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Should we avoid Budapest during Sziget Festival?

We are planning a 2-3 week trip to Hungary next August. Naturally we thought we would start in Budapest, but I just found out that the most convenient time for us to arrive, August 9, coincides with the start of the week long Sziget Festival, which attracts some 400,000 people. We are in our late 60s and not interested in the music scene. Will Budapest be crowded and accommodations packed? Would starting in Lake Balaton, Pecs, or Eger give us a different sense of Hungary? Suggestions?

Posted by
9305 posts

I've been traveling to Budapest several times a year for 15 years now and I jave been fortunate enough to have never been there in August. Budapest, Europe for that matter, is too freeking hot in August. It would be better but the European definition of air conditioning is the equivelent to an ice cube on a string. There is only one decent air conditioner in all of Budapest and it's in my apartment and they all thought I was insane when I installed it.

So, while I haven't been there during the festival I do have friends in Budapest and they say it can be a bit of a circus in town.

Given the heat and the festival I would tend to look for elevation. That would be Eger or maybe Lillafüred. Better yet the High Tatras or the high country of Montenegro (both great for fly fishing in August).

Okay, I know, we all travel when we can. It's a beautiful country and in honesty I was once there on August 30 and had a great time. But persinally I would try and be out of town during the festival. Some lodgings jack their prices up during events as well so it might be a bit cheaper to avoid town too.

Posted by
97 posts

Thanks James. Actually I am planning a trip from July 9th to the end of August to Austria, Slovenia and Hungary using Rick Steves guides but generally adding extra days to most cities. For unimportant reasons I started planning from Vienna, but nothing is booked yet so I could easily change to Hungary then Slovenia then Austria. Do you think it would make much difference in comfort and crowds being in Hungary in July rather than August?

Posted by
109 posts

I was in Budapest 2 years ago while the Festival was on. It takes place on Obuda Island, and a lot of the festival goers camp there. We did see lots of people in the subway headed for Obuda, but their presence in the city did not interfere with our visit at all. Actually, I kind of enjoyed seeing all the young people in their funky clothes, with knapsacks and tents, it reminded me of way back when - my own festival going days.

But as James has said, it can be very hot in August so make sure to book a hotel with A/C. It was so hot while we were there that the city was handing out drinking water, it was in clear plastic bags, the kind that milk comes in. We drank a lot of iced tea, ate a lot of ice cream, had a few fröccs (spritzers)... And the lemonade in Budapest is the best I've had - made with real fruit, not the sickly sweet stuff that passes for lemonade here.

Posted by
9305 posts

With the kids come the drunks; or that's my fear. It started getting noticeable a few years ago and the city started clamping down a bit and it's gotten better.

Since you can travel in either direction, why not just avoid it and not be there. It will be cheaper too I bet.

July, like August, is high season. Mid September to mid October is my favorite time of year. Check the availability of accommodations and that might just be the deciding factor.

Posted by
9305 posts

And to stay cool l prefer beer and wine. The wine bar down the street pushes the wine spritsers. 😊

Posted by
109 posts

It probably makes a difference where you're staying during the Festival, we were on the Buda side so that's where we spent our evenings and as I said other than seeing the Festival goers in the subway, no effect on our visit. The transit inspectors were really honing in on them, we saw quite a few get caught who hadn't validated their ticket or didn't have it to show when they were getting off.