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1100 years in the heart of Europe | Map
Budapest and Surroundings
Eger–Tokaj Wine Region
The Puszta and Lake Tisza
Lake Balaton

The 'Hungarian Sea' is how the 77-km long lake with silky green-yellow water in the middle of Pannonia is best-known. Lake Balaton is one of Hungary's most precious natural assets and her most frequented resort. With a water surface of 600 km2, it is the largest lake in Central Europe. Its shoreline is 195 km, its average depth is 3 m; at its deepest, at the 'well' of Tihany, it is 12.4 m, at its widest, it is 14 km. The summer water temperature of 20-26 °C is warmer than the air in the morning and in the evening. The water and the silky mud of the lake are recommended for nervous complaints, anemia and nervous fatigue. The southern shores are ideal for small children because of the shallow water. Velvety sands cover the beach from Balatonaliga through Balatonszentgyörgy. The beach is an uninterrupted line of large and small resorts with bustling life, a paradise for worshippers of sun and water.
Between Balatonakarattya and Keszthely, there are approximately 25 lakeside resorts surrounded by hills on the northern lake shore. The innumerable sights in the villages and towns away from the lake offer memorable outings on cloudy days.


Siófok (C3) is the largest town on the southern side of the lake, stretching along the its shore for a length of 17 km. Its port serves every boat route on the lake. Cruise boats also start from here. The composer of the internationally renowned operettas, including Csárdáskirálynő, Imre Kálmán (1882-1953), is a famous son of this city. His piano and personal belongings are on display in the museum dedicated to his name (5 Kálmán I. Sétány). A huge collection of 3,000 different types of minerals from all over the Carpathian Basin is exhibited in the Museum of Minerals (10 Kálmán I. Sétány). A true curiosity at Siófok is the country's first Museum of Egg Decoration (4 Szűcs utca).


Siófok, statue of Imre Kálmán

Szántód (C4)
The Szántód ferry has been in operation for centuries for those heading for the northern shores, she and her port were built in 1802. The protected group of manor buildings, erected by Benedictine monks between 1716 and 1741, has been transformed into a centre of tourism and culture. Visitors to the manor house can admire many fine paintings and sculptures; the wine cellars contain an exhibition on the history of wine-growing, the granary holds a folk art exhibition and the servants' quarter offers a local history exhibition. At the inn visitors are served excellent food and fine drinks. In the corrals, herds of long-coated sheep and cattle graze at leisure. The aquarium offers a vicarious experience of the aquatic world of Lake Balaton. Balatonboglár (C4) is the finish line for the popular cross-Balaton swimming competitions, which start on the opposite side at Révfülöp (end of July). The local history collection at Fischl House (12-14 Erzsébet utca), the country's first church of reinforced concrete, built in 1932, the rotund lookout tower on Fort Hill and the arts exhibitions and open-air performances on Kápolna Hill are all worth visiting.
Balatonszentgyörgy's (B4) highlight is the star-shaped early 19th-century Romantic style Csillagvár (Irtásidűlő), the former hunting lodge of the Festetics family. You can see here an exhibition presenting the way of life of outpost warriors in the 17th century. The Regional House (68 Csillagvár utca) represents the characteristic architectural style of the area.


