Download GPX file for this article
46.8517.78Full screen dynamic map

Europe > Central Europe > Hungary > Lake Balaton

Lake Balaton

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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.

Cities[edit]

Map of the Lake Balaton region

  1 Siófok (Tab, Zamárdi, Balatonföldvár)
Popular holiday resort competing for the title "Capital of Lake Balaton".
  2 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.
  3 Tapolca Tapolca on Wikipedia (Badacsonytomaj)
Nice small town, Cave Lake.
  4 Balatonfüred
The other city competing for the title "Capital of Balaton".
  5 Marcali
  6 Balatonalmádi Balatonalmádi on Wikipedia (Balatonfűzfő, Balatonkenese)
  7 Fonyód (Balatonboglár, Balatonlelle, Lengyeltóti)
  8 Hévíz
This is the location of the world’s second-largest thermal lake, used as Medicinal Spa. Other sights are the Mary Magdalene Church from the 13th century, the seven-towered Holy Spirit Church and the Roman Ruins Garden. In the surroundings: Historical Memorial Park Zalavár.
  9 Gyenesdiás
  10 Zalakaros
Popular thermal bath. Main sights in the surroundings: Kányavári Island and Petting Zoo in Balatonmagyaród; Buffalo Reserve in Káptalanpuszta.

Other destinations[edit]

  • 1 Badacsony Badacsony on Wikipedia — most famous winehill for its wine, on the northern coast
  • 2 Balatonszárszó Balatonszárszó on Wikipedia - popular, family-friendly tourist destination on the south shore of Lake Balaton
  • 3 Balatonszemes
  • 4 Szent György-hegy — perfect for hiking, visit the basalt organs
  • 5 Szigliget Szigliget on Wikipedia — with the ruins of a Castle on the hilltop
  • 6 Tihany Tihany on Wikipedia — nice peninsula with an inner lake and church visible from most of the lake
  • 7 Balaton Uplands National Park Balaton Uplands National Park on Wikipedia – located to the north of Lake Balaton
  • Exhibition sites: Arboretum Zirc, House of Forests Bakonybél, Lóczy Cave Balatonfüred, Hegyestű Geological Exhibition Site Monoszló, Manor Salföld, Lake Cave of Tapolca, Kotsy Watermill Zalaszántó, Folk House Vörs, Buffalo Reserve Kápolnapuszta, Csodabogyós Cave Balatonederics, Kőlik Cave of Szentgál, Disused Sand Quarry Várpalota

Understand[edit]

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 plane[edit]

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.

By car[edit]

From Western Europe:

  • From the direction of Linz/Vienna: turn off the Motorway A1 towards Eisenstadt on the motor-road A3 and cross the border in Sopron (Klingenbach). From here there is a highway leading through Ukk and Sümeg to Lake Balaton or more precisely to Balatonederics. lf you take road 71 westwards you can reach Keszthely within a short time.
  • From Graz: if you turn off the motorway A2 towards Fürstenfeld you can cross the border in Heiligenkreuz (Rábafüzes). Lake Balaton from here is about 100 km. Through Körmend and Zalaegerszeg on the highway 76 the journey by car takes maximum one and a half hour.

From Southern Europe:

  • From Slovenia: from Lendava/Lenti you can reach the West-Balaton Region on road 75 from Croatia on the E71 towards Balatonszentgyörgy. For those who are coming from Italy, take the road leading through Tarvisio and Graz.

From Eastern Europe:

  • From Poland, Romania: Through Budapest on the motorway M7 towards Lake Balaton.
  • From Slovakia: You can come either through Budapest and after on the M7 or from Bratislava on the road E65 through the frontier station of Rajka and then through Mosonmagyarovár on road 86, then you take road 84 towards Ukk/Sümeg to the direction of Lake Balaton.

From inland:

  • Keszthely is easily reached by road from Budapest using M7 / E71. This highway bypasses Székesfehérvár and Siofok on the southern flank of Lake Balaton and is relatively traffic free except in the peak tourist months of June, July and August.

If you are willing to take a little more time to reach your destination you will be rewarded with a more scenic route using highway 71 along the north shore of lake Balaton. This route will take you first a couple km away Gyenesdiás further going through Balatonfured and passes the Tihany peninsula, which is well worth a detour.

Get around[edit]

See[edit]

Szent György Hill basalt organs, close to Badascony
  • Badacsony: the most well-known, most popular hill of the region. On this truncated cone of volcanic origin. Viticulture. Hiking routes and a four km long study path
  • Balatonederics: Africa Museum and Zoo
  • Balatonszentgyörgy: Csillagvár is a star form hunting mansion
  • Small-Balaton: A study path on Kányavári Island. Buffalo Reserve in Kápolnapuszta near Zalakomár
  • Szent György Hill: Basalt organ pipes nature monument
  • Szigliget: Castleruin of Szigliget on top of a 230 m high volcanic hill
  • Tapolca: Grotto - Cave Lake with length of four km

Do[edit]

Jetty in the sunset

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

  • Caving — see Exhibition sites above
  • 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.
  • Cross-Balaton Swim Contest..
  • 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 maximum 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[edit]

Buy local wine of course!

Eat[edit]

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.

Drink[edit]

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

Sleep[edit]

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!