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.
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 already on 18th August with the spectacular fireworks closing the holiday on 20th August, Monday.
Main Program Venues
- Kossuth Square at the Parliament (Pest)
- The Banks of the Danube (Air & Water Parade: 09.15 – 10.00, Military Band Parade: 10.00 – 12.00)
- The Basilica (Holy Mass and Procession: 17.00)
- Clark Adam Square (concerts: 11.30 – 18.00 on 20. Aug)
- Várkert Bazaar in Buda: concerts and the Street of Hungarian Flavours
- 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!
This year St. Stephen’s Day falls on Tuesday. Most shops, markets, services will be closed on both Monday and Tuesday.
The majority of cafes and restaurants – especially in the city centre – are open though.
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.
The Chain Bridge and Elizabeth Bridge will be closed off all traffic on 20. August between cc. 18.00 – 23.00.
- 18. Aug/Saturday: 10.00 – 24.00,
- 19. Aug/Sunday: 10.00 – 24.00 , and
- 20. Aug/Monday: 10.00 – 24.00.
Location: Between Várkert Bazaar and Döbrentei Square in Buda (north of Chain Bridge)
Programs start on 18th 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 3 winners of the St. Stephen’s day bread contest (a white sourdough bread, honey apple rye bread, and a whole 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 18th August that everyone can taste (prepare for a long queue though).
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 18th, 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.
Boldogasszony Csipkéje – A Raspberry Cake
Boldogasszony csipkéje (it is a folksy name for raspeberry) won this year made by a Confectionery in Dunaföldvár town.
A whole cake contains more than 600 g raspeberries.
- Crispy layers and sponge soaked in raspberry juice, filled with raspberry-white chocolate cream
- whipped ganache with lemon and basil, raspberry jam and raspberry meringue make up the cake.
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.
In 2019 the Little Chestnut (Kicsi Gesztenye) cake made by the A Capelly Confectionery in Szeged town won.
The delicacy is without sugar, white flour, artificial additives and preservatives.
A sponge layer is covered with hazelnut-almond crunch then a blueberry layer spiced with lemon and star anise followed by light chestnut mousse and crowned with sugrafree milk chocolate.
It’s a cheerful and light concoction that everyone can enjoy without remorse.
A slice contains only 204 kcal, and only 14,9 g carbohydrates.
Family Programs at Várkert Bazaar
Concerts by local bands, dance performances provide entertainment for the whole family on the square at the Buda end of Chain Bridge.
Concerts from 10.00
On the Stage of Várkert Bazaar
Hungarian bands will play on the main stage of Várkert:
- 18 – 19. Aug: 10.00 – 23.00,
- 20. Aug: 13.00 – 20.00
The Street of Hungarian Flavours foodie festiveal welcomes everyone on each 3 days of the holiday, from 10.00 in the morning.
TIP: Visit the Parliament on Guided tour, starting at 11.00, then enjoy an early afternoon cruise on the Danube!
Festivities at the Parliament, 20. August, 08.00 – 09.00
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 08.00 am.
- Beethoven: King Stephen – Overture, Parts from King Stephen Rock Opera: Óbuda Danubia Orchestra and Honvéd Choir
Air and Water Parade, 20. August, 09.15 – 10.00
Venue: over the Danube at the Parliament
A spectacular show with the backdrop of the imposing building.
Military Band Parade at Kossuth Sqr. and the Danube, 10.00 – 12.00
Festival of Folk Arts, August 17 – 20.
This year the festival will be focusing on the theme of embroidering with several nations invited to show their artworks.
The Parliament building can be visited without preliminary registration and free of charge from
- 09.15 till 18.00
- 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
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
- the fireworks will be launched from 9 points from 4 barges and a pontoon on the Danube in front of the Parliament,
- from 3 barges and a pontoon between the Chain Bridge and Elizabeth Bridge, and from
- the Chain Bridge and Elizabeth 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.
- On the Danube embankments between the Chain bridge and Margaret Bridge
- Any spot from where the Parliament can be seen well: Fishermen’s Bastion in Buda Castle, the Citadel on Gellért Hill
- a rooftop bar like the High Note Skybar of the Aria Hotel – offers a 360 degree view of the city (reservation is required).
- teh Intermezzo Restaurant and Rooftop Terrace of Hotel President in Hold utca (reservation for the dinner & fireworks: +36 1 510 3407)
- 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.
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.