400,000 people. 7 days. 1 island.
If you haven’t heard of Sziget Festival, it is about time to put this epic yearly event on your radar!
Every August, hundreds of thousands of people from all over world flock to the beautiful city of Budapest to attend Sziget, a week-long music festival like no other. Sure, it may not have quite the same rapport as Glastonbury or Tomorrowland, but Sziget certainly holds its own. I’ve now attended Sziget Festival for two years in a row and would seriously recommend it to any keen festival go-er!
There are a few things to consider before attending this crazy week of shenanigans, so I’ve put together this survival guide for anyone planning to attend Sziget Festival.
Types of Passes
Firstly, there are a few different tickets you can buy for the Sziget Festival. You can either buy daily tickets if you plan to stay off the island and only attend a few of the days, or you can buy 5-day or 7-day passes, which allows you to camp on the island. To experience Sziget in its fully glory, I would definitely recommend getting a 7-day pass and camping on the island. There is so much more to this festival than just the bands playing in the evening, and you won’t get to witness unless you stay on the island during the day!
Yes, you may have to pitch a tent within millimeters of your neighbor, brave festival port-o-loos and barely shower, but camping is definitely the best way to make the most of the festival and it is what I’ve done for the past two years. You’ll have more of a chance to meet people, explore the activities on the island during the day and have the beauty of being able to walk home to your bed every night!
When it comes to Camping at Sziget, I would recommend bringing your own tent or buying one before you arrive in Budapest as this will be your most cost effective option. If you can’t bring one with you, there is the Auchun Supermarket about a 20-minute walk from Sziget that sells tents and other camping supplies- just get in there quickly as they tend to sell out of things pretty quickly! The other option (which is easier but less cost-effective) is pre-ordering camping supplies from the Sziget website and pick them up when you get to the festival. Here, you can order pre-pitched tents, air mattresses, sleeping bags, VIP camping passes or basic camping sets. I bought a 2 person camping set for 89 Euro which included a tiny pop-up tent, a foam mattress and thin blanket. I’m glad I wasn’t sharing the tent with anyone as it barely fit myself and my backpack, let alone two people!
If you are planning to camp for the whole week, I would also HIGHLY recommend buying a move-in pass. The move-in pass basically allows you to get to the island up to three days before the festival begins to claim your ground and pitch your tent in the best spot possible. Even if you get to the festival super early on the first day, you will still struggle to find a free patch of ground as the Island fills up SO QUICKLY! Facilities wise, you’ll find plenty of port-a-loos, a few blocks of actual toilets, taps and big shower blocks scattered around the island. If you want to shower, go very late at night or very early in the morning to avoid queuing up for hours.
Staying off the Island
If you don’t want to brave the festival camping life and would rather keep your creature comforts, there are plenty of accommodation options off the island. You can choose to stay at a hostel, or if you are attending the festival with a larger group of people, splitting an AirBnB apartment will probably be your most cost-effective option (hostels tend to rack up their prices during the week of the festival).
The festival takes about 30 minutes to get to from the city by public transport (via train) or 20 minutes by taxi, so staying anywhere in the city will give you viable access to the festival grounds.
More Than Just Music
The great thing about Sziget is that it is SO much more than just a music festival. The good bands generally play in the evening, which gives you so much time to explore the other awesome things that the island has to offer! Some awesome things to check out during your visit to Sziget include:
- Check out a circus performance at Cirque du Sziget
- Join in the fun during the nightly parties at main stage (the colour party is my personal favourite!)
- Put on your swimmers and go crazy at the Rossman daily foam party
- Explore the incredible Luminarium
- Check out the art installations scattered around the Island
Food Glorious Food
Whilst there are plenty of food stalls all over the island to keep you fed throughout the week, I would recommend going to the Auchen Supermarket at the start of the festival to get supplies if you are camping. This past year, they have just introduced a pop-up ALDI supermarket which is rather very handy, so if you need anything more throughout the week you can get it from there. As for food stalls at the festival, you can literally find everything from Hungarian, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Thai, even Russian cuisine! Most substantial meals from these stalls will cost you around 5-7 Euros. I mostly lived off falafel from a vegan fast food stall, tacos from a Mexican stall called Gringos Amigos and Langos (Hungarian flat bread). As for drinks, the bars offer a wide selection of alcoholic beverages including beer, wine, spirits and cocktails. Your cheapest option is beer, which sells at less than 2 euros for a pint. Standard mixed drinks start at around 3.5 euros.
The Chill Area
My favorite area on the island would definitely have to be the Chill Area, which is located next to Sziget Beach (well, if you can really call a fenced-off section of river a beach). This shady little spot is perfect for hanging out during the day. Here, you can spend your time lying on comfy pillows and mats, drinking chai tea, taking part in yoga classes or even doing Shisha.
Budapest is undeniably one of my FAVORITE cities in the world, so make sure you get out and explore it before, during or after Sziget Festival. Although my list of things to do in Budapest are endless, here are just a couple of things to tick off on your first visit:
- Relax in one of the city’s many Thermal Baths– Széchenyi baths are the most popular, Gellert baths have the most history and Rudas baths are a favourite among locals
- Climb to the top of Gellert Hill for the most spectacular views over the city (make sure you pack a picnic!)
- Check out one of the many lively Ruin Pubs scattered around the city- Szimpla is the most popular and is worth checking out
- Eat Langos (traditional Hungarian Flatbread) from the top floor of the Central Market Hall
- Take a cruise down the Danube at night and see the Parliament Building in all its glory
These days, it feels like many music festivals are centered around drugs and alcohol or dressing to impress, and the essence of simply gathering people together to enjoy music can get lost. Through promoting culture, adventure and diversity, I feel Sziget manages to still capture this spirit and retains a really positive atmosphere. I can safely say that Sziget is one of the coolest festivals I’ve ever attended and would recommend for everyone to add it to their bucketlist!