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20. August-St. Stephen’s Day

August 18 - August 20

What Does Hungary Celebrate On August 20.?

20th August is St. Stephen’s Day in Hungary and it is a public holiday. We celebrate the foundation of the Hungarian state more than 1000 years ago.

a round-spahe bread with a national tricolor ribbon tied on itThe new bread is blessed on this day too.

Besides commemorations organized by political parties, countless programs await both locals and tourists all the day round

  • including things to do for families with children.

Festivities start on 20th August with the spectacular fireworks closing the holiday.

Main Program Venues

  • Kossuth Square at the Parliament (Pest)
  • The Banks of the Danube (Air & Water Parade)
  • The Basilica (Holy Mass and Procession)
  • Clark Adam Square (concerts)
  • Várkert Bazaar -Szilágyi Dezső tér in Buda
  • Buda Castle – Folk Art Festival (17 – 20. Aug.)

Learn about the variety of programs to plan your day well and catch a glimpse into Hungary’s history, culture, and gastronomy. Have a wonderful August 20th National Holiday in the Hungarian capital!

Quick Links: Hungary’s CakeStreet of Hungarian FlavoursDetailed ProgramFireworks: Best Spots to View

This year St. Stephen’s Day falls on Monday. Most shops, markets, services will be closed.

The majority of cafes and restaurants – especially in the city centre – are open though.

Museums also welcome visitors on the holiday.

Note: Public transportation services operate according to holiday schedule but with the Fireworks and other festivities changes in service – especially tram 2 along the Pest riverbank – can be expected.

Street of Hungarian Flavours, 19 – 20. August

chocolate snails and other pastries in woven baskets on the Street of Hungarian Flavors festA Gastro Promenade on the Danube Bank in Buda.

Opening Hours: 10.00 – 24.00 on 19. Aug/Saturday and 09.00 – 22.00 on 20. Aug/Sunday

Location: Between Várkert Bazaar and  Szilágyi Dezső Square in Buda (north of Chain Bridge)

Programs start on 19th August:

Visit the Street of Hungarian Flavours (Magyar Ízek Utcája) in front of the Várkert Bazaar, Buda, a beautiful, refurbished series of buildings built at the end of the 19.century, to have a taste of traditional Hungarian food and drinks.

You can taste

  • typical Hungarian dishes: stews, stuffed cabbage
  • the new bread (this year it is an all-natural spelt bread),
  • cakes and pastries made with plum and apricot,
  • milk loaves,scones and other delicacies (jams, preserves, honey, cheese).

Cake of Hungary – along with the Sugar-free Cake – will also be introduced there on 19th August that everyone can taste (prepare for a long queue though).

Hungary’s Cake 2017

Each year a special cake is prepared to celebrate our country’s foundation.

The National Guild of Hungarian Confectioners selects the best recipe submitted by confectioners from all over Hungary.

You can first taste it – along with the healthy version torte  (see photos below)

  • on 19th and 20th August during the culinary programs of the holiday (Street of Hungarian Flavours in Buda at the Várkert Bazaar between Clark Adam tér and Szilágyi Dezső tér),
  • then in major confectioneries everywhere in the country.

Balaton Hazelnut Mousse Torte

a whole round hazelnut mousse cake on a blue cake holder and a slice of cake on a white plate next to it
Balaton Hazelnut Mousse Torte – Hungary’s Cake 2017

Balatoni Habos Mogyoró won this year made by the Sugar! Design Confectionery (Paulay Ede u. 48, district VI. Budapest).

The cake looks delicious with the rich mousse layer made from hazelnut from the Lake Balaton region.

  • The base is hazelnut meringue with a crunchy hazelnut layer
  • blackcurrant jelly, caramel and hazelnut mousse add a nice combination of various textures and flavours.

Hungary’s Sugar Free Cake – a Healthy Version

With the sugar free birthday cake people with diabetes or the health conscious can also enjoy a slice of dessert.

a whole round pink cake on a white holder, surrounded with berries and almonds
Pöttyös Panni – Sugarfree Cake

In 2017 the Pöttyös Panni Cake made by the Zazzi Confectionery (Bécsi út 57-61., district III., Óbuda) won.

Its received its name after a children’s book girl, Dotted Panni (Panni is a nickname of Anne)

The delicacy is without sugar, white flour, artificial additives and preservatives.

The poppy seed sponge cake is made with almond flour then comes a layer of piquant raspberry mousse and sweet plum.

It’s a cheerful and light concoction that everyone can enjoy without remorse.

A slice contains only 167 kcal, and only 6 g carbohydrate.

Programs on August 18 – 20., (2017)

Family Programs at Clark Adam Square

Concerts by local bands, dance performances provide entertainment for the whole family on the square at the Buda end of Chain Bridge.

