Weekly newsletter

20 August: What To Do On St. Stephen’s Day – Budapest

Ferenc Sullivan 2015.08.19.

Each day, Hungarians remember the foundation of the Hungarian state over 1000 years ago on the public holiday of 20 August, named St. Stephen’s Day after the first king of the Hungarians. A number of traditions are tied to 20 August, considered the country’s most important festive day, such as the blessing of the new bread. Besides official commemorative events, each year there are plenty of exciting things to do all day long for locals and tourists alike, especially for families with children. The year 2015 is special because Friday, 21 August, has also been declared a public holiday to enable families to take four consecutive days off as the summer season slowly comes to an end.

As usual, the day will kick of with a series of state ceremonies centered upon Kossuth tér in front of the Hungarian Parliament and Heroes’ Square. The day will begin with the raising of the Hungarian flag on Kossuth tér from 8:30 am.

To mark the national holiday, the building of the National Assembly will open its gates to visitors for an open day, who will have an opportunity to take a peak at Parliament’s grand staircase, the cupola hall and the Holy Crown between 10 am and 17 pm on 20 August, with entry free for all and no registration necessary. Parallel to the period of free entry, guided visitor groups will continue to depart according to regular schedule from 9 am to 17 pm from the visitors’ centre.

Each year since 2007 a special cake, called the “Cake of the Country”, is prepared to celebrate the foundation of the Hungarian state to a tender called jointly by the National Guild of Hungarian Confectioners and the Prime Minister’s Office. The best recipe is selected by a professional jury comprised of well-known confectionery experts from cakes submitted by confectioners all over the country. Don’t be disappointed though, if you miss it on the big day – the winning nominee, Caramel Cake with Pannonhalma Apricot Distillate (pálinka) will be available at confectioners throughout the country for a full year! It can first be tasted – along with the sugar-free healthy version torte and a cake dedicated to the Hungarian Army – on 20 and 21 August during the culinary programs of the holiday (at the Street of Hungarian Flavours in Buda at the Várkert Bazár events venue between Lánchíd utca and Ybl Miklós tér).

Also at Várkert Bazár, a host of concerts, dance performances and a puppet show will provide entertainment to the whole family starting from 10 am. Children’s programmes begin at 13 pm, followed by concerts thrown by Hot Jazz Band, Irie Maffia and the Csík ensemble until the evening.

The five-day Festival of Folk Arts, organised for the twenty-ninth time this year, will be going on during the four-day holiday, until 23 August. The long-awaited festival will see masters of folk arts occupy Buda Castle with to market the products of their spectacular knowledge. This year the festival will be focusing on shepherds: their everyday life and folk craft.

Starting at 14:30 pm at Szent György tér in Buda will be the blessing of the new bread and a harvest procession, that will end at the statue of St. Stephen (Fishermen’s Bastion) with the blessing of the new bread.

At 17:00 pm, the festive Roman Catholic holiday mass and procession with St. Stephen’s mummified right hand will begin at St. Stephen’s Basilica in central Budapest.

The Budapest public transport company will operate several nostalgia rides on public transport routes over the long weekend, such as the MVIII vintage suburban railway train between Örs vezér tere and Gödöllő on 20 August, an IK-280T nostalgia trolley bus between Arany János utca and Astoria on 22 August, and a wooden-frame 436 nostalgia streetcar on tram line 2 between Jászai Mari tér and Közvágóhíd on 23 August.

At the end of the day, enjoy the traditional 20 August fireworks from the banks of the River Danube from 21:00 pm, or watch the show from the upper deck of a ship anchored on the river for the best possible view. Fireworks will be launched from ships on the Danube, the Chain Bridge, the Liberty Bridge and from Gellért Hill.

photo: Zoltán Máthé/MTI