Budapest’s Sziget Music Festival: ‘Freedom Island’


My original reason to travel to Budapest was to attend Sziget music festival as part of the summer of festivals around Europe that I have been enjoying.  In reality, I didn’t spend as much time there as I had intended because I found myself wanting to do stuff in Budapest rather than spend each and every day at the festival.

After the first day I went in only for the evening ‘headline’ acts, and spent my days instead in Budapest at the bath houses, or the market, or simply walking around the city.

The festival was awesome, but I’m glad I chose to stay in the city rather than camp out in the festival grounds.   When I was younger I enjoyed the whole festival experience but these days I prefer to enjoy it having slept in a real bed and changed into clean (ish) clothes.

When did I get so old?


There was a nice international crowd there, more so than you get at British festivals (this is, I suspect, firstly because the weather discourages people from travelling to camp out in an English field but also probably the British prices don’t help).

However there did seem to be a predominance of 18-year-old ‘gap students’, snogging at every opportunity (because they are the first generation to have sex, ever; nobody else before them ever did it), eating more pizza and hamburgers in one sitting than I’d eat in a year (because they’re still boasting the metabolism to get away with it) and generally sneering at anyone over the age of 22.

Again, when did I get so old?

the main stage

the main stage, during one of its quieter daytime modes

As for the music, Lily Allen and Bastille did their best amidst a sea of mud and umbrellas (even Budapest couldn’t escape the rain for a whole week).  Madness were good, a Hungarian band I’d never heard of called Punnany Massif (very popular with the local crowd) and then there were the usual festival pleasers (Manic street preachers, Placebo, Prodigy etc).

Away from the main stage was a dance tent, and Irish stage, a Hungarian, a world, Reggae, European (other than Hungary or UK) and even a tribute stage.  I think that’s it; I rather lost any sense of a plan and ended up just wandering from place to place as the mood took me.

Then there was yoga, tai-chi and belly dance classes, circus, games, tattooing (real or temporary) hair braiding and an assortment of crafts.

street theatre

Some street theatre

Anyway, plenty to do if you couldn’t find the energy to fight for a space in front of the main stage.

paint dropped, Holi festival style, onto crowds around the main stage

paint dropped, Holi festival style, onto crowds around the main stage

Would I go again?  To Budapest, yes definitely.  There are more than forty bath houses in the city (and I only got to three), countless ruin pubs (and I only got to two) and whole swathes of the city I didn’t get to explore.

To Sziget, probably not.  I really enjoyed it but do rather feel that I’ve done it now.  Next year, I may like to set my sights on a couple of the big American festivals.

Categories: Hungary

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