- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Budapest Guide (PDF)
There is certainly no shortage of festivals and celebrations for expats to enjoy in Budapest throughout the year. Events and festivals are also a great opportunity for expats to make friends and mingle with locals.
Here are some of the most popular events in Hungary's bustling capital city.
Annual events in Budapest
Gluttonous Thursday (February or March)
Also known as Torkos Csütörtök, this ever-popular festival marks the last days before fasting begins for Lent. During Gluttonous Thursday hungry residents can enjoy half-price dishes and drinks from all participating restaurants. Those with an appetite should book a table well in advance, as indulgence abounds and most restaurants will be full.
Budapest Spring Festival (March)
This internationally renowned cultural festival takes over Budapest for two weeks at the end of every March. Events and activities during the Budapest Spring Festival include jazz, opera and orchestral performances, not to mention dancing events, a chess festival and a designated day of puppetry for the children.
Pálinka Festival (May)
Pálinka is a traditional fruit brandy and is something that all expats in Budapest should sample at least once. The Pálinka festival at the end of May provides the perfect opportunity to do so. Apart from the drink, expats are sure to enjoy the charming celebrations dedicated to Hungary's favourite spirit. Every year a particular blend is chosen as the Pálinka of the Year and many distillers gather to showcase their wares and make a toast or two. There are also live music performances and plenty of street food stalls to line festival-goers' stomachs.
Craft Beer Festival (June)
Craft beer enthusiasts will love this Budapest festival, which celebrates the intricacy and variation of their favourite beverage. Expats attending the event should be sure to sample ‘Korty’, a Hungarian speciality beer that is rarely available on tap. Known locally as Főzdefeszt, the festival also attracts a variety of street food stalls, so expats will be able to complement their brews with a tasty meal.
Statehood Celebrations (August)
The anniversary of Hungary's statehood is celebrated with a literal bang on 20 August each year as a huge fireworks display takes place over the Danube River. This gorgeous display can be viewed from all over the city, but is best seen from alongside the river, from Gellért Hill near the Citadel, or even from the river itself, as special fireworks cruises are offered. The celebrations begin on 19 August (the day before the fireworks) with music concerts and food stalls galore. The festivities include magnificent processions and a breathtaking air show during the daytime before the fireworks begin after dark.
Sweet Days Chocolate Festival (September)
Every September, Budapest caters for those with a sweet tooth with this festival of all things chocolate. Sweet Days involves a variety of chocolate companies presenting their range of products, as well as activities for the kids and chocolate-making courses for adults.
Café Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival (October)
Previously known as the Budapest Autumn Festival, Café Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival is Hungary’s biggest arts festival by far. It includes exhibitions, concerts, performances and workshops held throughout the city for most of October. The face of contemporary art in Hungary for over 20 years, this celebration is not to be missed.
►To learn more about life in the Hungarian capital, see Lifestyle in Budapest
►Be sure not to miss the sights of this beautiful city by checking out See and Do in Budapest
"Dive right in! Take a basic Hungarian language course right away. Go to as many expat and mixed gatherings as possible to meet as many people as possible during your first six months. Remember – it’s not your country, so you have to adjust to their rules and customs. Walk the city to learn where everything is. Talk to people. Inhale your new life every day and savour the experience. Budapest is still one of the most fun, exciting and vibrant cities in Europe, so take advantage of your time here."
Read more about American expat Gary's experiences in Budapest.
Are you an expat living in Budapest?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Budapest. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.