Early 2018 we decided to go on a road trip and check out some amazing natural wonders in the Balkans. Our plan was almost done, and we were ready to start booking accommodations when I accidentally noticed the Sziget Festival 2018 line up. Not that the Sziget Music Festival location was along our way – it wasn’t.
Yet, I desperately wanted to experience this 7-day music event that’s held every year in Budapest, Hungary. Naturally we purchased our Sziget tickets immediately before being sold out, alongside the Budapest City Pass offered by the festival venue.
Read also: Things to do in Budapest Travel Guide
We got to Budapest by car after a stop in the third largest city in Serbia – Niš, and another stop in the capital of Vojvodina – Novi Sad. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but we couldn’t wait to get to the Old Buda Island (known ad Hajógyári Island or Óbudai-sziget in Hungary) and discover the Sziget Festival in Budapest.
What is the Sziget Festival?
Sziget Festival is a very popular music festival held in Budapest, Hungary. It takes place every August and is among the top 20 music festivals in Europe. The festival is quite popular and often attracts between 400,000 and 500,000 visitors per year. In result, the organizers often manage to book leading artists such as Arctic Monkeys, Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar.
The opening date is always 7th of August, while the festival ends on the 14th of August. There are tens of different stages offering various types of music, activities and experiences.
The first Sziget festival was held back in 1993 and it was the product of enthusiastic music fans. At first, it wasn’t popular, but ultimately it established as a leading event in the area. Even Pepsi used to sponsor the festival and therefore the event was publicized under the name Pepsi Sziget from 1996 to 2001. Ever since 2002, however, it has been proudly carrying its current title – the Sziget Festival.
Where is Sziget Festival Held?
Sziget Festival is held on the Old Buda Island. This is the largest island in the Danube river in Budapest and it used to be a shipyard area. When it’s not home to the Sziget Festival, this island is a popular spot for recreation and relaxation.
The Old Buda Island Sziget Island covers an area of 108 hectares, and it can be quite confusing to navigate. This is especially true when the island is crowded with festival goers. Luckily, every visitor gets a Sziget Map as well as use the numerous signs across the island. There’s also a useful Sziget Festival App that can help visitors to both track events and navigate the popular Old Buda Island.
Sziget Festival Lineup 2019
When it comes to the Sziget Festival Lineup, the event usually attracts popular and relevant performers. As we will mention multiple times, in 2018 there were Dua Lipa, Kygo, The Goo Goo Dolls, Lana Del Rey and many other top names.
This year the lineup is equally amazing with Florence + The Machine and Ed Sheeran leading the list. You can find the entire Sziget Festival Lineup for 2019 here. While you’re at the festival, you can easily track the performers using the Sziget Festival app. Also, you can use the Sziget Passport, which often has all the necessary information.
Sziget Festival Tickets
In this guide, we will disclose the price of the tickets we bought last year and the offers available right now. Last year, we bought two separate 1-day tickets each. There was a promotion and one 1-day ticket to the festival was around €70 (approx. $78). This year, at the time of this writing, a single 1-day ticket is €75(approx. $85).
There are also 3-day tickets, 5-day passes, and 7-day passes for the Sziget Festival.
There are two other types of tickets available for Sziget: the Szitizen Prime and the moving-in tickets. The first are special tickets for better prices and a goodie bag – sadly, they are all sold-out. The latter is for those who want to move-in early and get the best camping spots.
Camping and Accommodation
With every purchase Sziget Festival ticket, visitors get access to the Sziget Camping grounds, too. Those who want something better than a basic tent can get camping accessories starting at €6. Glamping starts at €85 (approx. $96), plus there are many Upgrade Campsites, too. The prices range from €95 (approx. $106) to €189 (approx. $213), depending on whether you want VIP Camping, Alternativa Camping, ECO Camping, etc.
