Hungary has a wide variety of festivals commemorating food, music, wine, flowers and the various cultural origins of the people living there. Here are 20 great ways to celebrate with the locals.
Hollókő Easter Festival
The UNESCO World Heritage city of Hollókő holds an annual Easter Festival where you’ll find a Renaissance atmosphere, complete with a Medieval Knights’ Camp in front of the castle. Expect weaponry demonstrations and medieval music throughout the long weekend. Visitors can take part in local and resurrected traditions such as folk dances, dressing in traditional costumes, playing games of skill, listening to storytellers, and, of course, tasting some of the local fayre.
When? – Easter, variable
Busó Walking of Mohács
Originating in the 18th century, Busó Walking of Mohács is based on a legend of the ethnic Croatian Šokac people, who lived in the nearby swamps and woods to avoid Ottoman troops. They returned to the town wearing scary masks and using hand-carved weapons, driving the Ottoman troops from the town. Another legend says that the masks were used to scare away winter but, whatever the real story, the festival sees a variety of Busó (the traditional scary carved masks) groups dancing on stage and parading through the streets, along with folk dancers and tambourine bands. Folk art and masks from master carvers are on display, too.
When? – usually before Ash Wednesday
Budapest Beer Week
Budapest Beer Week showcases 50 breweries from around the world, with 200 beers on tap. Grab a pint or pay a set price for unlimited tastings. You’ll find brews from Hungary, of course, but also from Russia, the U.S., Belgium, Ireland, and many more. And, while it’s all about the beer, you can work off those carbs by rocking to bands—mainly Hungarian— running the gamut from rockabilly, pop, acid, and metal, some playing during the event, with others rocking into the night at the after-parties.
When? – May
Step into the magical world of street art at the Bondoró Festival in Kapolcs and experience an international collection of bands, marionettes, flame throwers, circus artists, Freak Fusion and cabaret. It feels a bit like a combination of the film The Greatest Showman and steampunk. At night, the buildings and trees become canvases for colorful works of art painted with light. Don’t miss the “Exhibition of Non-Existing Objects” which presents abstract objects and concepts.
When? – Late May to early June
Tihany Lavender Festival
Have you ever tried lavender coffee? How about a lavender beer? At the cliff-top city of Tihany, surrounded by Lake Balaton, you might even smell lavender before you see or taste it. That’s because the lavender fields are in full bloom and celebrated at the annual Lavender Festival, which concerns itself with all things lavender, including crafts, hikes, perfume-making classes, street performers, and lavender-enhanced food and drink. For dessert, the lavender ice cream is a must.
When? – Late June or early July
Every summer in Zamárdi, teens, twenty-somethings, and some thirty-somethings gather on the south side of the largest lake in Central Europe, Lake Balaton, to party until the sun comes up, and then party some more. With past acts including Macklemore, Tiesto, Marshmello, and J Blavin, Balaton Sound is one of the world’s premier electronic music festivals. Besides the music, beach games and watersports, party boats, and thrilling funfair rides keep the energy high. At ZStrnnight, the place becomes a neon factory on steroids, with pink, blue, purple, and green lights illuminating an area filled with 170,000 revellers.
When? – July
Where can you find a festival showcasing Herbie Hancock, Cool and the Gang, and The Buena Vista Social Club all in one place? That’s Veszprem Fest. Taking place in various indoor and outdoor venues in Veszprem, Hungary, this is an all-inclusive music festival welcoming international artists performing in a variety of genres, including opera, jazz, blues, pop, classical and world music. You can even enjoy some of the performances while sitting in the Jesuit Temple Garden of an old nunnery.
When? – July or August
Savaria Historic Carnival
At Savaria Historic Carnival you’re likely to glimpse an Emperor Claudius walking down the street accompanied by his concubines, Constantine the Great, rope-jumping stunt girls from Sabaria, belly dancers of the Eastern Court, and a horse-drawn fire truck with firefighters in period uniform. This unique carnival celebrates the history of Szombathely (founded in the year 45 AD), spanning the Roman times, the Age of Migration, the Renaissance Era and the 20th Century. You’ll also find country, swing, rockabilly, and pop bands, wine tastings, treasure hunts, and glass art.
When? – August
Over half a million music fans gather on Óbuda Sziget (Obuda Island) in Budapest every summer for one of the largest rock festivals in Europe. Though it began in 1993 as a music festival, you’ll also find incredible art installations. Some are interactive while others explore the issues through social commentary. In more recent years, performers have included Ed Sheeran, Florence + The Machine, Dua Lipa and Shawn Mendes. As it all takes place on an island in Budapest, exploring the Hungarian capital is a popular accompaniment.
When? – August
Debreceni Virágkarnevál – Debrecen Flower Carnival
For over 50 years, the city of Debrecen, Hungary has celebrated all things floral. This annual festival, taking place over seven days is as international as it is colorful. Sure, there are flower-covered floats, flower-costumed stilt walkers, and flower-themed crafts for the kids, but the international participation by unique performers is what makes this festival extra-special. For example, the Royal Stilt Walkers and Brass Band from Belgium, or the National Folk Dance Company Herencia Viva from Colombia, along with dancers from Taiwan, Spain, Russia, and more.
