Sziget Secrets: 10 things you didn’t know about Europe’s answer to Glastonbury

Budapest's Sziget is one of the most epic festivals on the European circuit – here's everything you need to know

Think you know Sziget? The uber-welcoming, self-contained Island Of Freedom in the heart of Budapest (easily one of the coolest capital cities in Europe, for the lager prices alone) where half a million revellers from over 100 countries across the globe descend each August to soak in a unique and head-spinning array of music and arts, from the world’s biggest acts to its most inventive dance, theatre and circus shows? Well let us assure you, behind the main stage line-ups, this year featuring Arctic MonkeysKings Of Leon, Dua Lipa and Tame Impala, there’s even more to it than you think. Here’s 10 little-known facts about the Continental Glastonbury…

It was the real ‘90s Woodstock

While the official Woodstock sequels got a bit, well, apocalyptic across the Atlantic, Sziget had their own tribute to the earth mother of all modern festivals in 1994. To mark the 25th anniversary of the original event at Max Yagur’s farm in 1969, Sziget recruited many bands that played the historic fest for what was dubbed EuroWoodstock, including Jefferson Starship, Blood, Sweat And Tears, Jethro Tull, Eric Burdon and Frank Zappa’s band, then renaed the Grandmothers Of Invention. It turned out to be the making of Sziget – 100,000 more people turned up than the previous year.

It’s heading for the big 1-0 in 2022

You – yes, you – could be the 10 millionth visitor to arrive at Sziget in 2022, following an era of exponential growth. Having started with just a 46,000 capacity in 1993, it greeted its 3 millionth punter in 2004, hit 6 million in 2012, 9 million in 2018 and was on course for 10 million ‘Szitizens” to have crossed the Danube to paradise in 2020. You’ve Covid to thank, then, for giving you the chance to bag the honour. Maybe they’ll make you mayor or something.


Sziget Festival
Credit: Press

It holds the world snogging record

Presumably in an attempt to get twinned with Gomorrah, Sziget got 1,592 couples to eat face simultaneously in 2000, thereby winning the Guinness World Record for mass kissing. Despite Matt Hancock’s best efforts, the record stands to this day.

Prince once asked them to turn down Motörhead

In 2011, His Purpleness headlined Sziget, and was so taken by the place that he snuck back the following day to watch a fado concert by a friend. Trouble was, Motörhead were playing nearby, characteristically making the sound of a nuclear deterrent in action. Unable to concentrate on the Mediterranean splendour of the event due to the overwhelming sense that the tent was being repeatedly strafed by a burning Messerschmitt, Prince requested that they turn down the main stage.

Indie history was made in 2011

That same year, Franz Ferdinand – named after the Austro-Hungarian monarch of the same name whose 1914 death helped lead to World War I – finally met Hungarian royalty backstage at Sziget, when they were introduced to the last heir to the throne, György Habsburg. How much the guy knew about the Glasgow indie scene around the Chemikal Underground label sadly went unrecorded.

sziget festival
Credit: Press

You can party your way there


Sziget lays on a ‘party train’ service from across Europe, complete with on-board DJs, transporting those Szitizens who can’t wait to actually get on to the island to get the festival started. Last train to transcentral, anyone?

Someone once paraglided the fence

Buda, the hillier side of Budapest which overlooks the island site, is a favoured paragliding spot, and the scene of a daredevil 2003 plot to dodge the (frankly cheap as chips anyway) ticket price. One foolhardy glider flew straight onto the site, landing in front of the main stage, thankfully, before any bands had started playing. As Sziget’s notorious security descended to throw him out, the founder decided to give him a ticket for his bravery/stupidity.

Sziget Festival
Credit: Press

It’s the most honest festival in the world

Ever lost your phone at Reading? Someone’s racking up Dark Fruits deliveries on your Amazon within minutes. Wallet disappeared at Latitude? All gone on artisan entrail burgers and poetry anthologies before you even notice it’s gone. But at Sziget, they’re a more considerate bunch. Once, someone turned in 1,600 euros at the lost property office. That’s the equivalent of over a thousand beers, or one night out with The Gulps.

You could get in for the price of a beer

Speaking of which, in 1993 the entrance price for a daily ticket was 300 forints, or around one euro. Less than the cost of a beer today.

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