If you are looking into getting a cheap hotel accommodation, then I would recommend Hotel Hid. It’s very close to the light rail train that will get you to Arpad Hid bridge where you can either walk 10-minutes to pedestrian crossing to the Obudai-sziget island or get on the H5 train to get to the crossing for the island. There is free weekend parking by Hotel Hid if you are traveling by car, and you can purchase breakfast at the hotel if you want to.
We ended up booking a room at Hotel Hid the day we arrived in Budapest after our first hotel reservation at Hotel Timon was cancelled on the spot. It was the only hotel available near a train or light rail station with an affordable budget price.
The Add-On Services
Here, we’d like to mention the Sziget Add-On Services as well. These include the Budapest Citypass, Guarded Locker and VOLT – Portable Charger. Whatever you need, Sziget has got you covered!
There are porta potties all around the place. We also noticed showers, too. I think the showers were free to use, but I’m not sure as we didn’t need them. So, anyone can have a pleasant experience camping at Sziget Festival. You can make everything even better with these camping essentials!
Again, prices and rules may change after you read this Szgiet guide, so make sure to read all the guidelines by the organizers before making any final decisions.
Comedy shows, movies, plays, talk shows… all these are among the fun Sziget Festival activates visitors can take part in. Moreover, there are other fun things to do like bungee jumping! Yup, we were surprised too! There are also all kinds of parties, even boat cruise parties.
Festival goers can also visit the beach, take a dip or sunbathe. We have to mention the Foam Pit here, even though I personally find it disgusting. Other options would be yoga, dance therapy and all kinds of sports. In other words, it’s impossible to get bored at Sziget Festival!
Prices of Food, Drinks, Souvenirs at Sziget
We noticed that everything at the Sziget Festival was more expensive than in the city. It makes sense, you’re at a festival and you don’t need to travel back for 15 minutes in order to buy food. Fair enough. Nonetheless, we tried to save cash, but also try some things offered.
For that purpose, we spent a total of €42 (approx. $47) for two people in two festival days. We ate twice, had coffee, and we had a few beers. So, it’s not too bad, plus you can bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks which is amazing.
However, we’d like to point out that we usually got to the festival around 5PM, so we weren’t there for the entire day. We already had breakfast or lunch at the city, so we just needed dinner to keep us going. If you’re eating and drinking at the festival all the time, then you will probably spend double the amount we did per day.
Read also: A Trendy Budapest Food Tour
Sziget Festival Don’ts!
All festivals usually have a list of unacceptable things, behavior etc. Each year, Sziget visitors can find the list of things not allowed inside the festival area on the official website. This year the list is quite similar to one we had to respect last year.
So, visitors shouldn’t bring alcohol, illegal drugs and pyrotechnical objects. Additionally, gas heaters and gas containers are forbidden too alongside glass and umbrellas. Any striking and cutting tools are banned too and same goes for knives, any types of weapons, black jacks and so on.
Getting Around in Budapest
Those who’ll be accommodated in Budapest or those who’ll want to explore Budapest will have to travel to and from the Óbudai-sziget island. The best way to do that is using the Budapest public transport of course. There’s a special tram line that takes visitors from the entrance near the city center and vice versa. The other options are walking and biking.
I would advise against going with a car to the Old Buda Island because everything is crowded and impossible to find a parking spot. Plus, if you plan to drink alcohol, then it’s definitely the best idea to use public transport. What I do recommend, however, is buying the Budapest transport card.
Budapest Citypass can be bought directly via the Sziget Festival website. It allows festival goers to use all public transport, explore the city for discounted prices and even get free goodies. We got a free entrance to The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath! The prices range between 19 EUR and 49 EUR, depending on the number of covered days (2, 5 or 13).
Other than that, there are many connections throughout the city and moving around is easy and convenient. The Budapest City Pass is like a wristband where the covered dates are marked, so you just show it to inspection officers. Just remember that there’s a single station from where you can get.
