The Ultimate Sziget Festival Survival Guide 2019
Sziget. Sea-get. Kinda. That’s the one. A festival of fun beneath the sun. First thing’s first let’s discuss where the festival takes place and how you can plan on getting there.
“Sziget” means Island in the Hungarian language and the festival predictably takes place on a chunk of land surrounded by water. Right smack dab in the middle of the Danube on the Óbuda Sziget aka Old Buda Island. Geographically the island’s in the north of Budapest and is further from the city center than its more glamorous little sister: Szent Margaret Island. The Danube splits and flows around these two trouble makers, curling around their shores like a turquoise dress on Christina Hendricks.
But the isle goes by another name as well: Hajógyári, the Shipyard. This is because abandoned ship factories are scattered around the southern half of the Óbuda island. These shattered industrial relics used to play host to raves in the ’90s and 2000s before getting shut down (they say a few too many dead bodies washed up on shore). So now the partying on the Shipyard is constrained to this festival which occurs each year during the summer.
Sziget got going around 1993 as a sort of Hungarian version of Woodstock. In fact, some of the acts to play at the first-ever festival actually played at the original Woodstock. It was a grassroots endeavour back then, a solution to bridge the gap between the communist era (where festivals were government-sponsored affairs) and the post-communist era (festivals would now need private sponsorship). We’ve come a long way since this anarchic past as the festival has modernized alongside the city of Budapest into the current age of mass tourism (for better or worse).
Alright, enough jibber-jabber. How do you get to this damn shipyard?
Option 1: Getting there from the Airport
On the Sziget website, they actually advertise a shuttle service heading directly from the airport to the Island. The round trip voyage can be secured on the miniBud shuttle website for about 10 euros. That’s more expensive than an ordinary trip to the city on the bus but still cheaper than a taxi.
This round trip journey is free if you buy yourself a city pass. The City pass includes a whole smorgasbord of perks if you plan on exploring Budapest off-isle (including a free trip to a bathhouse). It’s relatively expensive if you take the 13-day pass option (49 euros) but only 19 euros for 2 days. It will be a cost-cutter if you do plan on doing some sightseeing, but probably not if you are just using it for the airport transfer.
Option 2: Getting from the City to the Island
Perhaps your accommodation is off-island and you are getting to the Sziget festival each day via public transport. It’s very simple to do so. Your best bet is to head to the Buda end of the Margaret Bridge and catch an H5 suburban train from the Margit-Hid Budai Hidfo, stop. You’ll need to purchase a standard one-trip inner-city ticket (350 HUF for one way) for the journey and head in the direction of Szentendre. You’ll disembark the train at a station known as “Filatorigát” (about 15 minutes away) and from there honestly just follow the crowd. It would be patronizing and redundant to give you any additional advice.
To camp or not to camp. That is the question. Well, the real question is what your tolerance level is for dirt and grime and muck and slime. We’re campers at heart – and assume that most of you are too. But camping at a festival like Sziget is a bit on the crowded side. We’d suggest staying at an Air B n B in the city or staying at a recommended party hostel if you still want the social scene. You’ll have to commute to and fro the island each day, but this will allow you to recharge yourself each night and feel (relatively) fresh for all the partying you’ll be doing. Plus this means you positioned to take in a bit of Budapest as well.
Stay at either Grandio in District VII or Retox in District V. Both are awesome options that cater to a younger crowd ready to have a little bit of a go during their stay in Budapest. The advantage of staying at one of these spots is that you’ll have an actual bed and easier access to showers and personal space. The glamping is sold out already anyway – but instead of paying 200 – 600 euros to stay in a glorified tent, you will be able to stay in an actual hostel.
Grandio Party Hostel is in the thick of things in District VII (listed below in our neighbourhood guide) and features an amazing patio enclosure – the Jungle Bar & Grill – with plenty of drinks and about 75 seats spread across 20 or so tables beneath a canopy of trees and fairy lights. Great place.
Retox Party Hostel is a hairs breath away from the 4-6 line which means super easy access to the island and is also a great jumping-off point for a day of exploring anywhere in the city. They too have a great little courtyard, friendly staff and a conducive environment to making tons of friends you can go to the festival with.
It’s relatively last minute at this stage – and prices are completely jacked up during the festival week – but if you are looking for a last-minute option and don’t mind spending a bit of cash you can check out these three as a launching off point (I’ve included a couple of Airbnb links to get your search going).
1. Újlipótváros (District XIII)
Two-person Air BnB for 70 euros a night in this leafy neighbourhood on the Pest bank of the Danube. “New Leopold Town” is an enormous district and has many different faces to it. The lovely area just by the Margit bridge is a tremendous place to stay for a few days – albeit a bit on the expensive side.
You could be forgiven for thinking you were in the West Village with the quaint bakeries, artesian ice pop shops and cute little wine bars. It’s a beautiful part of the city – also one of the most gentrified – and is in close striking distance to the party. The 4-6 tram will be right at your doorstep to take you across the Margaret Bridge (or you can just walk) and then catch the H5 train mentioned previously.
