For most, New Year’s Eve is a happy excuse pop a cork and celebrate with a vivid crescendo of fireworks illuminating the midnight sky. It’s no different in Budapest, where Szilveszter offers a wide range of celebrations to usher in a new chapter. However, the Hungarian capital also has its own traditions, making celebrations in the city a little more interesting. For example, it’s customary in Hungary to create as much noise as possible on New Year’s Eve to scare off demons, which makes for a very memorable party. There are quieter traditions, too, such as a gala dinner at the Danube Palace, or a cleansing soak in a thermal bath. Here are just a few of the ways to see in the New Year in beautiful Budapest.
Budapest is well-known for its outdoor thermal baths, which are heated to around 38°C for those brave enough to run the gauntlet from the changing rooms to the pool in winter. The Széchenyi Baths generally close at 6pm on 31st December and reopen at 10am on 1st January. Whether it’s a pre- or post-party soak, you’ll find a lovely convivial atmosphere here. On occasion, Széchenyi Baths does throw open its doors until 3am to celebrate the New Year, so be sure to check in advance if the city’s wildest pool party does appeal.
From 10am – 10pm, the charming Christmas Market by St Stephen’s Basilica serves a hearty variety of aromatic local food and dizzying mounds of candy alongside the customary steaming mugs of Glühwein. Enjoy a winter warmer while watching the spectacular laser show that dances across the basilica’s façade every half hour on New Year’s Eve between 4.30 – 8pm.
Each New Year, Budapest’s Danube Palace is host to a dazzling two-hour gala concert, which includes soaring classical pieces alongside traditional Hungarian folk music. It follows a sumptuous five-course dinner and is rounded off with a rollicking party that’s fuelled with Champagne into the early hours.
Most major cities celebrate New Year’s Eve with a fireworks display, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same, and the Budapest locals will argue that theirs is most definitely the best. Just before midnight on 31st December, stake out a spot on the banks of the Danube river and marvel at the spectrum of colour and light spilling out across the sky over the Hungarian Parliament and St Stephen’s Basilica.
The Danube is the very lifeline of the Hungarian capital and separates the Buda and Pest districts which give the city its name. It’s a river that has inspired countless composers and poets for hundreds of years, so what better way is there to welcome in the New Year in Budapest than with an evening cruise along it? There are a number of companies which run cruises throughout the evening. Almost all include a delicious dinner, music, and some of the best spots to see the Hungarian Parliament, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, and, of course, that impressive firework display come midnight.
However you choose to ring in the New Year, you’ll be sure to have a night to remember in vibrant Budapest.