20. August – Concerts

  • 13.00 – 13.50 Kolompos
  • 14.00 – 15.00 Gabi Tóth
  • 15.30 – 16.30 Supernem
  • 17.00 – 18.00 Ferenczi Gyuri and the Rackajam
  • 18.30 – 19.30 Póka-Tátrai Regeneráció
  • 18.00 – 20.00 Message chain with the Petőfi Radio
  • 21.00 – 21.30 Festive fireworks on the Danube in front of the Parliament

Festivities at the Parliament, 20. August, 08.30 – 09.30

soldiers marching in front of the Parliament, that is decorate dwith the national flagAs usual, a series of state ceremonies launch the holiday programs in the morning, on St. Stephen’s day, August 20. to commemorate the Foundation of the Hungarian State.

The main venues of the state programs are Kossuth Square in front of the Hungarian Parliament, and Heroes’ Square.

Besides the state celebrations, a wide range of other programs welcome visitors both in the morning and in the afternoon ensuring wonderful time for the whole family.

The celebration starts with the raising of the Hungarian flag on Kossuth Square at 08.30 – 08.50.

Air and Water Parade, 20. August, 10.00

festival visitors in the courtyard of the Royal palace
Festival of Folk Arts in Buda Castle

Venue: over the Danube at the Parliament

A spectacular show with the backdrop of the imposing building.

Festival of Folk Arts, August 17 – 20.

The Festival of Folk Arts in Buda Castle will be still going during the August 20. holiday.

This year the festival will be focusing on the theme of embroidering with several nations invited to show their artworks.

Open Day in the Hungarian Parliament

2 soldiers standing next to the Holy crown in a glass cabinet, visitors viewing the crown

The Parliament building can be visited without preliminary registration and free of charge from

  • 10.00 till 16.00
  • last entry is at 16.00.

You can view the

  • Grand Staircase,
  • the Holy Crown of St. Stephen, and
  • the Dome Hall.

Blessing of the Bread and Harvest Procession

people in folk costumes on the Harvest Procession
Harvest Procession in Buda Castle

The blessing of the new bread and a harvest procession

  • starts at 14.30 on Szent György tér in Buda Castle and
  • ends at the statue of St. Stephen (Fishermen’s bastion) with the blessing of the new bread.

Holy Mass and Procession of St. Stephen’s Holy Right Hand

The mass will take place in front of the St. Stephen’s Basilica at 17.00.

  • Route of the procession: Szent István tér – Zrínyi utca – Október 6. utca – József Attila utca – Széchenyi tér – Zrínyi utca – Szent István tér

Fireworks Starting at 21.00

The dome of the Parliament showered in sparks of fireworksThe highlight of the August 20th-St Stephen’s Day holiday is the Fireworks launched from

  • pontoons on the Danube between the Chain Bridge and Margaret Bridge, the section in front of the Parliament, and from
  • the Chain Bridge

The 30-minute long dazzling show can be seen from numerous points in Budapest, and the  especially at the Danube banks in Pest and Buda.

Best Spots to View the Show:

  • On the Danube embankments between the Chain bridge and Margaret Bridge
  • Margaret Island – the southern tip, Note: Margaret bridge will be closed off from 18.00 on Sunday and trams 4, 6 won’t stop on the bridge, so get to the island before 18.00. The bridge will be re-opened and tram servcie will be available from around midnight).

TIP: One of the best venues to enjoy the Fireworks is from a ship on the Danube.

You’ll be also treated to a  pleasant dinner and live music.

Read more details on the Fireworks Show with Boat Tour/Dinner on the Danube on August 20, 2018.

August 20. – Historical Background

Stephen (István in Hungarian, was born in 969. and died in 1038.) was Hungary’s first king and he laid the foundation of the state by converting the nomad and pagan Magyar people (Hungarians) into Christianity.

Founding a State

Until the end of the 10th century the seven Hungarian tribes often attacked and robbed Western European nations. After a major defeat in 955, the Hungarian leaders decided to

  • give up the raids,
  • focus on settling down and
  • found a strong state.

István realized that he can only achieve this by converting Hungarians into the Roman Catholic religion.

The Crown of the First King

He received a crown from Pope Sylvester II and became Hungary’s first king in 1000 AD. The Holy Crown has survived the coming centuries and it is now Hungary’s most precious treasure.

You can view the Holy Crown in the Parliament (open day on 20. August)

King Stephen consolidated his power.

He built churches all around the country and invited Catholic priests to help to lay down the foundations of Christianity. István formed new, strict legislations instead of the former pagan rules and took administrative measures to organize the country.

As a result of King Stephen’s efforts, Hungary became a strong state and a protector of Western Europe during the Medieval Ages. Read more about the History of Budapest.

The Holy Right Hand

Stephen was canonized on 20th of August in 1083 and became the patron of Hungary. For the canonization procedure King Stephen’s remains were exhumed.

According to the story his right hand was found as fresh as the day he was buried.

The hand was detached and since then everybody can view our first king’s mummified right in St. Stephen’s Basilica .

August 20. became Hungary’s national day and stayed to be until 1945, when Communist leaders prohibited celebrations due to the religious nature of the holiday. In 1990 the Hungarian Parliament declared 20th August national holiday again.

Related: Sziget FestivalMore Budapest Programs in AugustJewish Summer FestivalFree Mini Concerts


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