Budapest part 1: Sziget Festival

This entry is part 7 of 13 in the series Bucharest to Brussels:

  1. Bucharest to Brussels – Introduction and Our Route
  2. Munich, Germany
  3. All Roads Lead to Rome, Part I
  4. Bucharest, Romania
  5. Brasov and Dracula’s (Bram) Castle
  6. Smaller Cities of Transylvania
  7. Budapest part 1: Sziget Festival
  8. Budapest Part 2: Daylife
  9. Budapest Part 3: Nightlife and Food
  10. Vienna and Salzburg, Austria
  11. Berlin, Germany
  12. Beer Around Belgium
  13. Biking to the Best Beer in the World

Sziget is a week-long music festival that is one of the biggest in Europe. It takes place every August on Sziget island, which is about 20 minutes from Budapest city center. We didn’t come to Budapest for the festival, but when we found out we would be there during the week, we bought a couple of tickets for the first day. If you don’t want to read about it, you can jump to the pictures at the bottom.

There are a number of different stages at the music festival, and during the peak days there are over 500,000 people visiting the festival. The music line-up is pretty great – the headliner the night we were there was Blink182 (one of our favorite bands in high school), but over the course of the week there was everyone from Outkast to Macklemore to Lily Allen to any number of European rock and electronica bands. We were there on “Day -1”, so the festival didn’t officially start for a few more days, but there were probably still at least 100,000 people there, plus a full band line-up.

A good amount of those 100,000 people were Sziget “residents” for the week – they set up a tent and were camping. There were several tiers of campgrounds, from a simple plot of land to a VIP camping area with bunks, hot showers, and wifi. What was most impressive was the entire civilization that was set up on the island. The entire facility is cashless; everyone was required to get a “PayPass” credit card which you could just waive in front of the cash register. It made the lines a lot faster, and of course it also made it much easier to spend money. However, a half-liter of draft beer was only about $3, which wasn’t a bad deal for a music festival (especially compared to the US).

There were at least a hundred food vendors and stalls around the island, so there was quite a few options for food – everything from pizza and sausages to fresh fruit to Indian food. There were a bunch of bars around the island, which everything from buckets and cocktails to wine; there was even a ruin bar like the ones we visited in town. You could also get on a bar that was raised up by a crane overlooking the festival – why not?

If you didn’t want to spend your money on food, there was plenty of other entertainment options, aside from the music. There was an entire sports area, with sand and trampoline volleyball, soccer, and even a full gym with weightlifting equipment. For those with more extreme tastes, there was bungee jumping and even a massive 20-person see-saw.

Overall it was a generally good experience. We were pretty impressed with how big the island was and how much there was to do there. It was really easy to get there and back on public transportation at all hours of the day, and there was a great variety of food and drink options. We were glad we didn’t have to camp there, as I think 7 days of festival life would be a bit much, and it seemed pretty disorganized in finding a place to stay (you would definitely need to get there really early to find a good spot). There were also really long lines both to get in and to get the PayPass, which should really be made more efficient. But overall, we had a good time and would recommend it, as it’s a like stepping into a different world right inside of Budapest.

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