Pretty as the snow may be against the backdrop of Budapest’s architecture, summer isn’t just a welcome arrival here – it’s the unofficial start of party season. As the city slips from spring and into summer, expect a steady stream of festivities to take over the Hungarian capital. From convivial tipples at beer and wine fairs to local live music, these top summer festivals in Budapest are the best way to soak up the rays and good vibrations.
A colourful celebration of Hungarian folk culture, the Danube Carnival sees Budapest’s most popular venues fill with dancers in traditional costume. Demonstrating an enthusiastic range of styles, from the slow twirl of the couples’ Csárdás to the exhilarating leaps of Ugrós, every performance at this favourite summer festival in Budapest offers a glimpse of the country’s rich cultural heritage.
Held each year in June, Budapest Beer Festival showcases around 250 of the best local and international beers via stalls, tasting sessions and bars set up all around Szabadság Square. It’s also an opportunity for smaller breweries and producers to introduce new flavours, so even the most dedicated craft beer and ale enthusiast will find something to inspire. With a laid-back, al-fresco atmosphere, a range of lively concerts and ample street food on offer, it’s an excellent day or night out.
There’s nothing like the sweet strains of live music to accompany those fresh, summer breezes. If basking in the sunshine listening to classical tunes (or jazz… or electronic… the list goes on…) sounds idyllic, now’s the time to book your ticket to the Budapest Summer Festival. Alongside live music, the programme also features a range of dance performances. Taking place across three different open-air venues across Margaret Island and Buda, the Budapest Summer Festival runs throughout most of the summer season.
Held at the Palace of Arts over several consecutive evenings, this annual celebration of the great composer Richard Wagner draws aficionados from around the world to enjoy marathon performances in the warmth of Hungary’s long summer evenings. The programme usually features the complete Ring Cycle, as well as the lesser-known work, The Flying Dutchman, with performances from emerging artists as well as old hands in opera and scintillating new choreography.
Marked in every oenophile’s calendar, Budapest Wine Festival brings together Hungary’s finest wines and winemakers plus those of a guest country each harvest season. Guests flock to Buda Castle to taste the over 200 wines on show, while admiring spectacular views over the castle’s grounds and courtyards. What’s wine without food and music? You needn’t find out – more than 40 concerts take place throughout the festival, with plenty of food stalls to keep guests fed as well as watered. Look out for the Harvest Procession, too – a celebration of Hungarian culture enacted by all-singing, all-dancing locals in traditional dress.
The proliferation of summer festivals in Budapest means there’s live music on tap all season long. One of the top draws for music-lovers both local and visiting is Sziget, originally established by student volunteers in 1993 and now an award-winning European extravaganza. Taking place on verdant Óbuda Island, this unique, inclusive celebration can rightly be considered Europe’s answer to Coachella thanks to its top-billed acts, upbeat crowds, artistic side programming and relentlessly bohemian vibe.
Flying the flag for Hungarian arts, crafts and culture, the Festival of Folk Arts has been setting up in Budapest’s Castle District every summer for well over three decades. While it’s packed with interesting activities offering insight into local artisanal traditions, this lovely little festival is really just a great excuse to shop for souvenirs. Carved wooden spoons, ceramic jewellery, handsewn dolls and potent bottles of pálinka all feature in the many stalls, which line streets and squares with more than enough treasures to fill a suitcase.
Classical enthusiasts can settle back in one of Budapest’s most romantic settings for an evening of soaring symphonies. Favourites from the likes of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Verdi and Vivaldi are performed by local orchestras and solo musicians, while gypsy swing and folk bands add a uniquely Hungarian flavour to the programme. Attending a performance is certainly a lovely way to soak up the castle’s unique atmosphere as the summer evening fades over Budapest.