When? – August
The STRAND Festival is the place to go for fans of electronic and hip hop music. Held on the beach in Zamárdi, this beach party and music festival has boasted performers including Ellie Goulding, Sum 41, Jason Derulo and Bastille. Festival-goers can attend scheduled and pop-up activities, including yoga classes and water-balloon fights. You really only need a bathing suit to attend and be ready for the party.
When? – August
St. Stephen’s Day
The biggest holiday in Hungary is celebrated all over the country, but there’s nothing like the celebration in Budapest. Referred to as Hungary’s Independence Day, it begins with military parades in front of the Hungarian Parliament Building and continues with an air show over the Danube. Most museums waive their entrance fees, there’s a bread festival, the unveiling of the Hungarian cake of the year, a folk festival, parades and concerts, all culminating in a fireworks display launched from bridges along the Danube.
When? – August 20th
Jewish Cultural Festival
For over twenty years the Jewish Community in Budapest has welcomed people of all religions into some of their most historic and treasured buildings to enjoy traditional and modern music, theatre and talks. Events are held, among other places, at the Dohány Street Synagogue, the Neo-Renaissance and Art Nouveau-style Hegedűs Gyula Street Synagogue, and Goldmark Hall, which hosted Jewish musicians during World War II. Clarinets blare out klezmer music, dancers perform traditional dances, scholars host important discussions, and joy is in the air in a place where such things were banned for years during the Nazi and Soviet occupations.
When? – Late August to early September
Budapest Wine Festival
Hungary’s 22 wine districts are on full display at Budapest’s premier wine event, the Budapest Wine Festival. On the grounds of Buda Castle overlooking the Danube river, over 100 wine bars, shops, and dealers serve up a vast variety of Hungarian wines. In exchange for their entrance fee, ticket holders are provided with a souvenir wine glass which, for a fee, can be filled with a vast variety of, well, varietals. Accompany your wine with some dinner, available from the many stands, before dancing to live music under the stars in the castle courtyard.
When? – September
Gyula Pálinka Festival
Just like Champagne from France and Stilton cheese from the UK, pálinka, a Hungarian brandy made from fermented fruit, holds Protected Designation of Origin Status. The best way to celebrate this drink with Hungarians is in Gyula at the Pálinka Festival. As pálinka can be made from almost any fruit, this is a great opportunity to sample a variety of flavors. And where there’s pálinka, there’s bound to be dancing. Insider’s tip: plan on getting a room somewhere nearby, as pálinka is a strong spirit and Hungary has zero tolerance for drunk driving. Egészségére! (That’s “cheers” in Hungarian.)
When? – September
Kalocsa Paprika Festival
Over two days in September, the town of Kalocsa celebrates all things paprika. Known as Hungary’s “red gold,” paprika is an important ingredient in Hungarian cooking and a necessary souvenir. Over 10,000 people come to watch cooks compete in the Paprika Food Cooking Competition as well as witness the Paprika Harvest Parade and the crowning of the Queen of Paprika. For the kids, there are crafts and folk dance groups with hundreds of dancers.
When? – September
The National Gallop is an international competition held in Budapest’s Heroes’ Square. Pay for a seat in the stands or head to the infield for free to watch competitors fly past on their steeds around a dirt track in traditional Hussar costumes. The historic Hungarian light cavalry’s brightly-colored coats are enhanced with gold decoration, and tall, round, flat-topped hats. Events include a jousting demonstration, chariot races, and historical re-enactments. Food, drink and crafts stalls line Andrassy Street leading up to Heroes’ Square.
When? – October
Liszt Fest International Cultural Festival
Moving in a more highbrow direction is Liszt Fest, which had its premier in 2021. Named after native son Franz Liszt (known in Hungary as Liszt Ferenc) and taking place over 17 days in October, this festival showcases legends and young talents of international cultural life. The inaugural year saw performances by Patti Smith, guitarist Gilberto Gil, and Hungarian violinist Barnabás Kelemen performing with pianist Mihály Berecz. Also on show were plays, a literary festival, a conference on musicology and music history, films, and poetry. Events take place around Budapest.
When? – October
Csaba Sausage Festival
Pork is a mainstay of the Hungarian diet. The curly-haired Mangalica pig breed is indigenous to Hungary and was a staple of the Hungarian diet before easy transport and refrigeration became available. On the final weekend of October, the city of Békéscsaba celebrates its traditions of pig breeding and processing with its Csaba Sausage Festival. Not the place for vegetarians, you’ll get your fill of pork and award-winning sausages (yes, there’s a competition) and there is a pig slaughter demo. There’s also traditional music, folk dance, a retro party, and a bouncy castle for the kids. There are even dancing pigs!
When? – Final weekend of October
Honorable mention: Liberty Bridge Weekends
While not an official festival, this event began as an impromptu gathering in the summer of 2016 when, due to renovation work, the Liberty bridge was closed to motorized traffic each weekend. Locals and tourists took advantage of the opportunity to gather on the bridge for artistic performances and impromptu picnics. With its success, community groups petitioned the city council to make the unofficial event, official. The mayor agreed and a new celebration was born. Take a walk across the Liberty Bridge (aka, the green bridge) in the summertime and you might see acrobats swinging from silks high above, or the less-acrobatic swinging in their hammocks tied to rafters. Watch local musicians ply their craft over a picnic, a beer or some pálinka, as drinking alcohol on the street is legal in Budapest.