Things to do around Lake Balaton, Hungary
With its picturesque landscapes, vineyards, volcanic mountains and historic towns, Lake Balaton offers all this along with its stunning body of water in western Hungary. The lake is mostly undiscovered to those who live outside the region but it’s great to visit any time of year, with many resorts residing along the shoreline. Just about an hour southwest of Budapest, you can discover Central Europe’s largest lake and see for yourself why it brings in many people year-round.
1. Quality Vineyards
On the north side of Lake Balaton, the fertile soil has volcanic rock containing rich minerals making it a prime wine growing region. The first vines were planted back in the 14th-century by Cistercian monks and still produce Pinot Gris grapes up until this day. The grapes are even named after the monks, Szürkebarát meaning grey monk. There are many cellar tours and tastings in the area like the Laposa Birtok, featuring a great view of the lake on a large terrace, and Homola, a family business that offers tastings with snacks and live music events. If you make it in August, you can enjoy the Balatonfüred Wine Weeks which showcases around 250 different wines.
2. Cycle Around the Lake
A 93-mile route has been built along the coastline of the lake that gives you a unique experience of Lake Balaton. If you come here without a bike, rental shops are located in major resorts. Along the route, there are many of pit stops where you can enjoy ice cream or traditional Hungarian beach foods while taking in the view. The paths on the southern end are flatter in case you want an easier ride.
3. Home to a Huge Electronic Music Festival
In July, Balaton Sound, one of Europe’s best EDM festivals, takes over the town of Zamárdi, the southern end of Lake Balaton. The 5-day event lets you party on land or in the lake while enjoying the best DJs of EDM on the main stage – previous acts include Tiësto and David Guetta. It’s a festival that never ends where you watch the incredible sunrise and sunset over the lake as you party away.
4. Water-sports Heaven
Since Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe, that calls for a lot of water sports like sailing and windsurfing. The lake covers an area of Transdanubia which is known for its natural beauty and depths in certain parts; the waters are shallow on the southern end but if you head north, it gets deeper.
5. Family-friendly Destination
Lake Balaton is the perfect place to spend a family holiday as it has something for everyone. The lake itself has coastal water averaging of two-three meters with gentle waters on the southern shores. If you want to get away from the lake but still be around water, the huge Aquapark at Zalaegerszeg offers lots of fun with its wave machine and 300m-long artificial river. You can also choose a day to relax with the family-friendly spas along with Zalakaros and Kehidakustány.
6. A Stellar Food Scene
To all the foodies, this is definitely a place to stop and try Hungarian-style cuisine. One of the country’s best restaurants, Kistücsök, is located on the southern end of the lake that serves top-notch dishes in a laid-back setting. You can get a taste of the region’s local produce and seasonal ingredients in its dishes like pickled cucumber soup and pork belly with green bean stew.
If you’re not looking for fine-dining, there’s also gourmet beach foods at Kishableány. You can grab a burger, pizza or sandwiches in the hipster location in the 1960s building in Badacsony. On the Tihany Peninsula, you can catch an amazing view of the lake along with traditional dishes and wins at Ferenc Pince Csárda.
7. Swim in the Summer, Ice Skate in the Winter
For those surrounded by land, Lake Balaton is known as their ‘Hungarian Sea’. No matter the season, there’s always something to do on the lake. During the summer, water temperatures reach 25 degrees C (77 degrees F) and has safe shallow waters making it a great place for familiar. Depending on which side of the lake you are on, you can enjoy the nature in the north while the south has more of a party vibe.
The activities aren’t just in the winter. When temperatures drop, the surface of the lake can freeze over. When the ice layer is thick enough, you can go ice skating or ice sailing.
8. Experience Healing Thermal Waters
In Keszhely, on the northern shore, you will find Europe’s largest thermal lake, Héviz. The sulphuric waters are naturally heated and enhance relaxation and ease ailments. If you don’t want to float around the historic bathing house, you can opt for a massage.
About the Author: Emily Garcés is a freelance writer and content creator. When she’s not traveling, she loves spending time with her family & friends, going to coffee shops and trying to figure out where her next destination should be. Peep her stuff at emilymgarces.blogspot.com.