Budapest and the Sziget Festival has got to be one of my top highlights for 2019. Looking back at all of the photos, I can’t help but feel happy reminiscing the week we spent there. This was one of several trips that we took in August, but the one that will count towards my “one new country per month” goal. Let’s go!
We arrived in Budapest, Hungary early morning on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. From the airport, we hopped in a taxi to our hostel for the week.
Our room was in a shared apartment that overlooked the plaza in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. There were 2 separate bedrooms within our apartment. Three girls shared the other apartment room, all of them from Scandinavia. They were also attending the festival.
The location and view from our place was amazing, but the accommodation itself was less so. Our bathroom was filled with black mold and infested with drain moths. There were so many moths that a lot of them were also in our bedroom as well.
For the rest of the day, we worked remotely from the living room dining table. At least the internet was fast! After finishing up the work day, we went to pick up our city pass and explore the town.
We had a really great dinner at Dobrumba, mostly eating an assortment of tapas. Walking around, I found that there were a ton of fun streets to explore. This is the kind of city where you can freely walk around without having much of a plan.
At night time, we went to Place Bar to meetup and socialize with others who were also attending the Sziget festival. The word “socialize” always makes me nervous, as I never quite know how to walk up to a stranger and introduce myself.
But we did it! We broke the ice and managed to meet a lot of new friends from all over the world — Jordan, Mexico, Czech, UK and Vegas (lol).
We moved on together with our new friends to Szimpla Kert pub. This pub is a must visit when in Budapest, it’s huge!! And there are so many different things going on inside of this pub, it was so cool.
This was a great and unexpected turn of events from attending the meetup. We now had new friends and contacts that we would continue to keep in touch with for the rest of the festival (and still even now).
For Wednesday and Thursday, I had PTO requested so that we would have more than just the weeknights and weekend to experience the festival and explore the city of Budapest. It worked out pretty well for the weekdays where we did work remote though, since all of the headlines were late at night.
In the morning, the first thing we did was get ready for the festival and next to search for some vietnamese food. Erick screwed up and didn’t read the menu description, so he ended up with some noodle stir fry. I on the other hand stuck to the classics, pho tai.
Having properly cured our hangovers, we set off to the festival. Since we had a city pass, we were able to take all of the different transportation methods to event — bus, train, and boat. The first day we did a combination of bus and train, but later discovered that the boat was the most enjoyable.
The festival takes place on an island in the Danube river, Óbuda Island. Coming off the train, we had to walk at least 10-15 minutes (to and over bridge-K) before arriving at the entrance. When arriving by boat, you’re dropped off right inside of the festival.
Luckily we had VIP tickets for the entire event. I got them for super cheap by purchasing it on their “Earth Day” sale, which gave a free VIP upgrade for the same price as regular tickets. Because of the VIP status, we were able to pick up our wristbands easily via a separate line.
The entrance into Sziget was spectacular. There are many different housing options within the festival. Most people opt for the free option, which is to bring a tent and pitch it somewhere. There are camp site location upgrades for where you can pitch your tent, as well as various levels of glamping options. We of course opted to live in the city and commute everyday. I’m happy we went with this decision.
We arrived inside at around 1PM. If you’re looking to set up a tent, there’s still a lot of good spots available at 1PM. You can actually set up your tent up to 3 days in advance of the festival for a minimal price if you’re looking for the best spot you can find.
Within the festival, there’s everything you could need, including a full size market!
There’s also plenty of vendors selling all sorts of items, including tents, swimwear, clothes, and even water guns. Anything that you may need, you can probably find at the festival.
It was very hot this day, and I was feeling quite overheated from being under the sun for so long while exploring the vast offerings of Sziget festival. The island is huge!
The best place to hang out during the day time was at the festival’s beach. As you can see, the beach if fenced off in the water, so that festival goers don’t get swept off and down the river.
Inside the water, there were people doing all sorts of things like beer pong or frisbee. A group of guys playing frisbee accidentally threw it over the fence. They tried to get it but failed. Then a drunk guy tried to jump the fence before a lifeguard came over and stopped him. Luckily enough, there was a small motor boat patrolling the outside perimeter of the fence, and they were able to save the frisbee. It was a surprisingly monumental moment for everyone watching, which resulting in shouts of support and applause.
We dipped our feet and knees in the water, which greatly helped reduce the heat we were feeling. Walking through the shoreline of the beach, we passed throngs of people sprawled about, almost looking like families of sea lions. They were laying in all the most unlikely of places, too. We ended up following suit, and laid on the edge of a stage. It was really nice to rest under the shade.
