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Europe > Central Europe > Hungary > Lake Balaton

Lake Balaton

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Balaton (Plattensee in German) is the biggest lake by surface area in Central Europe and gives its name to this entire Hungarian Lake Balaton region.


Map of the Lake Balaton region

  • 1 Siófok — popular holiday resort competing for the title "Capital of Lake Balaton"
  • 2 Balatonfüred — the other city competing for the title "Capital of Balaton"
  • 3 Balatonszárszó - popular, family-friendly tourist destination on the south shore of Lake Balaton
  • 4 Fonyód
  • 5 Hévíz — This is the location of the world’s second-largest thermal lake, the Sanatorium park, Egregyi Chapel (Late Roman style, 13th century), protected wetland area, sheltering forest and park, Dr. Schulhof Vilmos promenade and the walking street (Rákóczi Street), and the seven-towered Holy Spirit Roman Catholic church (1998).
  • 6 Keszthely — Here you can find a Catholic church (Gothic), Helikon park, Festetics Castle Museum and its Gardens, the Lake Balaton shore, the House of Balaton Wines, Bacchus Wine- and Wine Tool-Museum, and the Balaton Museum.
  • 7 Tapolca — nice small town, Cave Lake.
  • 8 Tihany — nice peninsula with an inner lake and church visible from most of the lake.

Other destinations[edit]

  • 1 Badacsony — most famous winehill for its wine, on the northern coast
  • 2 Balatonszemes
  • 3 Gyenesdiás
  • 4 Szent György-hegy — perfect for hiking, visit the basalt organs
  • 5 Szigliget — with the ruins of a Castle on the hilltop.
  • 6 Small-Balaton Lake (Kis-Balaton). A specially protected area (national park — only open if you're with a guide). Sights include Kányavári Island, Kis-Balaton Exhibition Centre of Zalavár, castle and rebuilt the Árpád age church of Zalavár, Vár Island, Cyril and Methodius monument of Zalavár), the thermal bath of Zalakaros, buffalo reserve of Balatonmagyaród, petting zoo of Fenyvespuszta, former Soviet MIG-29 base and airport of Sármellék, and Cane World. Rare plants include the white water lily and the water meal. Birds include egrets, herons, and cormorants. Little Balaton (Q725707) on Wikidata
  • The 7 Balaton Uplands National Park is located about 40 km from Zalaegerszeg, to the north of Lake Balaton, the largest (more than 70 km long) freshwater lake of Central Europe.
  • Exhitibion sites: Arboretum Zirc, House of Forests Bakonybél, Lóczy Cave Balatonfüred, Hegyestű Geological Exhibition Site Monoszló, Manor Salföld, Lake Cave of Tapolca, Kotsy Watermill Zalaszántó, Matula Hut and István Fekete Memorial Site Diás Island, Folk House Vörs, Buffalo Reserve Kápolnapuszta, Csodabogyós Cave Balatonederics, Kőlik Cave of Szentgál, Disused Sand Quarry Várpalota


The Balaton was popular during the Cold War with both Easterners and Westerners because it was cheap and relatively easy to reach from both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Get in[edit]

By air[edit]

  • 1 Heviz Airport (SOB IATA, Former Flybalaton airport), Sármellék (south-west end of the lake is about 20 minutes' drive from Keszthely and Balatonmáriafürdő.), +36 83 200304, +36 30 705105, e-mail: . 1 Apr-26 Oct: M–F 09:00–18:00, Sa 09:00–21:00, Su 09:00–18:00; 27 Nov-31 Mar: daily 09:00–16:00. Sees seasonal scheduled and charter traffic from Germany, Czech Republic and Turkey. Hévíz–Balaton Airport on Wikipedia Hévíz–Balaton Airport (Q1187044) on Wikidata

By train[edit]

Frequent trains from Budapest Déli run down the south side of Lake Balaton. Intercity trains stop at main stations such as Siófok, Balatonföldvár and Fonyód. Slower trains stop at all stations. Allow between 1.5 and 4 hours for the journey, and about Ft 3000 for the one-way fare. There are discounts for families (33%), adults under 26 (33%), and students (50%). Not all ticket windows at the terminal accept credit cards so you should check the signs.

Get around[edit]


