St Martin’s Day in Budapest is a festive day with some nice festivals in the city and many special menus at restaurants.
Things to do on St Martin’s Day in Budapest
Some of the best St Martin’s Day Events and Feasts in Budapest are as follows:
St Martin’s Day Festivals in Budapest
The one or two day festivals on St Martin’s Day in Budapest represent only a tiny fraction of the many small local St Martin’s Day feats in the rest of the country, especially is smaller villages and towns. What is definitely worth visiting, especially is you are on a winter getaway in Budapest with your family and children:
Wine Festival on St Martin’s Day at Hotel Gellert Budapest
St Martin’s Day (the day of Martin of Tours) is one of the traditional gastro goose events in Budapest, Hungary, and it is also the day to celebrate the Hungarian new wines (sort of a Beaujolais nouveau a la Magyar).
St Martin’s Day goose delicacies suddenly appear on all sorts of Szent Márton nap events (which is the literal translation of St Martin’s Day as you may have guessed).
November 11 is the feast day for goose meat lovers, and the bad day for Hungarian geese. Goose floods the menus of Hungarian restaurants in all forms, from roast goose, through foie gras (goose liver) to goose soups and more.
With so much goose eaten, one needs to drink some wine too, so you can expect to have lots and lots of – new (and old) – wines on St Martin’s Day events in Budapest, like the one at Vajdahunyad Castle, the home of the Hungarian Agricultural Museum or the St Martin’s Day at Millenaris Park Budapest.
Why Goose on St Martin’s Day?
November 11 is around the time when the young geese of the year has grown big and mature enough to be slaughtered (which is the pure butcher interpretation). In addition, before the cold winter days would set in, the goose farms were making the size of the geese flocks a lot smaller, keeping only about the tenth of the spring and summer sizes. These are most likely the practical reasons for having international goose days on St Martin’s Day. By this time, not only would all the wheat, grapes, fruits etc. be harvested and organised in the cellars / processed for storage, but the workers were paid (often given a goose in addition to the wages), and all jobs were done before the winter season. Lastly, after St Martin’s Day, one would start the forty day period of feasting until Christmas. So all these things would make early November a perfect period for turning the wheels and celebrating between what had passed and what would come.
On a legendary level, the geese are the main characters of St Martin’s Day maybe as a reminder how they have given away St Martin who was trying to hide from being chosen as a respected bishop in Tours. Martin was chosen by his community to become the bishop, but he was so reluctant that he hid amongst the geese: it turned out to be an unwise choice, as the geese, understandably, started to hiss and honk at the intruder.
Precaution on St Martin’ Day
It is not only a human ‘revenge’ on the unknowing geese or saying thank to the geese (at that time there was no vegetarian trend, so the mission of the goose was best completed on the dinner tables), but as the Magyar folk tradition goes, if you don’t eat goose on Nov 11 Szent Marton’s Day, you will stay hungry for a full year. The original Hungarian proverb rhymes, which makes it slightly more convincing: “Aki Márton napon libát nem eszik, egész éven át éhezik!” It is a bit like eating lentils on New Year’s Day in Hungary to become wealthy through the little coin shaped lentils (why Hungary is not the richest country may be due to our traditions. But lentil is good and healthy at any rate.)
St Martin from Savaria (Szombathely), Pannonia
What makes St Martin a special day in Hungary is not only the heaps of goose dishes, but also the fact that this particular saint, although he was not Hungarian, he was born in a Roman settlement, which is in present day Hungary (namely, Szombathely or Savaria as it was called in the Roman Empire, which is the tenth largest town in Hungary currently). El Greco has a painting of St Martin, the soldier-clergyman putting half of his cloak on a beggar (St Martin and the Beggar).
Unlike many people in Europe who make Martin of Tours processions with a horse rider representing St Martin and lanterns, the Hungarian Marton Day traditions these days are almost exclusively focusing on the culinary side of St Martin’s Day – and some other goose folk activities (crafts, songs, games). For instance, one of the most well known children stories in Hungary is about a goose shepherd, Ludas Matyi (Matthias Goose), whose geese are taken away by the local fat judge, Mr Dobrogi (Döbrögi). Matyi punishes the judge three times by wearing clever disguises (e.g. as a doctor). Now this story about fairness and rightful property always comes up on St Martin’s Day in Hungary, and may be more hardwired in our Hungarian sub consciousness than the religious Martin of Tours legend.
