Each year in early September the Budapest Wine Festival takes place in one, large, area in the Castle District. It spans five days and nights, and visitors can either buy a daily ticket which allows them to enter the festival as many times as they want for one day, or a pass that is good for the entire festival. In either case you are given a souvenir wine glass to be used to sample wine and a pouch that goes around your neck to hold the glass.
There are over 200 wooden kiosks set up, one for each vineyard participating in the festival, with about a dozen dedicated to food. Most of the food venues are prepared food where you can buy sausages, sauerkraut, red cabbage, etc. and eat at large, family-style benches. But there are also a few stands where you can buy a variety of cheese, sliced meat, peppers, and olives and have a small picnic at one of the tables set up around the grounds.
As you visit each stand you can ask for a sample of the wine, either a small, quarter sip or a larger half sip, generally ranging form 200 - 600 forints. If you find something you particularly like you can buy a full glass to take with you as you continue to stroll or to have with a meal. You can also ask for just a taste of wine which will be given to you for free. And you will be able to purchase bottles of wine from each kiosk to take back with you, either single bottles or a sampler pack.
The festival is very well organized. There are stands where you can trade your glass for a freshly washed one, places to replace a broken glass, continually cleaned bathrooms and a place to wash your hands. You can spend an afternoon sampling wine, leave the festival, then come back that night to continue with the added bonus of having the lighted city of Budapest below you.
If you are visiting Budapest and find that the festival is going on, it is well worth a walk or bus ride up to the Castle District for a visit. The best day is the last one when there is the parade of wine-makers, and local folk singing and dancing. Or, like us, it would be worth planning a visit to Budapest to coincide with the entire festival.