Read also: Top reasons to visit Budapest
Tips for a Smooth Sziget Festival Adventure
This is possible the most important part of our guide as here we’ll share our tips for a smooth Sziget adventure. All these tips are something we learned first-hand and wished we knew before arriving at the festival.
- Bring masks – As fun as Sziget is, it’s incredibly dirty we’d say. There’s lot of dust everywhere, especially when the crowds start arriving around 6PM. The first day we didn’t have masks and spend the night coughing. The second day we bought masks from a local drugstore (very cheaply) and everything was much better.
- Bring chairs – We didn’t know this was possible until we noticed a group of guys carrying foldable chairs with them. That’s actually quite smart since it gives you freedom to relax while listening to your favorite artist. It’s quite hard, especially at night, to find a sitting spot even for eating, let alone just relaxing. So, if you want your own comfort, make sure to take a foldable chair you can put in your backpack.
- Sunscreen and a hat – It’s quite hot at the Sziget Festival. After all, it’s held in August. We advise you to always bring a sunscreen and a hat with you to avoid getting sunburned or nauseous.
- Old clothes – As we’ve been to Oktoberfest (read our Oktoberfest guide here) and Exit Festival before, we were ready for this. Newbies may not know that the clothes you take to these festivals usually ends up ruined. So, leave your favorite sneakers at home and take your oldest ones. After Sziget we had a road trip across the Balkans and then threw the shoes out. Same goes for shirts and pants as even if you’re careful, drunk visitors will often spill beer or random drinks on you. I believe this tip should be included in any Sziget Festival Review.
- Head there early – It gets packed at the entrance and it may take hours to enter festival grounds. So, if you’re not camping there, you may want to head to Sziget at least 2 hours before your favorite artists performance. We’d also recommend going there early the first day so you can get familiar with the place, see how everything works before it’s overly crowded;
- Buy the Budapest Citypass – Citypass is offered via the Sziget Festival website. This wristband lets tourists to use all the public transport for free for a selected number of days, plus it gets them free entrances and discounts. We were extremely happy to have it, it was incredibly useful and I highly recommend it to those who plan to explore Budapest.
- Bring a raincoat – Umbrellas aren’t allowed at Sziget and sometimes Budapest gets rainy in August. So, we fixed that by buying rain coats, which turned out a great investment for the rest of the road trip.
- Upload lots of credit on the wristband – Don’t be afraid to put more than you’ll need credit on the wristband. You can get this money back at any time. So, it’s better to have enough funds while you’re there instead of having to wait in lines forever. Also, we were always looking for check points in deserted Sziget areas (not near the stages) as usually there was nobody waiting there.
- Find the isolated toilets – There is one main Toilet point with lots of porta potties. Easy to guess, this area is ALWAYS crowded! However, there are also isolated porta potties throughout the Sziget festival grounds. Find those and remember their location as they will save you lots of time. When everyone is waiting in line at the main toilet, you will have these isolated ones for yourself.
- Bring water and snacks – Visitors can bring non-alcoholic beverages and food. If you don’t want to bother with that (even though it’s much cheaper), at least bring some snacks and water. You’ll see how at times you’ll want some food and the food stands seem to be extremely busy at all times. So, instead of waiting in line, you’ll have something to keep you going for a while.
- Left side of main stage is better – If the Sziget Main Stage is always on the same place, then the left side is much better. We noticed this early and always tried to find a nice spot on the left side. It’s somehow easier to get a look at the scene, but also it has more space and enables you to move around easily.
- Get to MasterCard Stage in time – Again, if the Sziget MasterCard Stage is always the same, then it’s in an enclosed space. This makes it extremely crowded, but also impossible to enter once too many people get inside. We had this issue with The Goo Goo Dolls as we couldn’t enter and only watched them from afar where the entrance was.
- Prepare mentally for crowds, noise and dirt – There are people who don’t care about these things at all. However, we needed a few hours to get used to all the crowds, noise and dirt at Sziget Festival. I guess we didn’t prepare mentally for the Sziget adventure in time, and so we were kinda shocked when we got there. This may actually be the most important tip from this Sziget Festival Review as coming unprepared may bring you down.
