Budapest is one of the most popular European capitals among travellers. Hungarians, like any other nation, have their unique habits and behaviours that outsiders may find highly unusual or just plain weird. These quirks are things that make our world colourful and fun, and they should be celebrated more often.
The Culture Trip collected five unusual traditions that no one but the locals of Budapest can understand.
When it’s clearing out time (time varies according to districts), the whole city becomes a garage sale without the garage. Residents are only allowed to put their no longer wanted stuff (like furniture, clothes, etc.) on the streets for a limited period of them (otherwise, the city would become a junkyard. During this clearing out, anyone can take the stuff from the streets for free. Lomtalanítás literally means “getting rid of junk.”
Santas in speedos take over the streets of Budapest in mid-December. People have been celebrating the arrival of Christmas and raising money for charity at the same time since 2004. The Santas collect money for a different charity each year by running 3.5km through the centre of the city in the freezing cold.
If you like fireworks, you need to visit Budapest on the 20th of August, when we celebrate the Christian foundation of the state. The first Hungarian king Stephen I was crowned king of Hungary in 1000, which marks the foundation of our country. In honour of this day, organisers go all the way with the fireworks. These are set off from the middle of Danube so that they are in the middle of the city above the Danube, and that is how people from both sides of the city can get a clear view.
The carnival season arrives in Hungary during February. There are celebrations all over the country: people dress up in costumes and dance the cold away while eating traditional carnival food, like donuts! Doughnuts might not seem so strange in themselves, but there are a bunch of myths surrounding them. Click here for a great recipe and to learn more about the carnival doughnut.
Budapest is the capital of thermal water with dozens of amazing historic baths. One thing that travellers often find odd are the chess boards that can be found in almost every one of these baths. Locals like a little brain exercise while they are relaxing their bodies in hot water. It is customary for old friends (or enemies) to challenge each other to a friendly game of chess.