Balatonboglár, beach

Keszthely (B-C4)
The largest and oldest settlement on the lake was an important hub of commerce in Roman times. The remains of the castrum in the 2nd-4th-century town of Valcum can be seen in Fenékpuszta.
Building No 22 along the bustling Kossuth utca is Pető House, the birthplace of composer Károly Goldmark. The street leads to Fő tér, where a 14th-century Franciscan parish church stands. The Gothic frescoes inside and its rosette windows are all original. The Festetics Mansion (1 Kastély utca) is the third largest chateau in the country with 101 rooms, an ornate wrought iron gate, the surviving chapel and the Helikon Library with 86,000 volumes including many rarities. In the museum inside the chateau, ornate firearms and the trophy collection of the Duke of Windischgrätz are displayed. Weekly concerts are organised in the music hall of mirrors and the English park of the chateau is a natural protection area. It was the former owner of the chateau, György Festetics, who founded Europe's first farming school, the Georgikon (20 Georgikon utca), providing university level education, in 1797. The history of the school, 19th-century viticulture and grain-farming in the Balaton region can be traced at the Georgikon Manor Museum (67 Bercsényi Miklós utca). All you may wish to know about Lake Balaton, including its formation, flora and fauna, the history of bathing culture and waterborne traffic and archaeological and ethnographic memorabilia of 7,000 years, can be seen at the Balaton Museum (2 Múzeum utca). The marzipan model of the Festetics Mansion is among the exhibits at the Marzipan Confectionery Museum (11 Katona J. utca). The Puppet Museum (11 Kossuth utca) offers a rich array of cute puppets and dolls and a miniature replica, made from snail shells, of the Parliament in Budapest. The museum also houses a waxworks displaying notable personalities of Hungarian history. The island baths, built in 1892, with a timber structure protruding deep into the lake, is an interesting sight. How come camels, buffaloes and zebras roam along Lake Balaton? Hardly indigenous to the region, they are resident of the Safari Park and Africa Museum (11 Kültelek) established by the renowned Hungarian hunter in Africa, Endre von Nagy at Balatonederics. A rich collection of artefacts including trophies and African ethnographic objects is on display at the museum.


Keszthely, Festetics Mansion

Szigliget (C4)
The village has a unique atmosphere with its houses creeping up the hillside and its green groves. The thatched cottages of the old village are protected examples of traditional folk architecture.. There is a stunning panorama from the ruins of the 13th-century Szigliget Fortress, destroyed in 1702, on the 242-m Castle Hill. The Esterházy Palace (174 Kossuth utca) is now a sabbatical house for writers. There are more than 150 types of pine trees in its well-kept park.


Badacsony Hill (B-C4)
The hill (437 m) is an extinct casket-shaped volcano. Its slopes are covered with some very strange geological formations, fossilised lava columns called 'basalt organs' as well as vineyards which produce the excellent wine of the Pauline monks called 'Grey Friar' (Szürkebarát). Of the two hundred-year-old press houses, the two finest are the House of Róza Szegedy (Kisfaludy út), housing the Literary Museum with memorabilia of literature and viniculture, and the Baroque Kisfaludy House (Kisfaludy utca), the most popular wine cellar and restaurant along the shore. Its terrace also offers an excellent panorama. So does the 14-m Kisfaludy lookout tower at the highest point of the hill and the Ranolder Cross on the south-western side. The Badacsonytomaj house of the painter of the Lake Balaton, József Egry (1883-1951) now holds a museum dedicated to him (12 Egry József sétány). In Badacsonytomaj, the Church of St. Imre, the first basalt church in Europe, was built in 1932. The highlights of the Badacsony Nature Reserve, with superb panoramas, are the volcanic hills called 'Witness Hills', including Gulács (393 m), Csobánc (376 m), St. George Hill (415 m). The reason they are called 'witnesses' is that they bear witness to the once much higher water level of the extinct Pannonian Sea. Visitors following the geobotanical trail will soon recognise the immense heritage of the place. The Folly Arboretum (5 Arborétum utca) in Badacsonyörs displays 400 types of evergreens.
Extinct volcanoes surround the villages, inhabited since time began, in the protected Káli Basin. The mineral water source on the outskirts of Kékkút, producing the famous bottled water, Theodora, was known to the Romans. Ruins of medieval palaces and churches and unique geological formations further enhance the appeal of this region. Clusters of basalt columns and small crater lakes like Lake Kornyi of Hegyestű Hill, the basalt columns of the Fekete-hegy ('Black Hill') and, unique to this region, the winderoded stones of bizarre shape at Szentbékkálla, Kővágóörs and Salföld are true curiosities. On the nature reserve farm of Salföld grey cattle, long-coated sheep and buffaloes, once indigenous to this area, have received a new lease of life in their protected habitat.
In the cemetery of Balatonudvari there are approximately 50 graves with heart-shaped tombstones from the years 1808-1840.
In Örvényes the water-mill (1 Szent Imre utca), ( still in working condition), which stands next to the over 200-year-old bridge on the Pécsely stream, milled wheat as early as 1211. It still uses the ancient tools of the millers.