2. Erzsébetváros (District VII)
This is where I live. There are several different areas in district VII and if I were you I’d stay in the upper quadrant that is closer to the Városliget (city park). Anything above the 4-6 tram line on the “Erzebet krt” boulevard. This 2 person AirBNB is going for 55 euros a night during the heart of the festival dates (great price all things considered).
District VII is where most of the hubbub is happening in the city in terms of partying, eating, drinking and the like. It’s not the prettiest part of Budapest but plenty is going on here and it’s fairly easy to get to the island. You’ll catch the aforementioned 4-6 tram from Blaha Lujza Ter metro station to the Margaret bridge and take it from there.
3. Újbuda (District XI)
If I could do things over again I would live here. Unlike most of Buda – which is largely residential (and can be far away from the heart of the city) – District XI is incredibly dynamic. There are so many great bars and coffee shops and restaurants in this elegant neighbourhood in the shadow of Gellért Hill. It’s basically the Pest of Buda without any of the late-night hooliganism.
The only downside is that it is a bit further from the festival than some other locations. However, you can grab a #19 or #41 yellow tram from Gárdonyi ter to Bécsi ut (30-minute journey) which is only 5 minutes away from the Filatorigát stop. It’s looking heinously expensive during the festival dates – but if you can afford it than I would stay here for sure.
Camping can be a truly rich experience and you’ll make so many amazing friends from around the world. Particularly at an international festival like Sziget. People rave about camping here; I’ve heard about a few marriages that have even been spawned… So if you are brave and you do decide to camp, then best of luck to you.
There are two options for camping at Sziget: you’ve got the traditional basic bring your own tent camping and glamping. The wild version is included with your entry ticket (and bloody hell it better well be for the price). The glamping options (ugh, ‘glamping’, what a trite phrase) are mostly sold out at this point, but just in case you want to dosh out for a bit of extra comfort (you might as well just get an Airbnb at this point) then you can pick from the remaining choices on the Sziget website.
If you do make the choice to camp then here are a few things to remember from our local connect Anikó who has been to the festival 13 consecutive times:
- Bring a powerbank! That comes super handy, because it’s hard to manage the days around the battery life and Charging stations.
- Camp under trees if you are wild camping. (Shady and cool if its hot, protection from the rain if it dumps down).
- I always bring a pillow and a blanket makes everything homey (the glamping tents are equipped with pretty much everything you need)
- Bring your flag I always enjoyed walking around discovering all sorts of nationalities!
Guide to the Festival
Sziget is so much more than a music festival. Of course, the music is at the heart of everything, but there is also a laundry list of other types of performances and entertainment as well. From Ethiopian circus acts, to belly dancers, to creative workshops of every shape and size. There’s a comedy (and presumably some tragedy), yoga, meditation and everything in between. Sziget is 1,000 festivals in one and then some.
But, as we said, the music is at the heart of everything. And this happens across a plethora of different stages. We’ve described each of the most important stages for you below as well as highlighting a few of the top acts that will be taking place there and on which day/time.
The main stage is predictably where most of the headliners are playing. It’s the pivot which the festival turns, spins and whirls around. An enormous outdoor venue that is reserved for the most marquee performers. It’s also horrendously overcrowded at times. My advice is to stay towards the back near the bars and find a relatively empty spot to hear the ‘must-sees’ and then escape towards other pastures.
- Ed Sheeran (Wed – 21:40)
- Franz Ferdinand (Thurs – 17:45)
- The 1975 (Thurs – 21:30)
- Tove Lo (Fri – 19:45)
- The National (Sat – 21:30)
- Post Malone (Sun – 21:30)
- Florence + The Machine (Mon – 21:30)
- The Foo Fighters (Tuesday – 20:30)
This is sort of the second stage and takes place under an absolutely gargantuan red and white circus tent with 8 different peaks. Its got much more of an electronic vibe than the main stage with a diverse array of rock and alternative acts mixed in as well. Music will be pumping here till the wee hours of the morning. Be well aware that this stage can get very, very dusty!
- The Blaze (Wed – 01:45)
- Fakear (Wed – 03:45)
- CHRVCHES (Thurs – 23:45)
- Xavier Rudd (Fri – 22:00)
- Anna of the North (Fri – 23:45)
- Son Lux (Sat – 22:00)
- Polo & Pan (Sun – 01:30)
- Jean Tonique (Sun – 03:00)
- David August (Mon – 01:30)
This is the EDM tent. There’s some good and some bad and everything in between. Most of the bigger electronic names are at the A38 stage, from what we can tell, but there is plenty here to keep you moving and grooving as well. It’s the latest stage, with some of the acts only beginning their sets at 5 AM. So if you are looking for a late-night vibe head here.
This is what they say on the Sziget website:
Want to party at one of the most unique locations? Do you love electronic music? Enter through the dog-head and enjoy the Colosseum, built entirely from pallets. The theme is underground and progressive electronic music.
Consider us intrigued.
IBIS Europe Stage
This is billed as the ‘up and coming’ band stage with mostly European performers as well as Australian, Israeli, Jordanian, Turkish and Korean acts. Presumably, it will be a relatively chill place to hang out with an underground vibe. Perhaps you’ll see someone playing here that will be headlining Sziget 2029, who knows?
