Sziget Festival kicks off in Budapest

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The 26th Sziget Festival – one of the largest music festivals in Europe – kicks off today with the organizers hoping for a new audience record of 500,000.

The festival is held on Óbuda Island in the middle of the Danube in the northern part of the Hungarian capital every August. From its humble beginnings of 43,000 visitors in 1993, the event reached a record audience of 496,000 in 2016. The total area is 76 hectares (188 acres).

It is also Budapest’s main tourist attraction in the summer, together with the Formula 1 car race held in July. Organizers say the festival is also unique in that 55 percent of visitors come from abroad, unlike other major European festivals where the majority of the audience is domestic. This year the previously largest group of visitors, the Dutch, are expected to be outnumbered by the Brits.

This year’s performers include Lykke Li, Kendrick Lamar, Bonobo, Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks, Lana del Rey, Bastille, Mumford & Sons and Liam Gallagher.

Noise levels during the event have been a constant nuisance for nearby residents, sparking a series of lawsuits and investigations as municipality leaders try to balance the economic benefits of the event with the complaints of the locals.

The seven-day event accounts for around 5 percent of Hungary’s guest nights in a year and besides the profit of the organizers it also adds an estimated HUF 5 billion (US$18 million) in VAT and excise duties to state coffers.

A seven-day ticket for the event costs HUF 99,000 (US$360) while a single-day ticket HUF 23,900 (US$87). During the first festival in 1993, the same tickets were sold for HUF 1,800 and 300, respectively.

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