Budapest Wine Festival was the absolute best surprise on our trip to Budapest in September and an event I definitely recommend booking your trip around.
It’s a huge wine festival taking place in the castle grounds overlooking the river and the city beyond. Just an amazing experience.
We are always interested in foodie events at home and on holiday, and local drinks are something we love to try when we’re away. Hungary is actually the oldest wine producing country in the world and has a fantastic array of wines. So imagine our luck when we found that they were holding The Budapest Borfesztivál (wine festival) the week we were there! We were actually visiting the castle grounds after seeing the Fisherman’s Bastion, when we noticed that they were setting up for the event. We decided there and then that we had to come back for it, and the following day we walked up the hill ready to try all the wine that Hungary has to offer. We’ve been going to the wine festival in Lima every year since I moved (it’s the largest in South America) so events like this have become something of a yearly treat for us!
Firstly, I have to mention the incredible surroundings of Buda Castle. It’s part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and most of it was built in the 18th century, however the older parts of the present day castle date back as far as the 14th century. Part of the ‘newer’ royal palace houses the Hungarian National Gallery, the National Szechenyi Library and the Budapest History Museum, while the courtyards and grounds are often home to a number of festivals such as these. You can also walk the walls in the older part of the castle and take in the views of the river and the Pest side of the city. It’s beautiful in the day, but at night the illuminated bridges and Parliament building make for a stunning sight. Just to note, the Buda castle area actually closes to the public while the event is on, so nothing is open during the festival hours, which is something to note if you only wanted to visit the castle!
Onto the wine…….
I had researched some of the best regions and grape varieties to try before we went so I knew where to head for first, because Hungarian wine was completely new to me. Plus, there were over a hundred stands to check out so I had to find a way to limit my options! My boyfriend and I made sure we bought tasters of different wines to each other so that we could both try more and we made sure we chatted to the people on the stands for their recommendations and favourites too. We’d already picked up a great bottle of Egri Bikaver from our local SPAR (the main sponsors of the event) but we knew we wanted to try more of this wine from the Eger region, plus I really wanted to taste the famous sweet Tokaj wine. On my list alongside these were Kekfrancos from the Sopron region, Juhfark from the Somló region, something from the Villány region, and I also wanted to check out one of their famous sparkling wines too. I honestly don’t think we tried a bad wine while we were there, but obviously some were more to our liking than others.
I had no idea how good Hungarian wine was until this trip and now I look for it everywhere! Unfortunately it’s not as easy to find in the UK as I’d hoped, and we were told that the Hungarians do keep the majority of their wine in the country so I imagine that’s why! I highly recommend going on the weekdays that it’s open and going during the day, as there are far less people. This means you can enjoy your wine in a much more leisurely way, speak to the people on each stand, and there are almost no queues. When we left in the evening, the place was packed and it was hard to move around from area to area.
There is food available, but be aware that prices are much higher than in the city! We ate a big lunch before and grabbed a small dinner after and that worked out perfectly for us. There is live music throughout the day and you’ll find bands and singers performing on different stages throughout the venue. It’s honestly such a wonderful event!
Prices are ridiculously reasonable and while you do have to pay separately for each measure of wine, you can usually try a small taste of the wines before you purchase, meaning you’re only spending money on the ones you really love. The prices for the tickets in 2019 were 3,000HUF (less than £8) for 1 day (or 6,000HUF for the full 4 days I believe) and that included entry to the festival, entry to the Budapest History Museum (during its standard opening hours), plus a crystal glass and carry bag. Then after that you pick up a ‘top-up’ card which you add money to (no cash allowed), to pay for measures of wine at each stand (these prices vary from vineyard to vineyard). This card can be purchased on site with a refundable deposit of 500HUF (£1.30) and your first top up must be a minimum of 2,000HUF (around £5). I don’t remember the exact costs of the measures (they varied a lot), but I don’t think I paid more than 500HUF per measure. You definitely can though, with some of the pricier wines coming in at 2,000HUF per taster or more!
This festival was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Budapest and something that I would recommend doing if you’re planning to visit in September. I’d even go as far as suggesting you book a trip specifically to go to this festival as we enjoyed it so much! The environment of Buda Castle was just the perfect setting.