The National Gallop is a grand equestrian festival in Hungary and is held in one of the most beautiful and majestic environments in Budapest – Heroes Square. First held in 2008, it’s a fairly recent addition to Hungary’s festival calendar but is nonetheless extremely popular with crowds filling every single square inch of space in Heroes Square to witness the spectacle.
The main attraction of the event is the horse race, to which any Hungarian citizen, male or female, aged 18 or older can enter, without any weight restrictions. This race is a spectacular showcase of Hungarian military history and the famous ‘hussar’ culture, where Hungary’s towns and villages prove their horse riding skills. The excitement in the arena is palpable and as the young jockeys, modern-day hussars on horseback, tear around the track, the cheering can be heard throughout the city.
Aside from the horse racing, the National Gallop is a large-scale cultural festival that enriches the colourful event palette of Budapest. There is a chariot race, mock horseback battles, amazing archers shooting arrows at targets as they gallop past and of course rows upon rows of stalls where you can eat, drink and shop til your heart’s content (trust us globetrotters, it sounds like there’s more food than you’ve ever seen in one place at the one time – what a feast!). Andrassy Avenue leading towards Heroes Square is turned into the ‘Gallop Promenade’, a pedestrian-only walkway presenting over one thousand years of Hungarian history. Tents representing towns and cities across the nation line the street, showing off their local traditions – there’s blacksmiths pounding horseshoes, costumed women embroidering centuries-old flower motifs, weavers crafting baskets of straw or rugs of wool, and SO much more.
But I think the best part about the National Gallop is the fact that it’s FREE! Yep, anyone and everyone can attend and they don’t have to pay a cent. There are of course VIP tickets should one wish to sit in the grandstand, but I think there’s no better way to experience the culture of such an extravagant event than to be in the nosebleed section so-to-speak, alongside the locals, screaming and cheering the competitors on.
Held in September, the National Gallop is an event you do not want to miss if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. Three days of horseback action, fantastic food and drink, a cavalcade of crafts and culture, bringing Hungary’s vibrant history to life before your very eyes…I say, LET’S GO!
I wonder what they will have in store for 2018 given that it will be the tenth year the festival is taking place. Any ideas?
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