I recently returned from spending a week at Balaton. The lake is so beautiful and surprisingly huge (we planned to drive around it in one day and managed only half, we took a 1-hour boat ride but managed only till the middle and back).
We had a beautiful trip with mostly sunny days spent with city visits and beach days but we had a few cloudy ones too spent at the hotel’s wellness area relaxing and having a good time.
The quality of the service overall is very satisfactory. The people were very friendly and nice everywhere we went and the prices are acceptable, especially compared to other European destinations.
We enjoyed our time a lot and I will definitely return again some day.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Flamingo Hotel in Balatonfüred. We booked a superior appartment with half pension and spa included. We were overall very satisfied with our stay at this hotel: very nice rooms, great food with a wide selection for breakfast and dinner, beautiful wellness area and a good gym.
Tip: Just make sure to check your bill when checking out, the outdoor bar wrote an extra cocktail on our room and I am not completely sure that it was by mistake. (I am not making such assumptions lightly: we had 3 cocktails which we also signed the receipt for, my brother had after that one more and he insisted to sign the receipt but the guy at the bar said it was not necessary. To our surprise there was a third bill from the bar at checkout which was also unsigned with the same cocktail that my brother had the second time just minuutes after he left the bar. Coincidence? I would say no.)
What to do
There are endless possibilities like sailing, biking, running, hiking, visiting cities or simply relaxing at the beach. There is something for everybody and I assure you nobody will feel bored. Just to name a few:
City visits (see section What to visit below)
Rent a bike and go on the Balaton bike trail around the lake
Wine tasting at local vineyards
Take a boat ride
What to buy
Hungarian paprika powder and chilli powder (I recommend Szegedi Paprika)
Balaton, Túró Rudi and Sportszelet bars
What to eat
There are numerous Hungarian dishes that you must try and my favorites are:
Soups – Gulyás;
Stews – Pörkölt, Lecsó, Székelygulyás, Chicken or mushroom paprikás, Paprikáskrumpli;
Meat dishes – stuffed cabbage, stuffed pepper, Fatányéros, Túrós csusza, Rakott krumpli;
Dumplings – Túrógomboc, Szilvásgomboc;
Others – Padlizsánkrém, Lángos, Pogácsa, Gundel palacsinta, Hortobágyi palacsinta, Császármorzsa;
Dessert – Aranygaluska, Kürtőskalács, Madártej, Somlói galuska
The Balaton fisherman’s soup is famous and I hear it’s delicious.
I recommend you check the list of Hungarian dishes on Wikipedia as well.
What to visit
I loved the city center of Tihany and we visited the beautiful abbey with the best view point to the lake. We drove around the peninsula and I am sure that there are some pretty nice hiking trails.
Make sure to go to the Paprikaház!
Balatonfüred is probably my favorite city to stay at while on Balaton. The promenade is so beautiful, perfect for evening walks, lots of restaurants, bars and ice cream parlours.
The Annagora Aquapark is great for the kids and can be reached also by foot.
The docks are directly on the promenade so you can go on a boat ride on the lake, rent a boat or even bring your own boat.
Badacsony was unfortunately a disappointment for me because there isn’t much to see so we just drove through without stopping. You could however visit if you have some time, perhaps I missed something because this city is also listed within the tourist attractions.
Keszthely is one of the biggest cities on Balaton and it seemed like the place to go to for shopping as well. We stopped at a big shopping center on the edge of the city and did a small shopping spree.
The city center is, even though small, but beautiful. It starts at the castle with an amazing garden which I highly recommend visiting.
It then takes you on the street with pedestrian area filled with small cafes, shops and stores towards the main square.
The promenade also looked promising, although we didn’t have enough time to take a walk along it.
Siofok is probably the largest city on Balaton and it is considered as the coolest party place around the lake. All the students go there on vacation and if you are into the nightlife party scene then this is the place for you.
Unfortunately I didn’t visit Siofok because we were on the other side of the lake in Balatonfüred and it would have been too far to drive. We planned to take a boat from Balatonfüred to Siofok but we somehow didn’t manage it in the end. Too bad, probably next time.
Beginning of June is still off-season at Balaton so most beaches and outdoor medicinal lakes were unfortunately closed during our trip. I plan to go to Héviz though next time. I heard that it’s a nice city with a very good medicinal lake.
I didn’t get to visit the National Park and I would have loved to go hiking but we weren’t properly prepared for it. I hear that it’s beautiful and I will definitely go see it next time when I am at Balaton.
This castle was the best surprise find on this trip. We discovered it on top of a high hill as we were driving on the main road and I just had to go see it.
The walk to the castle and in the castle is very steep and I climbed to the highest point. I literally felt dizzy looking 360 degrees around to the main land and the lake. This was probably my favorite of all the sights!