USA: Eurobeat: Budapest

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The Independent Online
The origins of the Budapest spring festival, which continues until 29 March, pre-date the collapse of Communism, but for travellers the joy of capitalism is simple: if you decide today to attend, you can hop on the next plane out (if you can find a seat) without needing a visa.

For 40 years, though, state sponsorship of the arts has done the city proud. The wedding-cake State Opera House offers a sumptuous centre-piece for the festival, whose highlights are likely to be the evenings devoted to the local heroes Zoltan Kodaly and Bela Bartok.

Amid all the official events, it is worth searching out some de facto Fringe festivities. Dotted around the Hungarian capital are all manner of small clubs and community centres, with busy programmes of everything from jazz to Romany music. The local listings magazines, Budapest Week and Budapest Sun, contain details.

The independent way to get there is to get a discounted flight from Heathrow to Budapest (around pounds 200 if you stay over a Saturday night). Private rooms and hotels are readily available and cheap. The Foreign Office warned this week, however, of "late-evening overcharging, accompanied by threats of violence, by certain clubs and bars in Budapest".

For more information, contact the Hungarian National Tourist Office, 46 Eaton Place, London SW1X 8AL (0171-823 1032).