture, handmade jewelry, and much more during this annual festival of artisans happening around the Buda Castle. Expect lively concerts, street theater, and folk-dance performances, while at 3pm visitors can join the customary bread-blessing ceremony by St. Stephen’s bronze statue.
Buda Castle, 10am-11pm
Holy Right Hand Procession at St. Stephen’s Basilica
Every year on August 20th, the nation’s most cherished religious relic, the embalmed holy right hand of King St. Stephen, is carried around downtown Budapest to pay tribute to the country’s founding monarch. The procession starts at the Basilica (where the relic is usually kept) and ends at Szent István Square.
St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Square), 5pm
A harmonious blend of jazz tunes resonate around the Palace of Arts, where local jazz-music bands entertain the audience on multiple stages within and outside of the waterfront edifice until the late-night hours, and between the musical performances guests can admire how fireworks paint vibrant hues on the sky. Best of all, the entire program is free!
Palace of Arts, 5pm-11pm
Panoramic dinner parties
Devour delicious meals amid panoramic settings with special feasts that present first-class views over the sparkling fireworks that shine across Hungary’s capital. At Araz within Continental Hotel Budapest, gourmets can enjoy a candlelit reception above the city with an unlimited drink selection, fine finger food, and hearty goulash soup, while a DJ mixes pleasant tunes in the background (9,900 HUF/person). Peppers! at the Danube Promenade pairs aromatic wines with delectable treats for guests who would like to admire myriad colors reflecting on the Danube River from an exclusive location. The menu includes local and international meals, like goose liver paté, black Angus beef tenderloin steak, and assorted Hungarian cheeses, and it costs 24,000 forints per person. The sparkling sensations can also be enjoyed from the Hotel President Intermezzo Roof Terrace, the venue for a smorgasbord with unlimited beverage consumption until 9pm, with live music and a raffle happening throughout the night (27,900 HUF/person). Places at these restaurants fill up quickly on this day, so it’s highly recommended to book in advance.
Fireworks over the Danube
When the sun dips below the horizon, grand music resonates across the river as Budapest boasts the country’s biggest national blast with a spectacular pyrotechnics show. Fireworks are launched from multiple locations along the downtown waterway, so the crowd can enjoy the show from various vantage points, from the Danube Promenade to the grounds of Parliament to Gellért Hill.
Danube Promenade, 9pm-9:30pm