Badacsony, the house of Róza Szegedy
Vineyard in Balaton Highlands

Tihany (C3)
The twin-towered church of the Tihany peninsula is visible from afar. Protruding deep into the lake, the 5-km long and 3.5-km wide peninsula, inhabited for almost a thousand years, is of volcanic origin, and has a profusion of rare plants and animals. One of the most cherished assets of Hungarian architecture, the crypt of King András I, founded in 1055, survived the turbulent past, and still stands in its original form. So did the charter of the abbey, the first written record of the Hungarian language. The present church was built over the crypt in the 18th century in the Baroque style, and has many precious wood carvings. The Museum of the Benedictine Abbey (1 I. András tér) houses an exhibition on the history of the church, a memorial room dedicated to King Károly IV (1916-18), the last Hungarian king and a lapidary collection of Roman and medieval stonework. There are frequent organ concerts in the church in summertime. The 18th-century houses of the Open-air Ethnographic Museum (12 Pisky Walk), the traditional rural houses of Ófalu and the Potter’s House (12 Pisky Walk) evoke the life of fishermen. The Puppet Museum (4 Visszhang utca) is a romantic world of porcelain dolls and doll’s houses from 1850-1920. The Tihany Nature Reserve, established in 1952 and the first in the country, can be explored by taking the Lajos Lóczy pathway. Sights include wind-torn basalt rocks, a hermit’s niche carved from volcanic stone, the monk’s dwellings where Basilite monk settlers lived in the 11th century and the almond trees and lavender fields. From the natural lookouts of the peninsula - the Kiserdő top and the ’Golden House’, the most beautiful view can be had looking over the hundreds of geyser cones onto the Inner Lake, so loved by anglers, and the Outer Lake where tens of thousands of birds nest. A ferry from one of the prettiest ports on Lake Balaton heads for Szántód, one mile from here, on the southern shore.


Tihany Abbey

Balatonfüred (C3)
The grand Balaton resort is the first medicinal and recreational resort of Hungary. This is the place where the first Balaton steamship started. The first yachtsmen's association was set up here. The villas of 19th-century celebrities were built here, such as the villa (now a memorial museum) (1 Honvéd utca) of the great romantic novelist, Mór Jókai (1825-1904). In the cardiology department of the local hospital patients with heart conditions have been treated here for three hundred years with the help of the mineral water sources. This water is beneficial to diabetes and digestive malfunctions, and can be sampled in the Kossuth Lajos Drinking House (Gyógy tér). The memorial plaques of Balaton's Pantheon are in the corridor of the Árkád Hotel (Gyógy tér). The annual Anna Ball, with the crowning of the Queen of the Ball, has been organized in the town theatre for 170 years, on the last Saturday of July. The Rabindranath Tagore Promenade on the lakeshore is lined with the statues, memorial plaques and trees commemorating Hungarian and foreign celebrities. Start-of-the-sailing parties are held each May in the Rose Garden. The aragonite pea-stones on the layered walls of the 120- m long Lóczy Cave (at the end of Öreg-hegyi út) offer a special sight. Koloska Valley and the Jókai lookout tower are excellent hiking destinations.
Felsőörs may rightly be proud of its Provost's Church, built in the 13th century. Its 5-register organ made in 1745 is played in the popular summer organ concerts. There is a geological study path at Forrás Hill, giving us an insight into the tertiary period of the Earth's history.
Highlights in Balatonalmádi, a bathing place since 1877 include its buildings made of Permi sandstone and the Roman Catholic church with its Chapel of the Holy Right, (Óvári Ferenc utca). The chapel, ornate with gold mosaic from Venice, used to stand in the Royal Castle in Buda, where the right hand of St. Stephen, a relic respected by the nation, was kept. On the 4-mile path called 'Red Sandstone', signposts indicate the interesting sights of the Balaton Highlands National Park. The symbol of Vörösberény is its 13th-century medieval fortress church.


