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The best time to visit Budapest is hands down St. Stephen’s Day, August 20th.
If you are planning a trip to Budapest and have some flexibility on when you go, I would urge you to consider spending your time celebrating Hungary’s National Holiday.
Looking for the highlights of Budapest for your trip? Check out my post The Best of Budapest.
What is St. Stephen’s Day in Budapest?
St. Stephen’s Day is to celebrate the foundation of the Hungarian State, and is held on August 20th every year.
About a thousand years ago in the year 1038, St. Stephan was declared the first Christian King of Hungary. St. Stephan turned Hungary into a Christian state after a century of Paganism, therefore he is considered the state-founder of the country,
Why is this the best day to visit Budapest?
There’s no better time to visit a capital city than it’s country’s own National Holiday.
St. Stephen’s day is the best day of the year to visit Budapest because it provides the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in Hungary’s culture. St. Stephen’s Day will introduce you to Hungary’s music, art, history, and most importantly – food, all in one day!
How to keep up with the festivities.
The festivities largely are the same year after year, but the times may vary. The best resource for updated times are locations is here.
Várkert Bazaar in Buda – Music & The Street of Hungarian Flavors
This is one of my most favorite parts of St.Stephen’s Day! Food stalls full of authentic traditional Hungarian dishes like specialty stews or chimney cake line the Danube along the Buda side.
Of course, you are in Budapest, so there is music and plenty of beer to drink in addition to the ample food choices. I had a fantastic strawberry cider that I still think about to this day!
Listening to Hungarian music makes everything more fun.
Take advantage of the free museums
On St. Stephen’s Day, all the museums are free! However, beware – the lines are LONG. I would recommend choosing 1 museum that you’d like to go to on this day.
Here are some of my favorite museums that I would recommend visiting.
Hungarian National Parliament
This stunning Neo-Gothic style building is undoubtedly the most famous landmark of Budapest.
With it being the most famous building in Budapest, getting here early on St. Stephen’s day for a free tour is a must! Expect to wait a few hours if you are not there bright and early in the morning.
The Hungarian National Gallery
The Hungarian National Gallery is a fantastic art museum to view. The gallery is located in the Buda Castle.
When I went, they actually had a traveling Frida Kahlo exhibit that was quite expensive to view, so that was my “freebie” museum choice for St. Stephen’s day.
House of Terror
The House of Terror is a very emotional museum, and I would only recommend if you are interested in history.
This museum contains exhibits about the fascist and communist regimes that occurred in Budapest during the 20th century. The exact building was the site of countless murders and abuse and acts as a memorial to the victims.
Festival of folk arts
The Festival of Folk Arts takes place in Budapest’s castle district. It typically takes place over the course of a few days leading up to St. Stephen’s day.
Local artists from all around Budapest showcase their skills and crafts at this folk festival. It’s a great way to get an authentic sense of Budapest’s artistic roots.
Honestly doesn’t it look like an awesome time!? Someone get me one of those outfits!
Fireworks at the Parliament
End the night with stunning fireworks along the Danube in front of the parliament. Fireworks typically begin around 9pm (21:00.)
I hope you can see why St. Stephen’s Day is the best time of the year to visit Budapest.
You won’t find any other time of the year to experience Hungary’s culture all in one day!
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