May Day in Budapest is the 1st of May, one of the Hungarian national holidays, known as Majalis or Labour Day. See what happens in the city of Budapest, May Day events, weather, public transportation, opening hours and more useful info. In short, May 1 in Hungary is a public holiday, when Hungarians celebrate Labour Day with picnics, concerts, outdoor shows, foods and drinks. More ideas about Budapest May things to do.
May Day Picnics & Concerts
May 1 is typically a very relaxed day in Budapest, when the busy city gets really communal. On the 1st day of May, the city of Budapest is full of people sitting in parks, listening to music, kids are entertained with puppet shows, circus shows, street buskers, etc. To put it simply, everyone is enjoying the gentle and sunny spring weather (which may also be rainy) in the open air, if weather permits.
There are multiple venues in the city of Budapest where May Day celebrations are held, some of them are on bigger squares, like the city central green square called Elisabeth Square (Erzsebet ter), right next to the chief metro station on Deak Square. The nearby Vorosmarty Square, St Stephen Square (Szent Istvan Ter) and Liberty Square (Szabadsag Ter), are also May Day venues, as is Heroes’ Square by the City Park.
The shopping streets in Budapest, Vaci Street, Fashion Street and Andrassy Avenue have cafes with open terraces, food stalls, street buskers. Kiraly Street, and Kazinczy Street, some of the busiest streets in the Jewish Quarter has often May Day programs (see video below)
Some of the May 1 festivals are held in the beautiful parks, like Margaret Island (Margitsziget), the City Park (Varosliget), Normafa Hill (Normafa hegy), Kopaszi Gat (Kopaszi Bay), Taban (near Buda Castle), Orczy Garden is another lovely park (near the Natural History Museum) etc.
Historically, the “International Labour Day” was a very communist themed festival with lots of processions, foods, concerts, red stars, pioneers marching, and all sorts of Communist shows. Now Communism is gone, but the shows and picnics remained luckily. Here is a silent video from the 1960s of the Hungarian Communist May Day.
But even if you just stay in the city and do not make it to the park, you can bump into May concerts, e.g. this May 1 video was made in Kiraly Street, Jewish Quarter Budapest:
Other May Day Events in Budapest
In recent years, there has been some special events scheduled for May 1, e.g. in 2012, Jenson Button was promoting the Hungarian Grand Prix by driving his Formula 1 race car in the middle of the city, roaring on a tiny stretch of “race track” from St Stephen’s Basilica (Szent Istvan Bazilika) to the Hungarian Parliament building. This must have been the most scenic F1 race track in history. The show was a prelude to the summer Hungaroring F1 Grand Prix car race.
Opening Hours on May 1 Budapest
Opening hours in Budapest are affected by the public holiday. Many of the attractions in the city are open, however, trading as such stops on this day, the shops are closed, as are banks, post offices.
If May 1 is close to the weekend, e.g. on a Thursday, then Friday customarily turns into a public holiday too (and is swapped with another Saturday earlier). Such public holiday weekends are called long weekends in Hungary.
Budapest Museums on May 1
May 1 is a special national holiday in Hungary, when many of the finest Budapest museums are open to the public, and often the entrance fee is free for EU citizens. According to the Hungarian law, museums in Hungary are required to keep their gates open on May 1, and celebrate the national holiday by giving an opportunity to all citizens to take a look at the exhibits 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 Baths on May 1
Most Budapest baths – thermal and spa baths – including the Turkish baths, Szechenyi Baths, Gellert Baths, etc. are open on national holidays, including May Day, the 1st of May. The only thing that usually changes on this day is that the opening hours may be shortened, and the bath ticket prices are slightly higher, as the weekend prices apply on public holidays.
Budapest Shops & Banks on May Day
Anything commercial in nature, like shops, markets, banks, post offices are closed on May Day in Budapest with the exception of smaller 24 hour stores (local groceries that are open 24/7 all year). Getting food, however, should not be a problem, as the May 1 festival in the city of Budapest, in its major parks (City Park, Margit Island, etc.) are packed with food and drink stalls. It is quite a gluttonous day indeed.
Getting the local currency (Hungarian Forint) is almost always better at the exchange bureaus than in banks, but try to get some Forints a day before May 1. While accepting bank cards and credit cards in Budapest is widespread, there are still a few places (including the May Day food stalls), where cash is king.
Public Transportation on May 1 Budapest
Getting around Budapest on May 1 is not a problem, as the public transportation system runs as smoothly as on any weekends (admittedly, with less frequent metros, buses or trams than on weekdays, but still very regularly).
Weather in May Budapest
Usually the weather in May is generous, warm and sunny, and we tend to recall to get sunny spring days to spend nice days in the open air, but the truth is, half of May is overcast or rainy, while the other half can get warm (up to 21°C), and summery – looking at the weather averages of recent years. May is capricious in Budapest, with a temperature between 11°C and 16°C (52°F – 61°F).
As there are some rainy days, it is best to plan both outdoor and indoor things to do, and Budapest has a lot to offer for sunny and rainy days too. So there is no way to get bored in May.
On pleasant days, you can sit at the many terraced cafes and restaurants (most have WiFi), and watch the world go by, or do some people watching, checking emails, travel guide tips, etc.
As for, as Hungarians say, “the rain in May is worth gold.” So at least the plants get enough water.
May Tree – Hungarian Folk Traditions
Traditionally Hungarian boys would decorate a nice tree with colorful ribbons for the girls of their dreams. This is not what you may see in Budapest, but in many villages in Hungary, standing a May Tree is still a living tradition. Usually the boys, or young men gather in groups to put up a tall May tree (birch, typically), and stand it in front of the girl’s house. The boy also may give a serenade, sing a love song for his love, and the girl, as a reply, lights a candle and offers wines for her love and the men who helped him to stand the tree.
In some places in Hungary, erecting a ribbon dressed May Tree is a communal event, where the May Tree is for the whole community, village or town, and is the symbol of welcoming spring.
Standing the May Tree usually takes place on or around May 1 in Hungary. In the picture, you can see a communal May Tree on Heroes’ Square by the City Park in Budapest.