Petőfi Radio – Telekom VOLT Festival Stage
What a god damned mouthful of a name we’ve got for this stage. This is a stage to see Hungarian performances although they do mention that for the first time ever there will be international acts. They’ve also got some kitschier sets going on here like “90’s music”. Seems like it will be a more subdued vibe and a great opportunity to meet some local friends.
As far as other entertainment goes you can see the lot by heading to program page on the Sziget website. There’s so much to chose from you’re head will spin. Some of the things that caught my eye were Hungarian Classical Music and Jazz, the travelling funfair, the Sziget Beach and Chill Garden, Hungarikum Village, and the crowd favourite “Cirque Du Sziget”.
IBIS Open Lounge
To cool down and relax head on over to the IBIS lounge. They’ve got smoothies! Yes, smoothies. Detox smoothies, energy boosters, wonderberry smoothies. All sorts of smoothies. There’s also a private recording studio where you can produce an album (with cover art) and a groovy mash machine. They’ll have a cocktail bar with premium liquors so you can get a bit mischievous later on. A great place to meet some cool people from around the world united by the mission of escaping the chaos.
Some Additional Advice
Our main advice to you all – whether you are coming for a week, a few days or just buying a day pass – is to lose yourself in the moment, make friends and don’t stress too much. Which makes reliance on a guide such as this a little bit redundant. However, if you are the type that wants a few extra hints at how to have a jolly old romp then here is some advice:
Payment at the Festival is completely cashless. You can use your contactless bank card for purchases, but the easier way to go about things is to preload cash on to your festival wrist band using the Sziget app or by topping up at one of the card terminals at the festival. There is a handy guide of how to do this on the festival website. We would recommend downloading the Sziget app no matter if you are using their wristband system or not as it also contains all of the setlists, schedules and miscellaneous information that you could possibly need.
Try some Hungarian Drinks
Palinka is a fruit spirit distilled in the countryside (can come in a range of flavours from Pear, to peach, raspberry, plum and some other exotic varieties as well). It’s a bit deadly for most, but is a staple for Hungarians and is a must-try before you leave.
Unicum is like bitter Jagermeister. A herbal liquor that most people hate but I absolutely love. A great way to digest food and a little pick me up for your palate. Be warned that it really is tremendously bitter.
Fröccs is pronounced frooch (or close enough anyway) and is the beloved summertime drink for Hungarians. It’s just a wine spritzer but there are so many different styles to chose from. If its hot out a Sportsfröccs is a great way to keep your buzz and stay hydrated
Head to a Bath for the Hangover
Budapest is the City of Spas and it is everyone’s moral and ethical obligation to check out at least once while they are here. Plus, it makes for an unrivalled hangover cure. Can’t even tell you how many miserable afternoons have been collectively salvaged in this medicinal myth.
Király and Lukács are our two favourites in the whole city with much more subdued and local atmospheres than the bigger named such as Gellért and Széchenyi. Plus they are half the price at 8 and 12 euros respectively (instead of 20). You can also head to Margaret Island for an early afternoon chill-out session to escape the hubbub of Sziget and check out the Palatinus strand. It is more of a waterpark than a bathhouse but has some saunas and steam rooms to sort you out as well.
Cleanse your soul and keep the party going. Party, bath, party, bath, party, bath, party, BOOM. That’s the ticket baby. See our guide to the bathhouses for more information about bathing options.
Some final Dos and Don’ts from local insider Anikó
- In the morning chill at the beach side so lovely!
- Bring some wellies in case of rain
- Wear a hat, bandana, or dust mask if the weather is hot and makes everything REAL dusty…
- ABSOLUTELY ENJOY THE WHOLE THING.
- Don’t litter
- MOST IMPORTANT DO NOT LEAVE YOUR TENT BEHIND ON THE LAST DAY AND ABSOLUTELY NEVER EVER SET ANYTHING ON FIRE
Using the LikeLocals App
Budapest during the Sziget festival is an unmissable experience. Every year the city seems to blow up with this massive helium laced energy pump during the Festival week. The best way to do the Sziget Festival, and we say this from experience, is to balance a bit of Sziget with a bit of Budapest as well.
In addition to the scintillating bathhouses listed above, there are so many crazy places to explore around town. Follow the footprints of our locals to do so.
Download the Like Locals app and head on over to the Budapest tab. We’ve got you covered with the best coffee shops, bars, restaurants and tourist sites. Walk in the shadowy mists of Ottoman times, wander through the hills of Buda, and learn a thing or two about the magnificent history of the legendary Magyars.
Our locals, which include Willie and Jordan, have handcrafted these footprints so that you can have the best possible experience in BP. And imagine spending your day out wandering through the best city in Europe before heading out to a festival on an island in the middle of the Danube. Absolutely marvellous
So there you have it, folks. Sziget festival should be a blast. We’ll be there ourselves so if you want to meet up feel free to send us a DM on Instagram @likelocalsofficial. You can still by daily tickets, weekly/weekend packages, plus accommodation at the Sziget website. Lines are long at the door so we recommend purchasing beforehand!!