Hundreds of thousands of visitors are getting ready to head to Budapest, Hungary to participate in Sziget Festival. Thanks to the CityPass offered this year, festival-goers can easily venture beyond the festival to explore the rest of Europe's fifth most visited capital.
The Hungarian capital will host some 380,000 visitors from 70 countries for the Sziget Festival this August 5-12. Across the river from the Óbudai-sziget (the island where the festival is held), must-see tourist attractions abound.
And there is all the more reason to visit these sites and museums this year, as Sziget is renewing its CityPass offer, first proposed in 2012. For between €9 and €29, the City Pass provides unlimited public transportation (metro, tramway, bus and special shuttles between the airport and Sziget Festival) for a period of between 2 to 13 days. It also provides one entry to a bathhouse as well as museum discounts.
Budapest, well known for its thermal springs, is home to 12 bathhouses and thermal spas. One of the most famous is the Széchenyi, which boasts the hottest water in the city. So hot in fact that spa-goers can bathe outdoors even in the winter. In all seasons, it is not rare to see bathers playing games of chess on the edge of the baths.
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the Széchenyi is bringing back its "Szecska" evenings through September 28. These "sparties" (spa + party), held on Saturdays from 10:30pm to 3am, turn the traditional bathhouse into an open-air dance club. The dress code for these DJ parties is simple: wear your swimsuit.
Overlooking the Danube, the Hungarian Parliament Building is among the city's most remarkable monuments. Extending across more than 17,000 square meters and 691 rooms, this is the largest edifice in the country. It houses a few lovely artifacts such as the Mihaly Munkacsy painting "The Hungarian Conquest" and King Stephen's ceremonial crown, globe, scepter and Renaissance sword.
While the downtown covered market may appear to be just another lovely tourist attraction, it is nonetheless consistently frequented by the locals, who come to stock up on local ingredients. Paprika, honey and salami are among the gourmet specialties found on the ground floor of the market. Upstairs, kiosks selling local crafts are interspersed with food stands, where one can eat on the quick. Among the offerings here are langos, traditional donuts that comes in both savory and sweet versions.
When the sun goes down, locals and visitors alike flock to romkocsma, or "ruin pubs." Located in disaffected downtown buildings, renovated for an alternative, even underground feel, these pubs bring in a hip, well-heeled crowd. Szimpla Kert was the first romkocsma when it opened in 2001, and it continues to occupy an important place in Budapest's nightlife. The bar holds the distinction of third place in the Lonely Planet ranking of the world's best 100 bars.
Camping at Sziget Festival
In terms of accommodations, festival-goers can reserve one of the dedicated camping sites and either pitch a tent or roll up a caravan. The sites have round-the-clock security surveillance, in addition to other perks. It's worth noting that around 60 restaurants, offering cuisines from around a dozen different countries, set up for the festival. Expect to pay around €5 to €7 per meal.
7-day CityPass with camping, festival access from August 5: €229