St Martin’s Day Menus in Budapest Restaurants
There are more and more restaurants in Budapest offering traditional and innovative goose specialties in Budapest, Hungary, e.g. Koleves Restaurant, Borkonyha Restaurant, Cafe Kor, Nancsi Neni Restaurant, etc. Here are some of the restaurants, which regularly feature St Marton Day menus:
Goose Feast at Bock Bistro, the Restaurant of Corinthia Hotel, District VII Budapest (Hungarian Wine bistro): the bistro style restaurant is innovative and full of astonishing Hungarian wines. Their goose specialties are playfully testing the limits and depths of goose paired with other ingredients (e.g. tomato chutney goose)
Goose Feast at Restaurant 21 in the Buda Castle: the restaurant, which is regularly on the top list of Hungarian restaurants is also showing some new sides of goose, the meat on Márton Day in Budapest
Goose Feast at Zoldkapu Restaurant (Zöldkapu Vendeglo) in Obuda (Old Buda, District III) in a nice and reasonably priced traditional Hungarian restaurant.
Goose Feast at Alabardos Restaurant in the Buda Castle: the restaurant, which has been for a long time on the top list of Hungarian restaurants will surprise you with delicious goose treats on this special day, Szt Marton’s Day.
Goose Feast at Vár a Speiz Restaurant in the Buda Castle: you can try new flavours of goose at the Var a Speiz Etterem.
Goose Feast at Trofea Grill Restaurant
Trofea restaurants in Budapest are an all you can eat chain restaurant with pleasant environment and affordable prices (especially regarding the open bar and the heaps of foods if you like eating a lot). Their Szent Márton nap feasts are around November 11 (may start earlier, e.g. from Nov 7 to Nov 18). Their special goose centered menus include goose soups, goose cold plates, salads, the traditional roast goose leg with steamed cabbage and potato.
Goose Feast at Fulemule Restaurant, District VIII Budapest (Hungarian Jewish restaurant): goose leg with Cholent, the traditional Jewish stew, tarragon goose soup, etc.
Goose Feast at Rosenstein Restaurant, District VIII Budapest (Hungarian Jewish restaurant): foie gras with Jewish eggs, home made goose jelly, goose breast dishes, etc.
Goose Feast at Borbirosag Restaurant, District IX Budapest (Hungarian Wine restaurant): the restaurant is said to be strong in duck, but perhaps the goose will not disappoint you either matched with the Hungarian wines.
Goose Feast at Rezi Serpenyos Restaurant, District II Budapest: Goose specialties for a long week from November 11.
Wine Festivals on St Martin’s Day at Hotel Gellert Budapest: goose delicacies, goose menu, new wines from some of the best Hungarian wine makers and live music
St Martin’s Day Outside Budapest
St Martin’s Day Palinka Festival in Siofok: a little town outside Budapest, by the Lake Balaton offering lots of Hungarian palinka spirits (fruit brandy) and geese around November 11
St Martin’s Day in Szentendre, Hungary
Although the nice little town of Szentendre is an hour’s train ride from Budapest, its Skanzen and unique St Martin’s Day events make it into the list as a must see. The skanzen is like a time travel into a 19th century little village in the countryside of Hungary: it is in fact an open-air folk museum, where many of the old peasant houses of Hungary have been rebuilt. You can visit the Libator at the Szentendre Skanzen, i.e. “Goose Feast” to sample goose and wine specialties. The Goose Feast is usually a two day cultural festival.
There are a lot more St Martin’s Day festivals all over the country in Hungary, if you should decide to take a tour to the countryside to see some more of Hungary than just the capital: Egerszalok, Vas, Balatonkenese, Domonyvolgy, Tihany, Hajduboszormeny, Noszvaj, Bogacs, Pannonhalma, Feldebro, Papa, etc.