On our visit to Budapest in August 2010, we did the usual tourist thing of visiting the main sites of the Castle district and came across the Festival of Folk Arts that’s held in the area around the Buda Royal Palace. The festival is held every year for four days in August around the National holiday of St Stephen’s day on 20 August, when Hungarians commemorate the founding of their nation 1000 years ago.
You can reach the area around the Buda Palace and the Hungarian National Gallery, set on the hill, by crossing the Chain Bridge and then climbing steeply up, or taking the Buda Castle Funicular to the top of the hill. We approached from a different direction , having climbed up the cobbled streets behind Art’otel where we were staying, and admiring the view from the Fisherman’s Bastion and colourful Mátyás Church, before walking along the street that runs along the top of the hill, overlooking the Danube.
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There were a few stalls along the approach to the main festival, but once we reached the wrought iron gates, we paid the entrance fee to enter the main festival. This Folk festival must be the place to see all the top notch Hungarian crafts and there was everything from beautifully embroidered textiles, to painted eggs, to country style pottery. There were also dough shapes piped with intricate designs, that I don’t think were designed for eating, although there was plenty that you could eat, including the Kürtős Kalács that we enjoyed – a sweet dough that is wrapped around a metal cylinder and roasted over the fire then rolled in sugar and cinnamon.
Read more: 3 days in Budapest – Budapest itinerary
There was also a stage where a succession of folk groups and singers were performing as well as traditional Hungarian dancers with plenty of skirt twirling by the ladies and boot slapping by the men. As a lover of fashion and textiles, I was fascinated by the costumes which varied from floral printed country style dresses, to close fitting velvet jackets and full sprigged skirts with plenty of petticoats under them. The common theme seemed to be that the men were the stars of the dance, with much leaping and boot slapping, while the role of the ladies seemed to be to look demure and dance daintily around their menfolk.
You really couldn’t fault the Festival for location, as we wound our way around the beautiful old palace buildings, now housing the Hungarian National Gallery, with glimpses across the Danube. I admired many of the ceramics and other lovely handicrafts, but I don’t think we actually bought more than a few postcards or small food items, mindful of the fact that we would have to bring it home in our carry on cases that were already at their weight limit.
If you’re not visiting in August you can still find many excellent Hungarian souvenirs, such a the painted eggs and embroidered textiles, on the top floor of the Central Market that is devoted to crafts. There was also a section for food stalls, which we found an excellent venue for an inexpensive snack lunch, where we tried the typical Hungarian snack of Langos that’s like a puffy pancake, topped with sour cream and cheese, although there were other toppings too.
I’d also recommend the Festival of Folk Arts as a family outing and there were plenty of craft demonstrations going on and we also stopped to watch a childrens’ entertainer on a different stage who had all the children up and dancing to his songs. The cost was 1500HUF (£4.70, €5.50, $7.60) for adults and 500HUF for children under 14 with children under 4 free. I hope you enjoy the boot slapping and skirt twirling and the mournful gypsy violins as we did.
While visiting Budapest we stayed at Art’Otel Budapest
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