Little Balaton Lake Nature Reserve
Little Balaton bridge to Kányvár Island, Balaton Uplands National Park, near to Balatonmagyaród
  • 1 Balatongyörök (trains from Tapolca, regularly buses connecting with Tapolca and Keszthely. During summer, a regular ferry service from Keszthely, passing Balatonmáriafürdő, Szigliget and Badacsony to Fonyód.). The 'Szépkilátó' viewpoint provides a very beautiful panorama and remains of a Roman settlement. The Roman Catholic church was built between 1831 and 1833, in neoclassical style; at Balatongyörök vineyard, on the hill Bece, the old press houses are visible; past the Balaton Uplands National Park is an 8.5-km long nature trail (the trail guide plates are labeled in English); Festetics (II) Tasziló Palace - Palace Hotel.
  • 2 Balatonmagyaród (buses to/from Zalakomár (frequent) and Keszthely (couple)). Petting zoo-Fenyvespuszta, Kányavári island and bridge, [dead link] buffalo reserve at Kápolnapuszta, Small Balaton, the Roman Catholic Church.
  • 3 Cserszegtomaj (Keszthely buses hourly). Cserszegtomaj Botanical Garden (Arboretum), St Margaret lookout, the unique Fountain Cave, Ocher and pyrite mine, Europe Square, Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne's Chapel, Castle Theatre, Margaret Lookout, riding school.
  • 4 Rezi (buses to Keszthely (N 8 km, hourly)). Fort ruins, Outlaw tavern of Gyöngyös
Szapáry-Andrássy Mansion, Szécsisziget
  • 5 Vonyarcvashegy (Regular buses to Keszthely and Tapolca). St. Michael's hill with a chapel, Vonyarc Chapel, Vashegy Chapel
  • 6 Zalakomár (From Nagykanizsa 18 km northeast). Buffalo reserve at Kápolnapuszta, Roman Catholic Church in 1771, Bird Reserve, protected forest area of Ormándpuszta
The ruins of the Basilica of Saint Adrian (9th century), Zalavár
  • 7 [dead link] Zalaszántó (Near to Keszthely). Park of Human rights, Tátika fort ruins, Tátika ancient beech forest, Stupa, chapel, Rezi Castle (neaarby), Country Houses, Kotsy Watermill, Petho Mansion, Gingerbread Museum, Balaton Uplands National Park, Kovácsi hill - geo botanical nature trail
  • 8 Zalavár (bus from Keszthely and Zalakaros). The ruins of the Basilica of Saint Adrian (9th century), Búbosvöcsök Nature Trail of Kányavár's Island, Historical Memorial Park.


Jetty in the sunset

Beautiful national parks, protected quarters, they demonstrated the old times, reservatums, theatres, aquaparks, sea baths, sport oppurtunities on earth, water and air, concerts and beautiful museums wait every visitors.

  • Caving see above Exhitibion Sites
  • Hiking in the northern hills.
  • Exploring wine cellars. A well worn trail is the climb up Badacsony Hill, which is peppered with small wine growers selling their wines by the glass and bottle. Much of it is mediocre but you may find some gems. Treat it like a pub crawl and have fun.
  • Relaxing in thermal spas. The two best known are at Héviz and Csisztapuszta (just south of Fonyód). Marcali, in northern Somogy county
  • Sailing. There are several annual sailing races for those preferring competition. For boat rental Fonyod, Balatonlelle and Balatonfüred are the best places. An 8-m yacht from about Ft 70,000/day.
  • Swimming. Summer water temperatures range from about 16 °C to the mid 30s; because the lake is shallow, yesterday's air temperature will be a good guide to the warmth of today's water. There are many places to go down waterslides and just take in a bit of shallow bathing, but be aware that the shallow banks of Balaton are very murky. You can scarcely avoid getting silt everywhere. Beaches on the north shore tend to have more facilities, but have an entrance fee.The shore here tends to be rocky and the water deepens rapidly to a mximum of about 14 m. Most beaches on the southern shore are free, though large sections of the shore are privately owned by hotels and campsites. The lake shelves slowly, so you can walk out for 500 m or more before you are out of your depth, so it's very safe for children. Large free beaches are at Zamárdi, Balatonboglár, Fonyód and Balatonfenyves. There are many hundreds of access points to the shore, so you are unlikely to have to walk far to find a pleasant place to swim.

Since the lake is shallow, summer storms can create very large waves, and people have drowned in most years. A system of warning beacons around the lake alerts bathers to expected strong winds and storms: 30 flashes/minute, colour white/yellow means winds 40-60 km/h, and you should move close to the shore. 60 flashes red/white means winds over 60 km/h. Time to get out quickly!

  • Kite surfing. On windy days this is an exciting sport, but it takes a few days to learn to stop falling off. Needs a reasonable level of fitness. Centres are Balatonboglár and Balatonfenyves.


Buy local wine of course!


The land of Balaton delights not just your eye, but your stomach. On every area receive you a real gastronomical history. You can taste the traditional foods of lands, or the famous wines of the land of Balaton.

One kind of local food is lángos, a bread-like pastry usually sold on beaches. It is offered with different toppings like cheese, sour cream, and ham, or often plain just with garlic-sauce on top. Another common "beach food" is cooked corn on the cob (főtt kukorica), grilled sausages (sült kolbász) and of course, ice cream (fagylalt, or more colloquially, fagyi).

You can also try a special Lake Balaton fish called fogas (pike-perch or Zander), served roasted.


The hills north from Balaton are known for their wine. The best you can do is going for a wine spotting tour.


Lake Balaton has been the holiday playground of ordinary Hungarians for over a century, and most of the accommodation is in private houses and apartments rented by the owners, often through agencies. All along the road there are signs for "Tourist information" which are really agents for accommodation and tours, rather than the official tourist offices (called Tourinform). Many visitors arrive without booking and can usually find rooms for around €15 per person/night. Costs for a house with 3 bedrooms can run from about €300/week to over €1,000 (luxury house on lake shore).

It's worth to book the accommodation before arriving because in July and August most of the places are totally full and it is hard to find a free room.

High season for Hungarians is the school holidays, from mid-June to the end of August, but many people go home by St Stephen's Day (20 August). The whole place becomes very much quieter by mid-August, and you can easily find accommodation. On the downside, lakeside bars and restaurants also closed for the season.

Go next[edit]

This region travel guide to Lake Balaton is an outline and may need more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!