Next we got some beer. To buy beer, you need to once again use your wristbands to purchase, as it was a cashless festival. It’s easy to load your wristband however, using the festival app. The app was well designed and implemented, which I highly appreciate as a designer. They even refund you whatever leftover funds you have after the festival is over (with a small fee)!
Throughout the festival, we found many art installations, interactive pieces, as well as stages that even looked like a work of art in itself (not pictured is an entire arena made entirely of palets).
The main stages that we were at during the week long festival were main stage and the mastercard stage. These tended to have more of the “headliner” type artists that we were looking to see.
Michael Kiwanuka on the main stage (Aug 7).
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls on the mastercard stage (Aug 7).
After a couple of concerts, we grabbed a quick bite to eat before preparing for the night time headliner, Ed Sheeran. I opted for this crazy schnitzel burner (spoiler, it wasn’t that great).
Jain on the main stage (Aug 7).
I didn’t know who she was before the festival, but she was great to watch live. High energy and simply adorable.
Ed Sheeran on the main stage (Aug 7).
Out of all the concerts that we went to during our week at Sziget, Ed Sheeran’s fans were the most intense. The crowds gathered to see him spread outward by the masses. It was impossible to move around, let alone breathe. Truly a disaster. To make things worse, Ed Sheeran’s performance lacked energy and enthusiasm. It felt as if he didn’t want to be there performing. What a disappointment, given that my husband is a big fan of his music.
After the performance ended, this is when we discovered the boat transportation. It was an easy way to get back home without too much walking or transfers. Plus, you get a beautiful river side view of Budapest, including this shot I took of the Hungarian Parliament Building.
This first day of the festival was pleasant, as we managed to see (most) of the artists we wanted to, and also got to meet up with our new friends that we made the night before. It always surprises me when people want to see me again for a second time, haha.
Thursday morning, we took the subway over to Széchenyi Thermal Bath. The city pass that we had included free entry to any one of the many thermal baths in Budapest.
The thermal bath was a nice change to the festival atmosphere. Only downside was that it started to sprinkle a bit while we were there, making the air a bit cold after having dipped in super warm water.
Continuing our day, we walked through the botanical gardens and parks over to Vajdahunyad Castle. The architecture of this castle was gorgeous, almost like a real life fairytale.
During our walk, I saw this statue. It’s amazing. This has got to be one of my favorites that I’ve ever laid eyes on.
For lunch, we went to K-point Table Grill Korean Restaurant. The food here was amazing and super authentic. One of the best that we’ve ever had in Europe. We ordered korean bbq, kimchi jjigae, kimbab, and of course beer and soju. What a treat!
For dessert, we went to The Box Donut. They are popular for square shaped donuts, as the name implies. But we ended up getting a drink instead.
Later in the day, we took the boat over to the festival. This is when we discovered the VIP area. Within the VIP area, there is an even more VIP section to stand right by the ledge, but we didn’t have access to that.
Franz Ferdinand on the main stage (Aug 8).
We were quite happy however with just the normal VIP section — access to a private bar, selection of foods, and bathrooms — all still with a decent view of the main stage.
Pale Waves on the mastercard stage (Aug 8).
Here we met up with our Vegas friend, Jessie, as well as some new friends from Hungary and Argentina.
Yungblud on the mastercard stage (Aug 8).
This artist, I didn’t know of prior. I remember seeing him on the list, but thought the name was really dumb. After seeing him perform live, I’ve decided that he’s a great artist, and I’m happy to have had the chance to see him.
Outside of the mastercard stage, we hung out on the grass, waiting for one of my favorite artists to perform.
The group of us ended up walking around together before the next show. There’s so much going on, it’s hard to keep everyone focused, haha.
The 1975 on the main stage, behind this tree with people’s wishes written on plaques (Aug 8).
CHVRCHES on the mastercard stage (Aug 8).
I’ve always loved all of CHVRCHES songs, so I’m glad that I got a chance to see them live (especially since I missed their last performance here in Lausanne).
Afterwards, we made our way over to check out the EDM tent/stage. It was super intense in there with all the lights and decorations. Had no clue this whole time that this stage even existed! That’s how big the festival is.
This concludes our second day at the festival. I think we are off to a great start.
