Sziget Music and Arts Festival, held in Budapest, Hungary has quickly become known as one of Europe’s most acclaimed music festivals.
Sziget, nicknamed “The Island of Freedom,” presents a type of enchanting energy that draws in crowds of nearly 500,000 attendees from all over the world throughout the six-day event.
The 2023 edition of the festival, occurring August 10-15, was nothing short of a holistic getaway. Guests were invited to celebrate diverse cultures during the day and party en masse at night.
Read EDM Maniac’s Festival Report Card to see details about the festival below:
International festivals come with their own challenges but the language of love and respect was translated easily between those from near and far.
People were absolutely lovely and constantly smiling. It was really unique to connect with so many people from such diverse backgrounds and share a common passion for music.
Staff members of the festival brought an unexpected and warmly welcomed silliness to the festival grounds. Bartenders lent out free ice for our water bottles in the sizzling heat and camp security volunteers were seen sneaking water gun fights to keep cool during the day time.
The only thing that could have been improved upon was politeness and overall festival etiquette.
Some of the sets, particularly those from Billie Eilish and David Guetta, got quite congested. Packed crowds aren’t always a problem, but it led to fans pushing through the crowds without saying excuse me.
Language barriers could have been a leading justification for the unmannerly behaviors; however, folks were quick to apologize after being confronted.
Some of the most elaborate production amid the festival was showcased during the intricate performing arts presentations and activations.
Emotional storytelling in the form of circus shows, fabulously extravagant drag, and ethnic interpretive dances poured from every corner of the festival.
The time and effort that Sziget puts into representing all art forms from all countries is something to be applauded.
Interestingly, some of the smaller tents and performing arts venues were the most embellished and intricately ornamented while the majority of the music venues had an uncomplicated presence.
Impressively, the sound quality was crystal clear and powerful enough to be heard from the back of the crowd while maintaining minimal sound bleed.
Festival organizers flawlessly staggered performances amongst all 60 stages to ensure that smaller tents weren’t being overshadowed by powerhouse headliners.
Sziget, however, lacked the pizzaz of grand finales. No fireworks or grandiose light displays were presented during keynote performances. Although this isn’t a festival deal-breaker, it’s still disappointing to watch massive superstars end their sets by simply walking off stage.
Various styles of house artists were in abundance on the Sziget lineup, and the irresistible energy of hardstyle and techno had me in a chokehold.
Effortlessly assembling a roster of creators from 62 different countries, Sziget celebrates cultural diversity in every aspect of the festival. With Italian rappers on the main stage and Hungarian folk acts at art tents, there was something new and exciting for everyone to experience.
Underrepresentation of bass music was apparent with only a couple of bass DJs on the lineup. Europeans historically aren’t bass music’s target audience so the lack of hard-hitting wompy music is understandable but still a little bit of an upset.
Featuring artists like Mumford & Sons, Billie Eilish, Macklemore, and Lorde, the Sziget lineup seemed a little recycled. All of the headlining performances knocked our socks off but in the future, we would like to see some bigger and newer headlining names.
“The Island of Freedom” layout was one of the easiest, most fun, and most magical set-ups I’ve ever seen at a festival.
At Sziget, GA camping is free, no vehicles are allowed, and you just pick any spot you see to pitch your tent. The entire island is a free-for-all, literally, tents were pitched right next to the main music tents.
There were also so many available options for pre-pitched tents for international travelers, all within a 5-minute walk of the main stage.
The facilities offered at the festival absolutely blew us away. Every single bathroom had flushable toilets, was being actively cleaned multiple times throughout the day, and included toilet paper walls in every facility so staff could quickly and easily replace empty rolls. No more carrying around extra TP just in case!
Whether you paid for your camping or you opted for a free spot, every attendee had access to free (yes, I said completely free), warm, clean showers. There was never a line to get a shower, either!
Singing and dancing along with us at various sets throughout the weekend were people with varying abilities. The ADA accommodations at Sziget were plentiful and the ADA-specific camping areas were pretty impressive.
Safety is of utmost importance to us here at EDM Maniac and we take it highly into consideration when grading these festivals. Some red flags were raised as we explored the Island of Freedom that we feel Sziget could improve upon.
First and foremost was the lack of water around the festival. We only saw three free water refill stations throughout the festival and they weren’t very clearly marked.
The lack of easily visible and accessible medical tents was also something that made us feel uneasy. The festival did have an impressively large medical center near the paid camping area but not much else.
We were told that smaller first aid tents were located throughout the festival grounds, but we failed to locate any of those during our time there. We believe that every festival attendee should be able to quickly and comfortably find help during the festival, should they need it.
Sziget was quite unlike anything we’ve ever attended in the United States and something we will remember for the rest of our lives. Everyone was having fun, vibing, and meeting new friends on top of acquiring some new music interests.
It would be so much easier to give Sziget a higher grade if safety measures were improved upon. The lack of medical tents and accessible water was shocking, but surprisingly, there weren’t very many, if any, serious emergencies.
Camping at Sziget was our favorite part about the festival and we believe we would have majorly missed out if we didn’t camp. We will definitely be coming back to Sziget in the future.
All images courtesy of Sziget website gallery.