March 15 is a historical national holiday in Budapest, Hungary commemorating the 19th century revolution against the ruling of the Hapsburg Empire. The city turns into a citywide celebrations, full of Hungarian banners, people wearing Cockades (kokarda), and enjoying their time off in parks, squares where processions, speeches, demonstrations and concerts take place. We have included some videos of various events on March 15 in Budapest to get some idea about the atmosphere and ceremonies (see below).
March 15 as a public holiday affects the opening hours of many places of interest in Budapest, but there are quite a few attractions that will be open on March 15, so there is a lot of things to do in Budapest in mid March.
Historical Background of March 15
The Hapsburg Empire was also challenged in its own homeland by Austrian revolutionists. In fact, the 1840s of Europe was experiencing a widespread revolutionary movement against royalties, striving to form more democratic governments. With little immediate success, but with long term changes and benefits.
In 1848 Hungary decided to take matters in its own hands, as the Austrian rule was far too much pressure, social and financial burden on Hungarians, who did not wish to give sons, husbands away to the Austrian armies to support the international conflicts of Austria, who wished to use Hungarian mother tongue (Magyar) as their official language, and who wanted to have press freedom, and more.
In March 1848, the first Hungarian government was formed, and initially it gained acceptance from the Austrian Emperor, as the Austrian first wished to quench their own local revolution. Once the Austrian revolution was defeated, the Hapsburg Emperor refused to let Hungary go, and the long stretched revolution of 1848-49 began.
The first prime minister of Hungary, Lajos Batthyany was a count, and held his office for just over half a year. When the revolution was defeated by the Austrian Emperor, Count Batthyany, was executed on Liberty Square / Szabadsag ter in downtown Budapest (aged 42). 13 other leaders of the Hungarian revolution and independence war were executed in the town of Arad, Kingdom of Hungary (now in Romania).
Highlighted Events and Ceremonies on March 15
Most of the events are related to the National Museum in Budapest where the first day of the revolution began, with mass demonstrations. This is also the historical venue where the 12 Points detailing what the Hungarian nation wants, was declared, or where the patriotic National Song poem was read aloud by the outstanding Sandor Petofi, Hungarian poet. No wonder, the building of the National Museum is a focal point of March 15 festivities each year.
Further important venues on March 15 are as follows:
- the Buda Castle with its hussar processions,
- the Chain Bridge, which often turns into a historical re-enactment scene,
- the Heroes’ Square where thousands of locals gather to listen to speeches, see shows and concerts,
- March 15 Square by the white Elisabeth Bridge, used for demonstrations, etc.
Of all the venues on March 15 in Budapest, we would recommend heading to the Buda Castle to see the spectacular Hussars (19th century style clad Hungarian equestrian soldiers), the traditional folk dances, folk songs, etc.
Video of National Museum – March 15: Hungarian Anthem:
Video of Hussar Processions, Kids Activities March 15 Budapest:
If you want to stay away from it all, the best option is to relax in a thermal bath (e.g. in Szechenyi Bath, Gellert Bath, etc., see the opening hours below), to spend a day on Margaret Island (Margitsziget) in the green park, to take a hilltop trip to the Buda Hills, and enjoy a ride on the Children’s Railway (see the March 15 train timetable here, and the Chairlift Schedule here), or to take a day trip from Budapest to Vienna, or to see some landmarks outside Budapest, e.g. the Danube Bend, Szentendre, Eger, Pecs, Kalocsa, Veszprem, etc. (note: the rest of the country also celebrates March 15).
Budapest Public Transport on March 15
Many routes of the major Budapest public transport are affected by the March 15 celebrations. As a rule of thumb, the best option is to take the metro lines which are connected to the most important attractions in Budapest very easily. Bus, tram, trolley bus routes will be most affected by March 15, but metros are running as usual on holidays, approx. every 15 minutes.We can only provide some observations and general guidelines, the official information is published on the BKV website.
In general the following changes are made by the company of public transportation (BKV):
- Tram 2: the scenic streetcar of Budapest, tram 2, usually does not run between Jaszai Mari Square and Boraros Square (Margaret Bridge and Petofi Bridge) until 7 pm on March 15. You can usually use the tram after 7 pm, after the festivities.
- Tram 47 and 49: the trams do not go to Museum korut Street where the National Museum is, as Muzeum korut is blocked on March 15 to give room to the festivities by the Hungarian National Museum. From Deak Square to Kalvin Square or the Liberty Bridge your best bet is to use the M3 blue metro line.
- Bus 7, 173, 173 E, the most important bus route of Budapest is usually modified on March 15. Often, even Elisabeth Bridge is closed, which adds more diversions to the Astoria, Kossuth Street, March 15 Square, etc. events
- Bus 86 is regularly diverted from Bem Jozsef Square, one of the venues of the March 15 events in Budapest. The restrictions usually apply to a few hours rather than the whole day.
