What’s Sziget Festival like?
In a word: Crazy.
In a few hundred more: keep on reading.
Here’s my open and honest Sziget Festival review so you can decide if it’s the one for you.
My first day at Sziget was their Day -1. The festival runs for a whole week from Monday to Sunday. Monday is Day -2, Tuesday is Day -1, Wednesday Day 0, and then it runs on normally up to Sunday.
Camping ticket holders have access to every day, while the weekend ticket-holders can come in from Wednesday, Day 0. I managed to get a camping press ticket at the last minute, although stood by my decision to stay in an apartment in Budapest to be with my friends, and to be comfortable.
This ticket meant, thankfully, that I could see headliners Queens of the Stone Age on the Tuesday. I’d made a faux pas in booking my original ticket and hadn’t realised you wouldn’t be able to see the first two nights of acts (Blink 182 were the others) if you didn’t book a camping ticket. Silly Bob.
This year they’ve done the same for Ed Sheeran. You’ll need to have the ticket for the first day if you want to see them. Check out the Sziget festival website for details on this confusing ticketing system!
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First day at Sziget Festival
Click if you want to find out more about my first day at Sziget Festival, but to summarise, I was overwhelmed. To paint the picture of my state of mind I was on my own and not had a sip to drink: I was welcomed by a wall of 16ish year olds absolutely smashed out their faces.
Some were trying to crawl up the metal gates while others held on to them to stand, hair over their faces and a big pile of sick at their feet. I wasn’t even in the festival yet. I’d just stepped off the tram from the centre of Budapest out to the festival on Sziget island. I don’t think they’d be allowed in the festival any time soon.
I wasn’t going to let that overshadow anything though. Just y’know, interesting first impression!
Here’s my review of Sziget Festival in Budapest…
Getting in and out of the festival
Transport for Sziget is relatively easy. The tram goes to within a 5-minute walk of the entrance gate, you just need to get off at Filatorigát. It can take up to 30 minutes to actually get to the entrance gates though, depending on the queue at the time you go.
There were loads of wristband checkpoints and if you’re anything other than on a weekly camping pass you queue for a new ticket every day.
I never had any problems getting home to by Buda apartment at night either. I think my latest was about 5am and there was always a tram within about 10 minutes of getting to the station. It was 350ft for a ticket – less than £1.
There were conductors checking tickets so don’t try to skip it or you’ll get fined.
There are also taxis waiting just outside the gate if you can’t quite cope with the tram, although apparently they got super busy at peak times, so you’d be lucky.
There’s also a boat service you can take if it’s anything before early afternoon, and there’s a bike storage tent too.
After signing up for the mandatory payment card and investing in a falafel wrap and a beer, I made it to the main stage in time for the balloon party. They’d given the crowd 20,000 balloons to let off so I’d planned on taking some awesome photos. Unfortunately, with my skills, it didn’t quite work out like that.
Every day there was some sort of ‘party’ at the main stage. At the flag party they gave out 10,000 free flags for everyone to wave around, the beach ball party at Lily Allen was pretty funny – they came at you from every direction. I had to bounce them off with my boobs at one point. We missed the colour party but judging by the technicolour crowd going past us, it was a good one.
One thing I do want to point out in this Sziget festival review, is that the crowds at Sziget are huge.
When they got over-excited at the main stage it was unnerving to think I was right in the centre of a good few thousand people. Over 415,000 attend Sziget – to put that into perspective there’s 170,000 at Glastonbury and that can get pretty crazy.
At Queens of the Stone Age I tried to get out from where I’d wandered in the middle and it took me about 20 minutes of ‘sorry’, ‘excuse me’, ‘thank you’ to even feel the fresh air.
Exploring the grounds
On my second day at Sziget Festival I got there earlier and had a look around as much of the site as possible before Placebo came on. I found the Sky Bar, a crazy amount of food stalls, the Hungarian Folk Dance Tent, the campfire and sandbox and an exhibition from the Hungarian National Museum.
There was so much going on in the day at Sziget – the full programme started from midday with all kinds of crazy ideas being played out, including yoga, dancing and Tai Chi. I really wish I’d made the most of this to have the full Sziget experience.
