The 20th of August, just another day for most people, but for Hungarians it holds great significance. It was on this day in 1083 that the beloved King István (Stephen in English) died, five days after offering the state to the Virgin Mary on his deathbed. Also known as St. Stephen’s Day, this national holiday is a hugely important date in the Hungarian calendar, with the streets packed full of festivities, celebrating all things Hungarian. You can try the tasty Hungarian food, look at the traditional clothing, and listen to the songs that were played and performed in days bygone. There’s so much going on, to help you get up to speed and make the most of the day, here’s the Like Locals’ Ultimate Guide to the 20th of August in Budapest.
The Street of Hungarian Flavours
Starting from the 17th August, you will find the Street of Hungarian flavours lined up at the Gastro Promenade on the Danube Bank in Buda. It starts at the Várkert Bazaar, a beautifully refurbished building built in the 19th century, stretching all the way to Döbrentei Square. You not only have a lovely view of the river but absolutely delicious Hungarian food surrounding you. From cakes and pastries made of apricot and plum, stews, stuffed cabbage, milk loaves, and scones. On this day there are also the three winners of the St. Stephen’s day bread contest, showcasing their baked creations. The queue to try the bread is pretty long, but it tastes so good that it is 100% worth it.
There is also a contest for Hungary’s Cake of the Year 2019, where the most skilled cake-makers in Hungary submit their recipes, with the winners selected by the National Guild of Hungarian Confectioners. This is something to savour, whether you have a strong sweet tooth or just love a good cake. This year’s winning creation was “Boldogasszony csipkéje”, a raspberry cake created by confectioner Norbert Tóth. Last year they introduced sugar-free cakes and pastries to their wide selection so that everybody can indulge. The 2019 winner in the sugar-free category was Kicsi Gesztenye, the “little chestnut” cake created by László Gyuris.
Once you’ve stuffed your faces, from around 10:00 p.m. onwards there will be live Hungarian Folk music and dance performances, so you can get your boogie on and burn off those calories.
State Ceremonies – Hungarian Parliament and Heroes’ Square
The state ceremonies will be held in a number of locations across the city, specifically around the Hungarian Parliament and at Hősök tere, known commonly as Heroes’ Square. Here is a list of some of the ceremonies that will be taking place:
- Flag Raising – This will take place at around 8am, on Kossuth Square, located in front of the parliament building.
- Air & Water Parade – This will be a stunning display taking place to the backdrop of the imposing and majestic Hungarian Parliament building. It starts around 9:15 a.m., finishing at around 10 a.m. As part of the parade, planes will fly low over the Danube river and through the bridges. It’s quite a spectacle.
- Military Band Parade – This is another awesome parade that you simply have to see. Like last year, it will also take place at Kossuth Square, and then along the Danube. This will start at around 10am and finish at around 12 p.m.
Details: Kossuth Square| Tues 20th August, 8AM – 12PM.
Festival of Folk Arts
As mentioned in our guide, What’s Happening In Budapest: August, starting from the 17th August, Buda Castle will be transformed for the annual Festival of Folk Arts. In its 32nd year, this event brings together the very best in Hungarian folk culture under one roof. From music, arts and crafts, history, and more importantly food and drink. Learn traditionally significant skills in workshops such as wood carving, instrument making, and egg painting. If you’re a foodie then taste traditional Hungarian delicacies and drinks, such as Palinka.
Details: Buda Castle | Sat 17th August – Tues 20th August
Blessing of the new Bread and Harvest Procession
This is an old Hungarian tradition which is bought back to life for the St. Stephen’s Day festivities. The participating people dress up in traditional dress like their elders did, and form a procession asking for a blessing to a new year of a fruitful harvest. It starts at Szent György tér in Buda Castle and ends at the statue of Szent István, located near Fisherman’s Bastion where the blessing of the new bread takes place. The expected start time for this is around 2.30 p.m.
Blessing of the new Bread and Harvest Procession
The Hungarian Parliament building is an architectural masterpiece from the outside and even more spectacular inside. Usually, you’d have to book to see what is inside, but to celebrate this monumental day, the Parliament building opens it’s doors to the masses with no booking needed. The parliament will be open on the 20th of August from 12:00 until 19:00 with the last entry at 16:00. When you venture inside you will be able to view the Grand Staircase, The Holy Crown of St. Stephen and the Dome Hall.
Details: Hungarian Parliament Building| Tuesday 20th August: 12pm – 7pm (Last entry at 4pm)
Holy Mass and Procession of Szent István Holy Right Hand
Hungary was founded by the most magnificent Magyar, St. Stephen’s Day, the first ruler of Christian Hungary who was canonized on the 20th of August in 1083. Legend has it that after his burial, his remains were exhumed for canonisation and said to be in such good condition as if he had been alive. The hand was then detached and to this day is on display St. Stephen’s Basilica. On the 20th August, the will be a mass outside St Stephens Basilica, and a procession to commemorate the beloved Patron Saint. The expected start time is around 5pm, and the route is as follows:
- Route: Start – Szent István tér > Zrínyi utca > Október 6. utca > József Attila utca >
Széchenyi tér > Zrínyi utca > Finish: Szent István tér.
Details: Szent István Bazilika| Tuesday 20th August: 5pm (Last entry at 4pm)
The Firework Finale
To finish off the 20th of August festivities, there is a huge firework display that lights up the Budapest sky red, white and green. I mean what better way to end the most important holiday of the year than with a bang. The firework display begins at 9pm, and there are many awesome spots throughout Budapest where you can see the fireworks, however according to our Budapest insiders, below are the best spots as recommended by locals:
Citadel, Fisherman’s Bastion, Gellért Hill, Buda Castle, or the embankments between the Chain and Elizabeth Bridge.
Local Tip: Get down early, as it gets packed very quickly, usually by 8pm these areas are packed.
High Notes Sky Bar and Intermezzo Rooftop Restaurant.
Local tip: For this, you will need to make a reservation, so get booking.
The view from the Southern tip of Margaret Island is stunning and well worth the trip.
Local Tip: Get trams 4 and 6 to Margaret Island, however, make sure to do this before 6pm, after this the bridge will close and then re-open at 12AM.
So if you happen to be in Budapest between 18th-20th August, join in the St. Stephen’s festivities and celebrate the founding of the great Hungarian nation with its people. It’s a historical, culinary and cultural experience that you have to see. Oh and if you’re looking for some more things to do, then check out what else is happening in Budapest this August.