On Friday, we had to work since I didn’t take this day off. We spent the day working half in the apartment, and the other half at a coffee shop. In between, we grabbed a quick bite at yet another vietnamese restaurant.
For dinner, we couldn’t find a place that would seat us since we didn’t have any reservations. Eventually we found this place that looked decent, Restaurante Fuego.
We actually went there because of the sauces. So many sauces!
This Friday, we decided to skip the festival, and instead go see our new friend who was djing at A38.
It can always be awkward to make that leap of faith and show up at a random person’s invite, but it turned out well, and now we’re good friends. The music was the best and so were all the friendly people.
We stayed there till around 4AM, who am I?! Erick and I shared a lime scooter back to our apartment after.
On Saturday, we had an early lunch at Retek Bisztro. This place was awesome for traditional Hungarian food. You just need to make sure to make a reservation.
Finishing up our lunch, we walked back to the docks to catch the boat over to the festival. By now, we pretty much had the transportation system down.
This time, we went to explore other aspects of the festival, besides just the music. There are lots of other forms of entertainment, including art performances (like the one below, super weird), talks, circus acts, and all kinds of classes.
Macklemore on the main stage (Aug 10).
We ate pizza in the VIP area as Macklemore was performing.
Our group of friends at the festival keeps getting bigger, as we meet new friends of new friends. So many nice people.
Somewhere some time, fireworks went off (just outside of the mastercard stage tent where James Blake was performing). I think they have fireworks almost everyday? I’m not sure. But I’ve heard them during the festival. This was my first time getting to see them though.
This night was filled with shenanigans. Wandering around up to no good and dancing everywhere we went. I danced so much that knees began to hurt, can you imagine that?
We didn’t get home until 5AM. Too much.
Sunday we took it easy since we had such a long day Saturday. Plus, we had work the next morning.
For lunch, we went to Biang Bisztró. Super bomb chinese food with lots of spicy options. They have a robot who makes fresh pulled noodles here, too.
After lunch, we did our usual gig, and went in search for some boba. This brought us to Bubbles. It was good, but nothing amazing.
At sunset, it was particularly beautiful.
From the castle district, we walked all the way down back towards the water. There are multiple spots to get picked up by the boat to go to the festival, so we found the nearest one to us.
By the time we arrived at Sziget, I was hangry. We quickly rushed to look for food. I settled for a slice of pepperoni pizza that was larger than my head.
Post Malone on the main stage (Aug 11).
This time around, we decided to stay far in the back for Post Malone’s concert. We just weren’t feeling very social after so many days of hanging with people constantly. Plus we had work, so we wanted to keep it easy.
I really enjoyed watching Post Malone perform, and feel that I like him even more because of his humbled personality. It’s refreshing to see someone like him.
We went back home after his show.
On Monday, we worked the entire day from our apartment, only stepping out at noon time for some quick mexican food at Iguana Mexican Restaurant. The food was alright, I personally wouldn’t go back though. I got chips and dip (guac, salsa, pico de gallo, queso, sour cream) and their 5 alarm chili.
Walking back to our apartment from lunch, we passed by the Virulj monument, which turned out to be quite fascinating.
Apparently there’s a ton of history around this. Let me retype one of the signs that I found:
Civilians Protest Against Monument Falsifying History
This monument was ordered by the government of Hungary (or, to be more exact, by Premier Viktor Orbán of almost unlimited power) and erected stealthily, following numerous delays, under the cover of the night dawning on July 20.
At the edge of the sidewalk across from the monument you can see memorial pebbles, personal items, photographs, books and documents. They have been brought here uninvited in recent months by citizens outraged by the falsification of history manifested in the monument erected peremptorily, without having consulted either cityscape professionals or the community.
In the official wording, the sculptural ensemble commemorates Hungary’s German occupation on March 19, 1944. As a result of the scandal following the publication of the design, the text has been changed to “the victims of the occupation”. The central figure of the composition is Archangel Gabriel impersonating the innocent Hungary, dropping (actually, it looks like offering) the country’s orb, while the German imperial eagle is preparing to strike. Thus does the work subserviently reflect the populist and authoritarian ruling political party’s new constitution, forced upon the population again without any consultation, suggesting that the state of hungary bears no responsibility for the genocide following the German occupation, including the deportation of nearly half a million Hungarian citizens (mostly Jews but also gypsies, gays and dissidents) to Nazi extermination camps. This monument is a lie serving a political intention.