I’d love to cover some of those in this Sziget review, but TBH I was there for the music and with us staying in town I generally wasn’t even there until 4pmish.
It’s only going to get busier
My friends arrived on the Thursday and it seemed everyone else’s did too. It was so busy. So busy.
Bastille, Lily Allen and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were headlining the main stage so to even get close you had to battle with tens of thousands of people.
We got in the middle for Macklemore but my 5ft friend had some sort of panic attack at the thought of not being able to get out, much like I did the day before, so we spent the next 20 minutes getting out again. It was brutal. That was probably the worst moments of my Sziget experience actually.
I’d suggest standing at the back and just having a lovely time there, unless you’re super hardcore and ready and up for it that is. Of course.
Best viewing spots
Our favourite spot for watching the main stage soon became the food area at the back. You could stand on the benches and get a good view, you could breathe and there was plenty of space to dance around.
Once the main stage was exhausted we went to find somewhere else to dance. Sziget is a real 24-hour festival – there was always something to do. We went to the Colosseum – a scaled down replica with loud sound and Miss Kittin spinning some choons. Once that was done we found a little treehouse DJ box where he was mixing 90s tunes with some dirty beats.
You use a payment card
You have to pay 500 Hungarian Forints for the card (£1.25) and the same again for a bin bag. If you bring the former back full and the other back at the end you get your money back. Interesting. At first I thought the payment card was really annoying, especially as the queue for it was a mile long, but as soon as you get in the bar queue or food queue you realise how much faster it makes things from there. Apparently you can also get your money back from it when you leave, so I’m definitely warming to the idea.
What else is there?
We’d got chatting to a Sziget veteran who told us that the Luminarium was one of the best things at Sziget. So, on arrival, a few of us headed straight there. After queuing for an hour – the longest queue at Sziget by far – we were in.
It was like being inside a huge bouncy castle, but it wasn’t bouncy. It was so trippy in there, like a flashback to the womb. We wandered around for a bit through the different rooms until my friend suggested we play hide n seek. Honestly, it was one of the biggest mind tricks ever. I couldn’t find her and then I started to panic. I felt like a lost kid in a supermarket, mixed with something from The Labyrinth. Don’t go in if you’re in any way off your face, it will mess you up.
I watched Kelis and The Klaxons (not together) at the A38 stage. I really liked it in there, because it was covered it had a bit more atmosphere than the main stage and we had a good spot right near the front.
At the Irish Stage some old dude was up there playing an Irish whistle and then he bought some big dirty beats in and the crowd went wild. It was awesome.
Along with my other top 12 tips for survival at Sziget Festival I’d definitely recommend you have a good look around and don’t just stay at the main stage. There are some really cool stages throughout the festival, we had a great time at the World Village stage too – although I have no idea what we were watching.
On the final day we managed to get up in the Sky Bar, with perfect timing to the closing of Outkast’s set. This was definitely one of the most memorable Sziget experiences from my time there.
Sziget is so busy, so busy. It was only day 2 and already it felt more hectic than even Glastonbury did and there are loads more people still to come as the 5-day ticket holders haven’t even arrived yet. Loads of people will have day tickets for the weekend too.
People want to party hard. Some too hard. I saw some right messes being paraded past the crowd by their friends, even before 9pm last night. And the festival goes on till 4am.
Sziget Festival has the most internationally diverse festival I’ve been to. Speak to someone and you never know where they might be from. Unless they’re waving, holding or wearing a massive flag as a cape that is.
I missed out on
A huge chill area, the beach, Magic Mirror, (a hotspot for Queer Culture – as they put it), Cirque du Sziget (a contemporary circus my friend highly recommended) and the multi art stage. If you go, put more effort into seeing these than I managed!
To review Sziget in a few sentences…
- I definitely got into the swing of the craziness as the week went on.
- I kind of regret not making more of the day activities, but I loved Budapest too much.
- You should stick with the smaller stages to get more of an atmosphere and better sound.
- The food and the Sky Bar were the best and most unique things about Sziget Festival.
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