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The festival that people are raving about... IT IS ONE OF EUROPE'S BEST MUSIC FESTIVALS - SO WHY IS SZIGET NOT BETTER KNOWN, ASKS KATE LALLY?

GLASTONBURY, Rock am Ring, Montreux, Exit ... the names of the big European rock and pop festivals trips off the tongue.

But they've just been beaten by Sziget. Yes, Sziget.

Before you ask Google for help, I can tell you that for 10 days in mid-August, Budapest's Obudai island becomes a magical wonderland for Sziget festival.

Billed as "an electronically amplified, warped amusement park that has nothing to do with reality", it is now officially the best music festival in Europe.

That was confirmed at the European Festival Awards.

The festival sprawls its way right across the island - that's roughly 266 acres - with half a million revellers partying throughout the week.

Founded back in 1993, Sziget Festival was originally the venture of a few passionate musicians who lamented the lack of music camps after the fall of Communism.

Sziget itself runs for a whole week from Monday to Sunday. Monday is Day -2, Tuesday is Day -1, Wednesday Day 0 and then it runs up to Sunday.

Camping ticket holders have access to every day, while weekend ticket-holders can come in from Wednesday, Day 0. The musical line-up is of the 'something for everybody' variety, but the music is just a small part of the experience. There's a wondrous vibe about the island: there's a Luminarium (essentially a multichambered adult bouncy castle in which you can meditate in different coloured lights, so long as the smell of five-day-old festival socks doesn't throw you off balance), a beach area playing chillout music, a labyrinth, a Communist-style funfair, a museum area and a workout zone.

Think Glastonbury but with glorious sunshine, cleaner loos and cheaper beer.

The Hungarian extravaganza, having already received a number of awards, is making itself bigger, longer and more phenomenal every year, and it's not surprising to see Sziget pull 'Szitizens' from more than 60 nationalities, with some 4,000 Brits making the trip last year.

To say the line-up is varied would be an understatement, with huge headliners from a host of genres; P!nk, Major Lazer and Kasabian have already been announced to headline this year. But you could go for the duration, completely avoid the main stage, and still have an insanely good time.

With circus performances, impromptu raves, foam parties, Thai massages, bungee jumping, archery and games consoles making up just a fraction of the other goings-on, it was like a Disneyland for grown-ups.

The crowd was a mixed bag - apparently the youngest person there was six months old and the oldest was 86 - and some people even brought their dogs.

Because this is a longer festival than most, the vibe was beyond laidback, with people taking more time to chill and soak up the add-ons Sziget had to offer.

Unlike other festivals, you can camp wherever you want on the island (it really is the Island Of Freedom), and most spots are shaded by trees, saving you from the sweaty headache hell at sunrise. Plus, the combination of proper tarmac roads and incredible weather meant there was minimal mud.

If camping isn't for you, however, Budapest's many hotels are easily accessible via taxi, or the city's efficient public transport system.

The highly economical Sziget-Budapest CityPass, which costs 33 euros for 13 days or 12 euros for two days, includes full use of Budapest's public transport system (including trams, buses, metros, and HEV suburban trains), plus free or discounted entry to some thermal baths and great pool complexes, museums, the Center of Scientific Wonders, the Giraffe Hop On Hop Off sightseeing bus, and 2-for-1 drinks at Akvarium Club in downtown Budapest.

There's a really decent range of bars at the festival, serving everything from beer to cider to any cocktail you can think of - but in Hungary, of course, there is only one rocket fuel that the locals will recommend.

It's Palinka, the country's classic spirit.

This year will see Sziget, which was named the Artists' Favourite Festival at this year's European Festival Awards, celebrate its 25th birthday.

From the fire-spinning beach parties to yoga in the theatre tent, to the traditional Hungarian dance shows and sculpture classes in the art zone, there really is something for everyone here.

You're given a Sziget passport on arrival - you're officially a Szitizen - and that's it. You're part of this little island civilisation. When you arrive home, you won't feel like you've returned from a festival, rather that you've left a magical island behind.

need to know | KATE LALLY travelled with Wizz Air, who fly to Budapest from Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool and London Luton. Book at wizzair.com, download the app or call 0911 752 2257.

| Kate stayed at the Art'Otel Budapest. Prices start from PS130 per night. See artotels.com or call +36 1 487 9487.

| This year's Sziget Festival takes place from August 9 to 16. Earlybird seven-day passes cost [euro]299, rising to [euro]325 after May 31. Five-day passes have sold out. Single day tickets are available for [euro]65. Tickets, line-up and accommodation are available at szigetfestival.com

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Budapest's Obudai island hosts Sziget festival for 10 days each August

Tinie Tempah at last year's festival
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EXHU
Date:May 27, 2017
Words:854
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