is Sziget the best festival in Europe? Michael Eavis thinks so
is Sziget the best festival in Europe? Michael Eavis thinks so

There’s been lot of talk about the UK festivals this year.

There have been climate problems, with rain soaked punters at the end of their tether wondering how much festival spirit you can possibly take.

People have started to look further afield with many going to the better known Spanish festivals but you can do no worse than being even more adventurous and taking advantage of cheap air travel and going to Sziget Festival in Hungary.

Held on an island in the middle of the Danube, Sziget boasts a great bill and is magnetic pull for more than 60 different nationalities with a few thousand brits already making the trip.

Here’s a top 10 reasons why it’s so good…

1. The weather

Of course this is a bit unfair. Afterall climate can be unpredictable and Sziget has had its rare muddy ones but in general it’s very pleasant. It’s sunny. And warm all night. This makes people very relaxed and a party atmosphere is inevitable. There are no gritted teeth- having a good time survivors- crawling out of their tents talking about ‘festival spirit’ just people having stood time. All night. And not wearing pastil rain gear like frozen garden gnomes.

2. The line up

This is a festival that understands eclectic. From metal to gypsy folk to dance to hip indie it’s all here. Tapping into the modern notion of the ‘iPod generation’ Sziget gets it when it comes to people broader tastes. With the Internet you can now hear everything so why not see it as well. There is more music in the world that hipster, white boy, indie and it’s reflected brilliantly here over nearly 50 different stages.

3. The location

An island in the middle of the Danube is a pretty cool spot for a festival, perfect in fact. It creates the sense that you are in your own world, lost in festival madness and that’s a good thing. Stumbling back to reality never seemed so strange after days lost in the fields and forests of Sziget. It’s also a couple of miles from Budapest one of the most beautiful cities in Europe so you can overload on culture on your day off.

4. The Gypsy music

Sziget has about 50 stages dotted around the island. This is a good thing. It means an insane diversity of music. One minute you can be watching the Horrors on the main stage and the next swerving the pop bombast of the Killers by getting lost in the Roma tent watching a Romanian gypsy band that gets the whole room dancing to a folk music that sounds as timeless as most pop music sounds trapped in the moment.
This is no dour worthwhile music, this is an alive and sexy hoe dIown of accordions and fiddles and songs that ooze fertility and life and cause dancing that swerves from men stamping on the floor to seductive hip twitching from the women.

5. Hungarian folk music

It was not just the gypsies that had their stage. The Hungarian folk stage was also consistently good, with the local music well represented. The Hungarians, with ten per cent of their population being gypsy, have soaked up their influence in their music but with a different approach. There seems to be some kind of harvest moon mysticism going on with a dancing troupe dressed in the white of traditional clothes dancing in a circle in the specially constructed wooden club house.

6. The Hungarian compound

Far from letting the McDonalds of modern music barge all local culture out of the way, Sziget celebrates its national identity with a whole area specially constructed for local culture. This is a cool idea. Who wants to go to a festival that feels like every other festival in the world? In the Hungarian area there were stalls selling local food which is a bit tricky to contemplate if you are vegan but is at least there own. The Rooster testicle stew confounded many but if you eat meat one part of the body is the same as any other surely!

7. The international appeal

Sziget is a festival that can really claim an international support with nearly 60 different nationalities buying up tickets. Maybe it’s because Hungary is sort of in the middle of Europe which gives is a cross roads feel or maybe because the promoters have thought that an international cross section of people is a lot to do with the old festival spirit.
There is a large quotient of people from the UK this year here for the Stone Roses but also nearly 15 000 Dutch who come very year, many of them in tangerine tops and who like to party.
The festival have also kindly booked Dutch bands to entertain their lowland brethren.
Everywhere you walk you hear a confusion of modern languages and it’s this cross cultural appeal that is great for helping to open up Hungary up but also to forge cross border relationships that have to be useful in our complex modern world.

8. The vibes

We don’t mean those rather nice chiming bars you sometimes find in jazz music but the atmosphere. The island is pretty busy and the atmosphere is great with an emphasis on good times. The festival’s unique history is part of this as it was started way back in the days when the so called communists held the upper hand and rock n roll was not actively encouraged.

9. All night partying

It really does go on all night, with a myriad of micro scenes spread across the site which again are really friendly and there is a great dance tent that never seems to end. Because of the weather you are not huddled against the cold and the rain and can actually walk about in a T shirt- a novel experience for us weather beaten Brits. This is also one of those festivals where you can camp on the site and not be huddled away in some long lost tent community on the other side of the fields like rain soaked monks.

10. The Budapest baths
The world famous famous Budapest baths are where you can get cleansed in hot and cold pools- from steam rooms to freezing plunge pools and are all part of the experience with a free pass being part of the festival ticket…

Check their website now, maybe pre-order a ticket for next year’s festival…

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Couldn’t agree more. I went the last two years but was wary of the Michael Eavis endorsement. The idea of pissed up sunburnt Brits flocking in, downing cheap beer
    and acting like knobs really would ruin a wonderful week. I’m not long back from the
    OFF festival in Katowice, as I was looking for a smaller alternative to the commercialised,
    rip-off, think your self lucky you’re here attitude at the likes of T in the Park. Eastern European festivals really do offer superb value for money, the opportunity to discover different bands and music, in a really chilled atmosphere where people respect their surroundings and the people they are amongst. At the OFF festival in particular it was
    an eye opener to see responsible drinking, guys actually using toilets instead of pissing
    against the nearest wall, and nobody lobbing plastic glasses containing god knows what
    into the crowd, or in your face aggression from people barging their way to the front. There was no lack of enthusiasm from the crowds who fully appreciated the performances.
    I really have had it with English festivals and next year it will be Sziget and OFF again for me.

  2. I attended Sziget last year and this year, and the endorsement did indeed lead to a lot of extra British visitors that were in fact quite annoying, relatively speaking.

    Basically those negative aspects that you described surfaced after 11 PM… lots of UK trash with a sort of aggressive attitude dominating the A38 tent when DJ Fresh played. The queue for that tent was also very pushy and British, while for other artists in that venue it was pretty calm, even if there were more people (judged by how many were actually in there, partying it up).

    They also, more than other nationalities, tended to flock together in small groups with a certain closed attitude, disincentivizing positive party people from treading near them.

  3. As a Brit, Ive been going to Sziget festival for a number of years and I love it for all of the reasons noted in this article. And I must reject the casual racism in the previous comment. Idiots, pushiness, and aggression exist in all societies. I have come across this collective behaviour carried out by lots of different nationalities at festivals – and in fact if I was to generalise, over the years it’s normally the main stage on saturday night where the crowds get most aggressive ( relatively speaking) and they don’t belong to any one nationality. Yet on the whole Sziget is one of the most laid back, and really well organised festivals I know. mostly what I remember is the great line up, the unexpected acts and activities that you don’t expect to love/listen to or paticipate in, the friendliness of all people no matter what their nationality, and the sense of humour that seems to run through the festival – giant talking pigeons anyone?


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