With its reputation as a party city, Budapest celebrates Szilveszter, Hungary‘s New Year, with a bang. Street parties take place across the city and the explosion of fireworks marks midnight over the Danube River. Public transport operates until 1pm, but stores close at around 4pm and reopen only on January 2.
1) Street Parties
Budapest’s biggest street parties are held at Vörösmarty Square, where three days of live music and dancing kick off around New Year. Hungarian pop bands perform in Nyugati Square and DJs provide 10 hours of non-stop sounds at Oktogon Square.
2) Ruin Pubs
Grab a couple of beers in one of Budapest’s laid-back ruin pubs, usually found in abandoned buildings. There will be decent beer, a casual vibe, and live music from local bands. Szimpla Kert, the original ruin pub, in a battered old building on Kazinczy utca, has maintained its functional surrounds but serves great Hungarian beers and will be heaving on New Year’s Eve.
3) Danube Cruises
Take to the Danube River for dinner and a night cruise to see in the New Year; routes go underneath the Chain Bridge and past the Hungarian Parliament, wonderfully illuminated at night. Gypsy bands and folk dancers provide the entertainment and traditional dishes of duck, pork, lentils, and stuffed cabbage are served.
4) Wine Tasting
Book ahead to sample some excellent Hungarian wines and local pálinka fruit brandies on New Year’s Eve while enjoying the lavish surroundings of Buda Castle. Pogácsa, savory scones, are served along with revered Eger and Tokaj vintages.
The New Year is heralded in with firework displays at several venues in Budapest. The biggest is at on the Pest side of the Danube River against the magical backdrop of the Chain Bridge. Watch the display from the top of Gellért Hill for pole position.
6) Recovery Tips
Head for the soothing waters of one of Budapest’s famous thermals baths to steam away any party excesses. The Gellért, Király, Rudas, Széchenyi, and Lukács baths are all open until 8pm on New Year’s Day. Alternatively catch some chamber music at the New Year’s Day concert in Danube Palace; the Budapest Symphony Orchestra performs familiar pieces from Brahms and Strauss.