Karoly Gerendai founded Sziget Festival back in 1993, and it has now grown to become one of Europe’s largest music and cultural festivals. Sziget Festival is held every August in northern Budapest, Hungary, on Old Buda Island which is a leafy 108-hectare island on the Danube.
Jamie Ndah caught up with Karoly Gerendai whilst in Budapest, where he talked luxury lifestyle, travel, music, fine dining and why Sziget Festival is so unique.
LM: Tell us about Sziget Festival and how it was born?
KG: Sziget Festival is one of Europe’s biggest, best-known and most respected cultural events, and has been running for 24 years now. Our idea was born from the concept of all our friends hanging out together and looking for a place where we could create a festival and enjoy good music and feel good during the summer holidays.
LM: Sziget has grown into a truly global festival that has many nationalities in attendance. How does this make you feel?
KG: Sziget Festival makes me feel very proud as we have come from humble beginnings and seen our small gathering of friends and family grow to a global festival. This year we set a new record of just under half a million people attending the festival from more than 100 countries, across the seven days that we run the event.
LM: Why is Sziget Festival so unique?
KG: We have a very diverse and cultural minded number of visitors who we call Szitizens. They hail from all over the world and they bring their own personality to the party of which makes the Sziget atmosphere so unique and special.
LM: The artist line up at Sziget Festival this year was incredible and saw the likes of Rhianna, David Guetta, SIA, Bastille, Tinie Tempah, Chemical Brothers, Muse, Years & Years, Roisin Murphy and so many more grace the various stages. How did you manage to get such a stellar lineup?
KG: Yes, we had an exceptional line-up of artists that performed at Sziget and we are very grateful that all the artists could come along and join us and make it our biggest and best festival to date. We believe that the artists want to come and perform at Sziget because of the electric atmosphere from the crowd and the wonderful experience they have whilst visiting Budapest too.
LM: What are your passions away from Sziget Festival?
KG: I have many passions and interests away from Sziget Festival and some of my favourite hobbies would have to be my love for gastronomy, fine dining restaurants, fashion, art, hotels and travelling the world.
LM: Tell our Luxurious Magazine readers about your two fine dining Michelin starred restaurants based in Budapest?
KG: I have two Michelin-starred restaurants that are based in Budapest. One is called “Costes Restaurant”, which offers a smart dining experience for tasting menus of gourmet fish, meat and Hungarian wines. Established in 2008, it was the first restaurant to be awarded a Michelin-star in Hungary. The second restaurant is called “Costes Downtown” which is located within the Prestige Hotel in Budapest and was established in 2015. Costes Downtown serves the hotel guests as well as external diners and offers a more relaxed and airy bistro atmosphere. Here there is seasonal regional cuisine with a distinctive Hungarian flavour with an international twist.
Gastronomy is a huge passion of mine, and the main motivation for creating Costes Restaurant and Costes Downtown was to do something that hadn’t been done before in Hungary. Now there are 5 Michelin star restaurants in Hungary and two of which belong to me, for which am very proud.
I am also the founder of OTP Bank Gourmet Festival which takes place during the month of May. It’s a great food carnival that provides a platform of culinary arts and showcases the best Hungarian flavours, superb gourmet cuisine restaurants, quality wineries, pálinka distilleries, breweries, confectionaries and very impressive gastro-manufacturers from Budapest and throughout Hungary.
LM: What is one of your favourite travel destinations and why?
KG: One of my favourite destinations in the world has to be New Zealand. I have been there twice and it is beautiful, very comfortable, not too overcrowded and the natural landscape is stunning. You feel yourself at one with nature but still close to all the necessary amenities, a combination I enjoyed very much.
LM: What is next on your travel destination bucket list?
KG: There are many beautiful destinations around the world that are on my bucket list. However, Bora Bora, Maldives and Brazil are my top three places that I would like to visit in the not too distant future.
LM: Sziget Festival 2017 will see you celebrate 25 years of this extraordinary festival. How will you celebrate this landmark?
KG: Our 25th Anniversary year will be a big party of which we are all very much looking forward to. We want to celebrate this by involving everyone who has supported us over the past 25 years. It’s a chance to celebrate like one big happy family together, whilst honouring especially those people who have been with us from the very beginning. If we can use the whole of 2017 to rejoice this wonderful landmark, we will do so and urge everyone to embrace our birthday party year as we couldn’t have done this without our loyal and trusted Szitizens all over the world.
LM: Tell our Luxurious Magazine readers why they should come and experience Sziget Festival?
KG: We welcome Luxurious Magazine readers with open arms and ask them to come and join us in beautiful Budapest at one of Europe’s largest and much-loved music events. Sziget Festival will not only dazzle and delight your readers in equal measure, but it will also give them the opportunity to truly experience our exciting metropolis in Central-Eastern Europe.
LM: Describe Sziget Festival in one word.
Sziget Festival – Where and How?
For more information on Sziget Festival, visit www.szigetfestival.com
Photography courtesy of Rockstar Photographers, Costes Restaurant and Costes Downtown.