Sziget Festival Review FAQs
What Does Sziget Mean?
In Hungarian, the word “Sziget” means an “Island”. The music event takes place on the Old Buda Island, which in Hungarian is called Óbudai-sziget and hence the name of the Sziget festival.
How to Get to Sziget Festival?
Since the Sizget Festival is held on the Old Buda Island, it’s not quite close to the center of Budapest. Therefore, visitors will have to either walk or get on a special tram that takes them near the Sziget entrance. For more info check the “Getting Around Budapest” part of this Sziget Festival Review.
Is Sziget Festival Popular?
Yes and no. In other words, there are other EU festivals that are much more popular, but Sziget is still attracts leading artists and thousands of visitors. So, we can’t say that it’s among the top 5 in Europe, but it’s definitely worth experiencing.
Do Many People Visit Sziget Festival?
This depends on what you consider to be “many people”. Records show that 2018 was the best so far with 565,000 Sziget festival visitors. In 2017 the number was lower and reached 450,000, whereas in 2016 around 496,000 people visited Sziget. Of course, the number of visitors is highly affected by the lineup and in 2018 there were lots of popular performers like Lana Del Rey, Kygo, Shawn Mendes and Arctic Monkeys.
Sziget Festival 2018 Lineup?
Last year was a record-breaking one in terms of visitors thanks to the lineup. Each day was amazing with the long list of main stage performers including Mumford & Sons, Lana Del Rey, Shawn Mendes, Dua Lipa and Kygo. Other top names included The Goo Goo Dolls, Zara Larsson, Clean Bandit and MØ.
Sziget Festival 2019 Lineup?
Many names of the Sziget Festival 2019 lineup have been published so far, and we must say the situation sounds quite promising. This year, the Sziget Festival main stage will belong to Ed Sheeran, Martin Garrix, James Blake, Post Malone, Florence + The Machine and Foo Fighters. Other top artists include Twenty One Pilots, Tom Odell, Years and Years and Tove Lo. I read this before writing this Sziget Festival Review, so check for other names soon.
Is Sziget Festival Expensive?
Well, compared to what? There are more expensive as well as cheaper EU festivals. The Sziget tickets and passes start at 75 EUR and go up to 300+ EUR. Food and drinks are pretty expensive in comparison to those offered at Budapest supermarkets. That’s expected of course but still it needs to be mentioned.
Is There Food and Drinks at Sziget Festival?
Yes. Visitors can bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages, which is great. Those unprepared or just hungry can also buy something from the rich offer. Hot dogs, burgers, pasta to go, crepes – there are lots of options. Same goes for drinks as there all numerous alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage brands available at Sziget.
How Do You Pay at Sziget Festival?
Cash is not an option. Instead, visitors get a smart wristband that is topped up at check points. Then, you simply scan it to make a purchase. In case you have any funds left after you’re done Szigeting, you can cash out the funds instantly at the same Sziget check points.
What is Sziget Smart Wristband?
The Sziget smart wristband is like a regular festival wristband. However, this one has a microchip inside that enables visitors to buy credit and then make purchases at the festival. So, basically, you order something and then just scan the wristband and voila! As we noticed, the Sziget wristband is quite strong and water-resistant.
What is Sziget Passport?
Each visitor of Sziget gets a Sziget Passport. This passport has all the useful details regarding the festival such as lineup, Sziget Festival map and other fun activities you can try. At the last page, moreover, there’s list of stamps to collect. Usually, the first 5,000 people to collect all the stamps get a Sziget gift. Ultimately, when everything is over, the Sziget Passport is a nice souvenir of a great adventure!
Now all that’s left after reading this Sziget festival review is to get your Sziget tickets and have lots of fun! If you already been to the festival, drop your experiences and tips in the comment section below.