City guide
National Blast: enjoy Hungary’s biggest holiday on August 20
Photo : kormány.hu
National Blast: enjoy Hungary's biggest holiday on August 20

In a tradition dating back almost a millennium, every August 20 marks the day of Hungary’s foundation under the reign of St. Stephen, the nation’s first king. This all-encompassing celebration is observed across the country, but festivities are especially spectacular here in Budapest, where a day of special events is capped by a display of magnificent fireworks over the Danube River. Here are some of the major events happening around town.

An early start on August 19 The Castle District and Buda bank Kossuth Square and Parliament House Basilica and St. Stephen's hand Fireworks at 9pm
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is outdated. For up-to-date program information for August 20th of 2016, please see the article below:

An early start on August 19

Since Wednesday is a public holiday for most Budapest workers, there are plenty of activities happening on August 19 in anticipation of the next day’s main festivities. At 10am there’s the cutting of the ‘Ország Torta’ (‘The Country’s Cake’). Each year there’s a tender process for a cake recipe that represents the nation. This year a Hungarian favorite has been reinvented by the Damniczki Confectionery in Székesfehérvár, coming up with the winning cake: the ‘Somlói Revolution’. (Don’t worry if you’re trying to eat healthily; a sugar-free version is also available.) You can try a piece of cake at Clark Ádám Square, where various Hungarian bands will also perform from 10am to midnight  The daylong program of open-air concerts will end with the world-famous Hungarian folk band, Ghymes, performing at 11pm. Also on August 19, the Street of Magyar Flavors takes place beginning at 10am along the Buda bank near the Chain Bridge, providing delicious food, craft stalls, and activities. Many of Budapest’s venues will be busy on the night of August 19, since most people will sleep in the next day.
Photo: Károly Árvai, kormany.hu
Photo: Károly Árvai, kormany.hu

Clark Ádám Square

The Castle District and Buda bank

The Street of Magyar Flavors will continue at 10am on August 20 along the Buda bank near the Chain Bridge, while various family-friendly programs and open-air concerts also take place at Clark Ádám Square. August 20 is also the the final day of the Festival of Folk Arts in Buda’s Castle District, which finishes at 9pm. The important tradition of blessing the new bread at the St. Stephen statue (3pm) will be followed by a procession from Clark Ádám Square, across the Chain Bridge, and ending at the Basilica.

Photo: Károly Árvai, kormany.hu
Photo: Károly Árvai, kormany.hu

Chain Bridge

Kossuth Square and Parliament House

For those up early, there’ll be some official ceremonies taking place at Kossuth Square in front of the Hungarian Parliament between 8.30am and 10am, including raising the Hungarian national flag. The Parliament House itself will be open to the public from 10am to 4pm.

Basilica and St. Stephen's hand

At 5pm the public can attend High Mass at St. Stephen’s Basilica, followed by the procession of St. Stephen’s mummified right hand – the most cherished religious relic of Hungary, kept on display in an ornate container at the Basilica – beginning at 6pm.
Photo: Gergely Botár, kormany.hu
Grand Boulevard barPhoto: Gergely Botár, kormany.hu

St. Stephen's Basilica

Fireworks at 9pm

The huge and spectacular August 20 fireworks can be seen all around the city center, but the best viewing is seen along the three-kilometer-long stretch of Danube between Petőfi and Margaret Bridges. The soaring pyrotechnics start at 9pm, and typically the best places to view them are on the banks of the Danube, atop Gellért Hill, on the terraces of Buda Castle or Fisherman’s Bastion (where there’s a view down toward the Danube), the square in front of the , the area surrounding the , or a rooftop bar in the city center such as , , or Tip Top Bar. No matter where you’re heading, it pays to get there early to secure a good spot.

Photo: Gergely Botár, kormany.hu
If you want to make your evening even more memorable, there are a number of places offering special dinners while you enjoy a view of the fireworks. Corso restaurant on the Pest-side Danube Promenade offers a delicious Hungarian meal with prime views. The exquisite  has a special offer for guests to enjoy an elegant buffet dinner before settling in for a prime view of Budapest’s fireworks on the rooftop. The  is also organizing a party on its rooftop garden with a panoramic view of the fireworks – there’ll be finger-food and drinks too!
Photo: Gergely Botár, kormany.hu
One of the most unobscured views of the fireworks is from right underneath them while aboard a boat sailing the Danube.The , moored on the Buda bank by Petőfi Bridge, is an excellent viewing platform – they’re also hosting the Lick the Click daytime dance party starting at noon. A Danube cruise on the Vogue boat includes a delicious 5-course dinner spread plus sparkling wine on arrival and unlimited drinks thereafter. The Columbus Boat also has three different event spaces, so there are different options for how to enjoy the fireworks on the boat; the most exclusive is the rooftop terrace, where there’s a four-course dinner and drinks capped off with the spectacular fireworks.