POSTED: December 27th 2016

JENNIFER WALKER: See in the New Year in Budapest

Hungarian Parliament lit up during the fireworks display © Bigstock
Hungarian Parliament lit up during the fireworks display © Bigstock

JENNIFER WALKER in BUDAPEST / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Celebrate the end of the year in style in Budapest, one of the Olympic candidate cities for 2024. While you'll find that most events require compulsory booking well in advance, if you've left things to the last minute, the good news is there is plenty to do in the Hungarian capital that just involves showing up and having a good time. Whether you choose to watch the fireworks go off at midnight or revel in the city's free street parties, or you simply want to enjoy New Year's Day at your own pace by talking a walk up to Gellért Hill or the Castle for the views, or soak in one of the baths to begin with a detox in the healing water, you'll find Budapest is the ideal place to start 2017.


Szilveszter, New Year's Eve in Hungarian, is a big deal in Hungary. Many people start planning their festivities weeks or even months in advance, so while getting a meal or a drink might seem challenging for someone who hasn't prepared for the end of the year festivities, here are some ideas to help you keep New Year's festive in Budapest, as well as follow a few local traditions.


Street Parties on New Year's Eve


If you're in Budapest with no plans for New Year's Eve, you can pop over to one of the main street parties. These mostly focus on 3 major spots in the city's downtown area: Vörösmarty Square, Oktogon, and Eiffel Square next to Nyugati Train Station. However, be prepared for cold temperatures (dress up really warm and make sure you're comfortable) and crowds (people tend to pile in round 11pm). Entry is free, and you can be sure you won't be alone, especially in Vörösmarty Square, where the Christmas Market is held until the end of December.


The crowd is a mix of locals and tourists, and while you may feel the urge to drink a lot of sparkling wine or pálinka to get in the mood, try to be aware of your surroundings so you don't lose your friends, belongings or bearings. The street parties can get very busy, so it's easy to get lost in the crowds.


Sometimes you'll find live concerts over at Oktogon, which is a popular point for spending the countdown to midnight, although there is no official listing online about the planned events. City Park's Vajdahunyad Castle is also holding a free New Year's event with a Russian theme this year.  


You'll find smaller firework shows around midnight, but since Hungary has its biggest celebration on August 20th for St. Stephen's Day, the New Year's affair will be a little more modest than most cities this time of year, but you can still watch the fireworks at the stroke of Midnight around the city!


At the Stroke of Midnight


If you take to the streets for a party, don't be surprised that the mood takes a more serious note as the clock strikes midnight. Hungarians will sing their national anthem to bring in the New Year, whether you're in a box at the opera, on the streets or at a party. Once the anthem has been sung, the party resumes back as normal.


Tip: Wish everyone Happy New Year in Hungarian by saying "Boldog Új Évet" (Bol-dog uuy-eev-et).


New Year's Traditions

Each country has its traditions for this time of year, and in Hungary this mostly pertains to food. If you eat lentils on New Year's Eve, apparently it will bring your wealth since lentils represent little coins, but poultry will scrape it away. And you'll be lucky for that year If you dine on pork on New Year's Day.

There are also a bunch of forbidden and unlucky things that can happen to you if you do them this time of year, like washing and hanging out your washing, as someone may die, and also borrowing or lending anything, visiting or calling a doctor, also your mood sets the year. Happy on New Year's Day means you'll be happy for the rest, and gloomy, well you get the rest.

Enjoy Budapest and have a Happy New Year!

** ​JENNIFER WALKER is an ex-physicist turned freelance writer specializing in art, travel and culture, with a focus on Budapest, Hungary. She's a blogger for herself at Off the Bohemian Track, along with the Huffington Post and Perceptive Travel, and she writes about Budapest culture and gastronomy for The Budapest TimesWe Love Budapest and Budapest Local. She has written and worked for: DK Travel (Penguin books), Lonely PlanetBBC TravelThe GuardianCNN TravelVICE NewsSlateQuartzTripadvisorDraft MagazinePaste MagazineThe Calvert JournalOryx (Qatar Airways' in-flight magazine)OxfordWordsViatorGadlingThe Matador NetworkGOOD MagazineAtlas ObscuraBootsnall, Move Guides, Inside GuidesThe ExpeditionerARTES MagazineKunstpediaThe Culture-ist and Untapped Cities.

Keywords · Olympics · Budapest 2024

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