Hungary was a faithful ally of Hitler’s Germany during WW2, being the first in 1940 to join the Axis powers. On March 19, 1944, the arriving German troops were received with bouquets rather than bullets. That occupation left the state administration untouched and the administration, in turn, enthusiastically and very effectively organized and executed the mass deportations, surpassing even German expectations. Hungary was the first in Europe, back in 1920, to pass an anti-Semitic law followed by a row of similar, increasingly heavy-handed laws stripping Hungary’s Jewry of more and more rights; the state that sent to their deaths twenty thousand people unable to certify their Hungarian citizenship in the state whose gendarmes and soldiers murdered several thousand civilians at Novi Sad in the winter of 1942-43; the state that sacrificed two hundred thousand soldiers in a senseless war, while some of its occupying units abroad committed a series of war crimes against the civilian population.
Historians of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences have unanimously condemned the message suggested by this monument, labeling it an attempt to rewrite history.
The protesters point out that, by erecting this monument, the government is making a concession to Hungary’s far right: the advocates of the nationalist, racist, xenophobic Jobbik party, while endeavoring to whitewash the memory of their admitted mentor, Admiral Miklós Horthy who governed the country on a clerical-authoritarian platform between the world wars, then led it to destruction.
The civil groups organizing the protest action, representing the sober and responsible citizens of Hungary and Europe, demand the false monument to be removed from this location. They call on the government not to monopolize social memory, nor to rewrite history; but to initiate a dialogue with society for carefully exploring the past, in order to facilitate the honest reckoning with old crimes and processing the lessons learned.
As a matter of fact, the monument is really a genuine symbol. It is the monument of the government’s arrogance and the criminal steps it took. Its removal will also be symbolic, signaling that liberty has returned. The protesters have stated they will continue their protest actions and presence as longa s this mendacious monument stands here.
What’s far more interesting to be is to see all of the personal objects, photos, documents, and candles left as a living memorial of remembrance. It’s hard to not get teary eyed here.
For more than 5 years, every afternoon, protesters gather to give speeches, songs, and have discussions.
Ok, enough on the history lesson.
We finished up work close to 7PM. We went for a quick bite at ÉS Bisztró. There I got tuna taretare in bone marrow and more Hungarian goulash (I can’t get enough of this). Erick ended up getting ribs! Oh my.
By the time we got to the festival, it was quite late at night. But we got there in time to see who we wanted to see.
Florence + the Machine on the main stage (Aug 12).
We checked out the other stage later on as well.
Coheed and Cambria on mastercard stage (Aug 12).
Both performances were awesome.
Before it got too late, we went back to our apartment. The walk back was particularly more beautiful this night.
On Tuesday, we followed closely to the same routine that we had on Monday. We worked from our apartment the entire day, only stepping out for lunch.
Lunch was at Budapest Bistro this time. The food was so good. I would totally come back here again.
We finished up our work as quickly as we could, and headed to Sziget festival for the 7th and final day. I can’t believe we made it! Well, it wasn’t so hard since we weren’t camping.
This was our crew for the majority of the last day. We started off with Johnny Marr on the main stage.
Twenty One Pilots on the main stage (Aug 13).
Another great artist to watch live.
They really knew how to put on a show, including having the drummer crowd surf with all of his equipment so that he could keep drumming and the singer running out and climbing a very high scaffolding (how?) to the very top. Crazy.
Saving the best for last, we had Foo Fighters on the main stage (Aug 13).
This is who I had been waiting to see and why I had originally booked tickets to Sziget festival. It was quite memorable and I’ll forever remember this concert.
Finishing up Foo Fighter’s 2 hour performance, we went over to the other stage.
IDLES on the mastercard stage (Aug 13).
It was really hard to say goodbye to all of our new friends. But we had to rip the bandage eventually. We said see ya later and went back home for the night.
That sums up our last day at the Sziget festival.
The next morning on Wednesday, we packed our bags and headed to the airport early. Though our flight was late at night, we decided that it was a better idea to work from the airport lounge and take all of our meetings there.
This meant that we ate at the airport. Check out the airport floor. That’s how dirty it was everywhere. Most of the people at the airport had attended the festival and were dragging in dirt because it rained the last day. Haha, what a mess.
I had a blast at Sziget festival, and would totally go again. We’ll see what plans are in stored for 2020. Maybe I’ll be able to make it happen again.
Regardless of whether or not you’re attending Sziget, Budapest is a breathtaking city that’s worth visiting. One of the best.
Thanks for reading!