There are, throughout the world, just a handful of festivals that manage to bottle a sense of the scale, ambition, fan-serving cheer and sheer joie de vivre of Glastonbury, and Sziget, which takes place in Budapest next week, is probably the best of the bunch. Tickets are still available, so why not do something impulsive and get thee to the Island Of Freedom? Here’s why it’s so great.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
The festival takes place across seven days, from August 7 to August 13, and you can camp for the whole thing should you wish. That’s seven days of music, fun and exploring, after which point you’ll be a fully fledged Szitizen and won’t want to leave. If that sounds a bit too intense, worry not – there are plenty of different ticket packages offering access for fewer days.
It’s its own little world
Sziget is accessed by a bridge from the city, and to step within its borders is to enter a world of wonder. The site, on an island in the Danube river, right in the heart of the city, has everything: giant-scale art installations, massive stages, great food, wooded glades to relax in and even a beach!
You can apologise to Europe
Sziget prides itself on being the most pan-European festival out there, attracting revellers from every country in Europe and even running party trains from continental European cities to get people there. So, in this time when us Brits are the pariahs of Europe, here’s your chance to buy a representative of every great nation a beer and show ‘em we’re not all as twatty as Boris Johnson.
You can check out local food and culture
Sziget celebrates the culture and heritage of Hungary, with Romany music, a tongue-in-cheek recreation of a Communist-era funfair and the Hungaricum Village serving traditional Hungarian food. We recommend the langos – best thought of as a giant savoury donut slathered with garlic butter, sour cream and cheese for the ultimate in festival fuel (and, possibly, a coronary).
Mad things like this happen
The line-up is killer
Seven days means seven massive headliners and a line-up stacked. This year, acts include are an NME reader-pleasing selection including the ever-rocking Foo Fighters, face-tat rap superstar Post Malone, the always-entertaining Twenty One Pilots, the force of nature that is Florence + The Machine, gloom-‘n’-lol merchants The National, DJ superstar Martin Garrix and The 1975, who we like just a bit. Ed Sheeran is playing too.
Big names abound further down the bill too: Yungblood, Chvrches, Richard Ashcroft, James Blake, Tove Lo, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Michael Kiwanuka, Pale Waves, IAMDDB, Jungle, Parcels, Johnny Marr and many marr. Sorry, more.
You won’t stink
Sure, Glastonbury has showers – if you can be bothered queuing for them. At Sziget, the festival benefits from being in one of the most aqua-obsessed cities in Europe. Budapest is home to some spectacular spas which make use of the geothermal waters in the city, and a special pass will give you access to them alongside your ticket. There’s even a gorgeous outdoor pool on the neighbouring island to Sziget.
You can check out Budapest’s famous ruin bars
Because Sziget’s site is so convenient for the city, you can nip in to check out the famous ruin bars – vast old warehouses and townhouses converted into massive bars full of kitschy junk, cheap drinks, great food and fun that goes on until a morning-ruining hour.
It’s not just about the music
No no, just as at Glastonbury, where you can attend and smugly eschew an evening with The Killers in favour of a drag show in the Circus & Cabaret fields, at Sziget you can engage your culture gland and watch all manner of performing arts from around the world. This year, you can marvel at India’s Circus Raj, immerse yourself in West African rhythms with the Benin International Musical, be unsettled by the giant puppets and stiltwalkers of France’s La Caramantran, get your latin spirit going with El Colombiano Dance Company and figure out if Russian comedy is funny thanks to Denis Nikolin among much more on a packed programme.
It’s got right-on origins
Following a lack of funding for arts events following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Sziget was founded in 1993 by a group of students who aimed to unite the country’s youth and throw a damn good party. The festival holds its reactionary, revolutionary, political and positivity-focused spirit dear, and is still headed up by those students (though they’ve graduated now).
Michael Eavis likes it
Yes, the Glastonbury don himself attended Sziget in 2012, having told NME “I just want to see the overall impression of the whole site and the city of Budapest and the Danube. It sounds irresistible.”