- Bus 105 is affected by the restrictions on Szechenyi Square (at the Chain Bridge and the hotels: Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace and Hotel Sofitel, and Budapest Intercontinental by former Roosevelt Square). Its route is diverted at some points of the day on March 15.
- Bus 115: the route of bus 115 goes along Kossuth Square, but on March 15 these buses will avoid the square
Warning about March 15
Similarly to other historical national holidays, like October 23, there is no knowing when peaceful demonstrations and political speeches may turn into riots with yelling, and more aggressive behaviour. If your Budapest holiday includes the day of March 15, please check the current news about the mid March political and economic climate. Hungary tends to be a bi-party country with a left and a right group, whose interests are often colliding. Opposition parties and independent associations often use national holidays for expressing their disagreements, mostly in a very peaceful way and in civilized manner. Take a look at some of the videos made in recent years, and get more on youtube for Budapest March 15 (Marcius 15 Budapest).
Budapest Opening Hours March 15
Generally speaking, many attractions will be open on March 15, as well as bars and restaurants. The public holiday mostly affects stores, trade units, markets, and some services (e.g. beauty salons, hairdressers, tanning studios, etc.), and the public transportation in Budapest. March 15 is a national holiday, but the days before and after March 15 are as usual, not affected by the celebrations. Life goes on as usual.
Budapest Museums on March 15
March 15 is a special national holiday in Hungary, when many of the finest Budapest museums are open to the public, and the entrance fee is free for EU citizens. According to the Hungarian law, museums in Hungary are required to keep their gates open on March 15, and celebrate the national holiday by giving a chance to all to take a look at the exhibitions in the museums.
For instance, just to name but a few of the museums in Budapest:
- Hungarian National Gallery – in the Buda Castle Budapest
- House of Terror on Andrassy Avenue
- Museum of Fine Arts on Heroes Square
- Museum of Ethnography: one of the hidden gems in Budapest
- Ludwig Museum Budapest (the contemporary art museum)
- Holocaust Memorial Center in District IX
Budapest Parliament on March 15
Not only are the museums open in Budapest, but also the Hungarian Parliament building, where the Hungarian crown jewels are held. The Parliament is located on Kossuth Square in downtown Budapest. This is a beautiful and spacious square by the river Danube, where many thousands get together on March 15.
The Parliament of Hungary has long lines waiting to get in (similarly to holidays like August 20 or October 23). Please note that as of January 2013, admission to the Parliament building is not free for EU citizens, but March 15 being a special day, admissions are waived. Note: the Parliament (Orszaghaz) is open on March 15, but there are no guided Parliament tours on this day. Instead, it is simply and open day.
Budapest Baths on March 15
The thermal baths according to the management of the Budapest baths will be open, but instead of the weekday opening hours, you can visit the baths as if it was on a Sunday, including
Sunday opening times mean that the ticket prices in the baths on March 15 are more expensive, as they are on weekends. The modified opening hours apply to all the spa baths in Budapest, including Szechenyi Spa Baths.
- Aquaworld, the water park is also open on holidays, with weekend prices: March 15 will be open too
Budapest Stores on March 15
The grocery stores, shops, and retailers in supermarkets will be closed, as no commercial shops can operate on national holidays. That said, Budapest downtown has several 24/7 little shops (sort of convenience stores with some basic foods, drinks and toiletries), which have special permits to stay open on public holidays (including festive times in Budapest, Christmas, New Year, Easter, and other holidays).
Budapest Market Halls on March 15
Budapest Market Halls will also be closed on national holidays, and are usually closed on religious holidays too. As trade venues, the opening hours of market halls are legally excluding national holidays. Not only the market halls, but other markets, like the flea markets and farmers’ markets are also closed on March 15 in Hungary.
- Central Market Hall Budapest (Vasarcsarnok): Closed
- Lehel Market Hall Budapest: Closed
- Feny Street Market Hall Budapest: Closed
- Rakoczi Square Market Hall: Closed
Budapest Churches on March 15
- Great Synagogue Budapest Dohany Street: Closed
- St Stephen’s Basilica: open as usual (as on a normal calendar day)
- Matthias Church: open as usual (as on a normal calendar day)
Performances & Shows in Budapest on March 15
- Hungarian Operetta Theatre: the lovely Operetta theatre will have a performance too (please check their upcoming operetta calendar to get the latest info about operetta performances in Budapest
- Budapest Oldtimer Weekend in Budapest Railway Museum
- Hungarian Opera House: the Opera House in Budapest has no performances on March 15, and no tours are held in the afternoon, according to the official Opera Visit website: operavisit.hu
- March 15 Cruises on the River Danube in Budapest: cruises will run on March 15. See more about Budapest river cruises.
- Gyula Sausage Festival in the town of Gyula, Hungary
As part of the traditions, schoolchildren from 6 to 18 are also commemorating the events in their schools before March 15. See an example here (in Hungarian).