Among the festivals turned into multicultural events, the Sziget Festival 2019 has stood out with an edition full of jewels. In its twenty-seventh edition, it broke its budget record with a considerable 35 million euros. To give you an idea, with a length of 7 days, which remains year after year, this year’s last day had the same allowance as the whole week of the 2016 edition.
The interesting thing is that this economic injection is used, for the most part, to bring the greatest artists of the moment to the Main Stage. Among others we have counted with the Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran, Florence+The Machine, Post Malone, Twenty One Pilots, The 1975, The National, Franz Ferdinand y Martin Garrix with an unexpected cameo from Macklemore, along with some more that I take home as Johnny Marr and Honne.
And so more than 1,000 artists, actors and activists have managed to attract a total of 530,000 visitors as they pass through the island (vs. 40,000 at its opening in 1993). But don’t panic, since the maximum of 95,000 people circulating simultaneously in the island is far from the 3 million attendees of the Donauinselfest that crowd for three days Vienna, on another, smaller Danube’s island.
Of all the euphoria and explosion of colors, sounds and experiences, I would highlight this year the musicians who performed in the A38 Stage. The line-up of this epic stage is managed by the reincarnation of the Ukrainian ex-Soviet transport ship A38 that has been stranded on the banks of the Danube in Budapest for 15 years, welcoming the most innovative artists.
Once the party begins to come to an end in the A38 (around 5 am) there is no better after than the Colosseum, where we find in the open air, between columns of wooden pallets, the real techno-beat with artists at the height of Anna and her powerful branded sound.
The techno scene is not relegated in a festival that hosts absolutely all kinds of musical genres. On the other hand, if EDM is more your thing, apart from finding artists on the main stage like Martin Garrix you’ll really find yourself on the Bacardí stage. This year we had the opportunity to participate in the stunning Chinese party of elrow with artists like De La Swing and Paco Osuna, meeting the expectations of the lavish organization. With a family tradition at the heart of show business, from clubs and bars to theater and cinema, going through the boom of raves, elrow parties are already an international reference with presence in more than 33 countries.
Another of my favorite spots is the Cökxpôn Chill Garden which in recent editions has been joined with the beach in the far north of the island. In addition to being the perfect chilling place, it’s the only point of the island with 24/7 live music, which makes it the after of the after and in turn an excellent place to rest at mid-morning with their pouf-alike pillows.
Now, if you’re one of those with sunny rhythm in your blood, you won’t be disappointed by the Afro-Latino-Reggae Village stage, which apart from emanating good vibes is the epicenter of a variety of activities and shows, salsa classes, giant puppets and much more. Just next door you’ll find another hypnotizing rhythm, the Global Village, which reincarnated the old World Music Stage and brought together artists from all corners of the world, as well as hosting every night a bonfire harmonized with American and Hungarian folk music by the hand of the Danmark duo.
In the Europe Stage, which welcomed artists from Italy, Finland, Poland, Holland and the rest of the continent, we discovered two peculiar Spanish bands. La Ganga Calé is a nomadic group from Madrid that mixes a rumba fusion with funk, Latin rhythms and pop-rock, just like that. On the other side, the five members of the Barcelona band Maruja Limón incorporate a fashionable flamenco style with nuances of Cuban son.
If for some reason you are not convinced by the programme of one of the almost 20 simultaneous music stages distributed through the island, you can always opt for something more retro and dive into one of my favorite tents, the Slager FM Greatest Hits Stage that offers hits from the 80’s and 90’s without a break. Another option, for fans of those iconic crews that unfortunately collapsed after the death of their lead singer, is the Youtube Music Tribute Stage, in which Hungarian bands pay tribute by bringing to light the songs of bands like Queen (Hungarian Rhapsody), Nirvana (Lugosi Dani & Takács Vilkó), David Bowie (Bowie and Friends) or The Doors (Doors Emlékzenekar).
But we’re in Hungary, aren’t we? Hungarian culture is everywhere in the festival: volunteers who barely speak English, typical food stalls and the core of local activities, the Hungarikum. And for a total immersion there is nothing better than going for a walk around Budapest, seeing the old town, the ruin bars, going on a good ol’ free tour (ask for Gabriel) or enjoying its many thermal centers, some of which still have Turkish remnants. For all this the best thing is to buy a CityPass as soon as you arrive at the airport or at the festival itself, since it includes transportation throughout the city (from and to the airport inclusive) and a single pass for the thermal bath of your choice, plus a discount for the next visits.
Personally, I recommend the Rudas baths, which have at the top an outdoor hot tub in front of the Danube (a view to die for). Also essential is the visit, with an at height panorama of Budapest, to the Royal Palace and the colorful Matthias Church, as well as the North park of the city in which the beautiful 1908 Vajdahunyad Castle compound is located (originally made of wood and cardboard for the Hungarian Millennium Exhibition of 1896).
When it comes to camping options, it is essential to mention the freedom that the festival offers us to install our tent absolutely wherever we want within the island and although the idea of lying next to the main stage may sound tempting there are other somewhat calmer and even stimulating options.
We have the thematic areas such as the Siesta Camping, eminently Spanish, the French Ápero Camping which has a unique ambiance with its own DJ and even a stand of crêpes and Breton galettes (and pretty good) or the Alternativa Camping, Italian-speaking and with a small stage of its own, the Light Stage. But if you want to take the festival to another level try a splash at the VIP Camping pool, which in turn offers lockers in site and improved showers.
In the all-important subject, sustenance, a novelty this year is the appearance of an ALDI supermarket on the island, and that’s not all, because its prices are really super! At last we have an alternative to the island’s food booths (including the typical Hungarian Lángos), which are quite good for fast food gluttony but even the most experienced raver would get tired of the same story throughout the 7 days that the festival lasts. You need to fuel-up correctly for the endurance race, right? In addition, the biggest advantage of the mini-super is that it comes with a BBQ tent in which ALDI’s chefs, uniformed with its German logo, prepare the products you have purchased on the grill at no additional cost.
So if at this point I haven’t convinced you of how unique and incredible this festival is, I suggest you read the second of the chronicles, Sziget 2019: much more than Music.
Main Stage, A38, Bacardí Arena, Colosseum, Europe Stage, Volt Festival Stage, Music Box, Global Village, Afro-Latin-Reggae Village, Magic Mirror, G-Spot, House of Hungarian Music – Classical/Opera/Jazz Stage, Light Stage, Slager FM Greatest Hits Stage, Unicum Bar, Cökxpon Chill Garden, Youtube Music Lounge & Tribute Stage, Hungarikum Village.