Easter in Hungary: celebrations in Budapest and beyond
Photo : Norbert Juhász/We Love Budapest
23/3/2016, 12:24 AM●5-minute article
Several family-friendly festivals honor regional Easter traditions across Budapest and the Hungarian countryside, featuring folklore customs, outdoor concerts, handicraft activities, and a basketful of toothsome treats. Anyone celebrating this holy holiday in the Hungarian capital can join cheerful egg-painting workshops at Vörösmarty Square or savor assorted lamb-based delicacies at Vajdahunyad Castle within City Park, while in the towns of Szentendre and Hollókő just north of Budapest, old-fashioned programs await those who want to fully immerse into the country’s real springtime revelry.
Multicolored eggs, flower decorations, live music, and heaps of handicrafts fill downtown’s most popular plaza from March 25th through April 24th as the annual Budapest Spring Fair kicks off during Easter weekend with a bunny-themed jamboree. Held at – the same location where Budapest’s biggest Christmas fair happens every winter – visitors can join any of the many creative Easter-themed activities starting on Friday, such as decorating emblematic Easter eggs, designing fanciful springtime ornaments, or even assembling wooden toys, with many of the workshops specifically created for children. Festivalgoers can purchase local handicrafts from the small timber huts set up around the square, while those who crave Magyar-made delicacies can choose from a variety of traditional meals among a savory repertoire inspired by Hungarian peasants’ cuisine from centuries ago.
The mystical in Budapest’s becomes an Easter celebration ground during March 26-28, when this ordinarily quiet recreation zone fills with a celebrating crowd. Besides the engaging Easter-themed workshops and alfresco folklore shows, a small petting zoo introduces children to many breeds of domestic animals from the Hungarian countryside, including rabbits, goats, and sheep. Across the Easterfiesta, the aroma of grilled meat wafts in the air – this event provides many options for guests who come to the parkland to pamper their taste buds, and for those who want to chase down the luscious dishes with intoxicating tipples, as diverse types of local liquor is available on site, including potent spirits, chilled beer, and Hungarian wine.
Luscious links and huge hams hang from the façades of the temporary timber huts at downtown’s , where assorted artisanal meals attract visitors to take part in this gluttonous gathering spanning March 19-26at the area in front of Design Terminal and . The food repertoire includes classic flavors that characterize the Easter feasts here in Hungary, like generous smoked hams, crimson sausages, piquant horseradish, locally produced cheese, mixed platters of Mangalica pork, quail eggs, and other flavorful treats. Besides the edible merchandise, the hand-painted eggs and wooden corkscrews with traditional motifs all make great Easter gifts. Visitors with a sugar craving can devour scrumptious chimney cake (“kürtőskalács” in Hungarian) baked on the spot, or to savor handmade strudel, while those who seek high-spirited merriment can sip from an impressive selection of local libations.
Experience Hungary’s old-time Easter traditions amid the time-transcending hamlet of the Skanzen Hungarian Open Air Museum, a meticulously recreated Magyar village found in the charming town of Szentendre just north of Budapest. On March 27th and 28th, exciting folklore events await revelers around the varied cottages and settings that provide merry moments to anyone who is young at heart: visitors can learn intricate Easter-egg decoration techniques, or patronize bygone businesses like pottery makers or blacksmiths, while children can frolic in the Garden of Easter games. Besides the classic programs, Skanzen offers quaint activities like the oddball beauty contest for sheep, or a sweet-scented workshop where we can make a bottleful of perfume-infused water, one of Easter’s traditional elements here in Hungary. This fragrant fluid comes in handy during “dousing” on Easter Monday, a boisterous activity when boys and men splash a few drops of the scented liquid on women – or in extreme cases, a bucketful of cold water – while reciting an Easter-themed poem. This classic event and a “splashing ball” concludes the festivities here in Szentendre, as well.
How to get there: From Batthyány Square take the HÉV commuter train to the Szentendre terminus; the journey takes about 40 minutes. From the Szentendre HÉV station, find bus stop number 7 and take the local bus to the Skanzen.
Easter in Hollókő
To take part in Hungary’s most famous Easter festival, journey to the historic World Heritage-listed village of Hollókő – a hillside community of old-fashioned homes found 95 kilometers north of Budapest – for a weekend of special Hungarian Easter traditions, including elaborate folk costumes, live music, and crafts. Classic Easter celebrations come alive in this carefully preserved village’s cobblestone streets during the three-day open-air jamboree, involving poetry, splashing, and folk-dance performances, while travelers can sample signature delights of “Palóc” gastronomy characteristic to the northeastern region of Hungary. Those who head uphill to the Castle of Hollókő that gracefully stands above the town – a monumental fortress that once protected the area from foreign invasions – will find themselves amid a majestic atmosphere complete with cavalry shows, century-old apparel, and traditional tunes, all evoking the historic Middle Ages before a genuine backdrop.
How to get there: Take the regional bus for a two-hour ride from Puskás Ferenc Stadion (accessible by the M2 metro), with buses leaving at 8:30am (the last direct service returns from Hollókő at 4pm). Those who want to get there by car should take the M3 motorway and exit at the intersection of Hatvan, then take road 21 towards Pásztó, and just before reaching Pásztó, take a left turn at the intersection with the road sign pointing toward Szécsény and Hollókő, and follow the road until turning left for Hollókő on Kossuth Street (about a 90-minute trip). Cars can be parked in the areas surrounding the village, as marked.