Balatonfüred, landing stage

Hévíz (B4)
Lying 6 km away from Keszthely and the northern shore of the lake, the 36-m deep Hévíz Lake, with a surface area of 47,500 m2, is the second largest hot-water lake in the world. 420 litres of 36 °C mildly radioactive water, rich in sulphur, gases and minerals, and with its own special circulation, gush out every second. Open-air bathing is a pleasant experience in this valley with its pleasant micro-climate, even in winter. The mud at the bottom of the lake has special properties: it is highly recommended for locomotor disorders, rheumatism, inflammations and arthritic complaints.
Covered with Indian water-lilies, the lake, the water of which tastes good and is suitable also for drinking as a water therapy, has been used for the purposes of curative bathing since 1795. In addition to the existing open-air lake, an indoor pool one was built in 1968 (1 Dr. Schulhof Vilmos sétány).


Lake Hévíz

Tapolca (C3)
14 cone-shaped basalt hills, covered with vineyards, encircle the small town. Its features a geological rarity in the form of the 4-km Tavas Cave (3 Kisfaludy utca) in which you can go boating. In the heart of the town the 200-year-old watermill on the shore of the picturesque Malom [Mill] Lake is now a hotel. One of the oldest elementary school buildings in Central Europe contains the town's library and museum (8 Templomdomb), housing an exhibition on the history of education.



Nagyvázsony (C3)
A superb panorama opens onto the neighbouring countryside from the 29-m high tower of the castle of Pál Kinizsi (1446-1494), who became a commander of the castle and the favourite general of King Matthias Corvinus. The Fortress Museum (9 Vár utca) details the history of the castle and excavation works. Kinizsi's sarcophagus can be seen in the chapel of the castle. The interior of St. Stephen's Church (148 Rákóczi utca) is a relic of the 15th century. The 18th-century Zichy Palace is a hotel today (12 Kossuth utca). The Post Office Museum (3 Temető utca) houses an exhibition of the history of postal services and telecommunication. The thatched Schumacher House (21 Bercsényi Miklós u.) under a gabled roof evokes the home of a weaver of old times, while several tools from a coppersmith's shop are on display in the stable.



Balaton Minor (Kis-Balaton B4) This is a marshland with tens of thousands of birds nesting in the reeds. Approximately 150 of the 370 bird species of Hungary hatch here. Most are herons, cormorants and bee-eaters. The most endangered rarity is the noble snow-white tufted heron. The Kányavári-sziget (2 km from Balatonmagyaród to the north) and Pap-sziget lookout towers (from the direction of the village of Vörs along the road leading to the keeper’s lodge) are ideal places for bird-watching. These highly protected areas can only be visited with prior permission and a guide. In Kápolnapuszta nearby, the only buffalo reservation in the country is worth visiting.


Balaton Minor

Zalakaros (B4)
Every minute 830 litres of 96 °C thermal water surges up from a depth of 2,300 m, feeding this spa (4 Thermál utca), where patients undergo treatment for rheumatism, locomotor disorders, neuralgia or gynaecological complaints. The medicinal centre of the Zalakaros spa popular with its tubs and underwater traction bath. The thermal baths with 21 pools in a 20-hectare park, theme pools and children's pools allows people of all ages to have fun.



Buzsák (C4)
The folk art of this village is famous all over Europe for its local embroidery, applied also to altar cloths and vestments. The Buzsák Regional House in a 200-year old cottage with a portico (8 Fő utca) details the history of the village and local farming. There is a folk exhibition in the village house. Traditional costumes are worn during the dedication festival in August. The thermal baths in nearby Csisztapuszta can be reached by the narrow-gauge railway leaving from Balatonfenyves.

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