Latest update: 20/07/2015
Lake Balaton Hungary
You can find almost everything here and in the sub-pages about the Lake Balaton: geography, beaches, restaurants, cities, natural values, events and festivals, pictures, videos, Castles, wineries, wildlife.
Csopak beach – this is one of the most popular partly beacuse it is close to Veszprem which is a biggest city in the region with it’s app. 60,000 inhabitants.
Lake Balaton Hungary: the most popular beach and resort area in Hungary, the huge freshwater lake and it’s surrounding is a perfect place to relax. It is simply a fantastic place, no big cities, no crowd (sometimes somewhere can appear), no smog.
The Lake has a pristine water carefully monitored regularly by the environmental authorities. So everything is given for a fantastic summer holiday. Some people like to go one place and stay there, but I think it is good fun to look around as well.
Quick guide for Lake Balaton
Perhaps some basic questions first which interest many people. First it is not the sea, although many people call it Hungarian sea. What I mean don’t expect the same as you go to the Mediterranean sea, it is not realistic. What you can expect a very friendly, usually cheap, nice environment perfect for families, warm water in good weather and plenty of fun and programs, nice food and wine and safety. No petrol engine allowed in the Lake in order to preserve the natural conditions.
Views : Not so spectacular views there as in Italy or Austria, there are some hills but not so high and the from the South side not so visible. If you are after views the North side is better in Szigliget and in the basalt hills of Tihany, Badacsony, Gulacs, etc.
The main season July August. Perhaps ok in June, September
Bad weather: sometimes happen, what to do? Veszprem zoo, check Zalakaros, Igal, Kehidakustany Tamasi spa, Heviz hot water lake, Keszthely, Sumeg castle, Tapolca cave lake to give some idea.
Off season: most restaurants closed, beaches closed, everything looks abandoned even in Siofok. Wildlife: very good, you can get your camera, especially in Autumn and Spring bird migration and in winter. Lots of interesting species.
Where to go ?
South or North shore
At the South shore the water is shallower better for small kids, and there are many beaches (including free ones), in North shore there are less beaches but there are more hills, and green areas, and the water become deeper which is better for swimming. In some places in the South shore must walk 500-1000 meters to swim.
The most popular beach here is Siofok (South shore), with lots of programs, lots of possibilities, vibrant nightlife, but it is perhaps not the best for a family who wants to relax. It is very good for somebody looking for party or relationships, like crowd, and action.
There are three bigger cities Siofok, Keszthely (Northwest), and Balatonfüred (Northeast). All three has approximately 20-25,000 inhabitants so these are not big cities. The other settlements around the Lake are resort villages, with mostly one or two level houses. If you look after a bigger shop, if you prefer it for shopping it is mostly can be found in this bigger cities.
Among locals according to official statistics the most popular places are : Siofok, Balatonfured, Balatonlelle (South shore) in this order. But most people comes from Budapest directions which means they prefer the closer places.
Keszthely has a most ‘town look’, there is nice Baroque Castle there the Festetics Castle, which is one of the two finest Baroque Castle in Hungary (the other is Fertod), and there are several museums and restaurants there as well. There are some nice beaches as well in Keszthely. Keszthely located in the West side of the Lake near Heviz.
Heviz is one of the most popular city in Hungary regaring tourism, it is not next to the Lake Balaton but very close. In Heviz there is a unique hot water Lake which is hot in winter as well. In summer too hot I think.
Balatonfured is also a very nice place with a nice paved area next to the shore, the heart hospital is also there, they held the famous Anna ball here every year, and the Blue ribbon regatta also starts here.
Fonyod is a very popular place in the South shore with 4 beaches, nice calm atmosphere, a nice green area nearby (Nagyberek). Other popular places are the North shore East side from Tihany to Balatonakarattya. Apart from there most places are nice here.
Tihany is a very nice place as well, the Tihany peninsula where the Lake has the less width with a fantastic nature reserve, 1000 year old monastery, nice forest, two lakes, huge trees, wine yards. The beach is relatively small here, and cars going relatively close to the shore. There is an adventure park here as well.
In Badacsony there is a basalt hill and wine cellars with friendly owners. There is a botanical garden here as well.
Csopak is also popular see the pic above it is one of the more crowded place because it is close the Veszprem a bigger 60,000 inhabitants city nearby.
There are some very little settlements as well, where there is not so much information or shopping possibilities.
Programs things to do
Lots of organised programs during the year like gastro and wine festivals, all kind of fun in the water, rent water vehicles, fishing, watching sunset sunrise, reading in the beach, bicycling around the lake, hiking on basalt hills, check viewpoints in Fonyod, Szigliget Castle ruin, boating between Fonyod and Badacsony or Tihany and Szantod.
For nature lovers
Tihany peninsula lakes, Kis Balaton nature reserve (Southwest area), Balaton uplands basalt hills, Nagyberek next to Fonyod, South area fishing lakes are interesting, but Northeast areas as well.
For more detailed information about the Lake Balaton see also the links of the sub-pages at the right side of the page.
Introduction about the Lake
Lake Balaton is the summer No 1. Tourist target in Hungary. I cannot recommend a better alternative for a summer holiday here. Natural beauty combined with friendly atmosphere, free beaches everywhere around the Lake (most of them are free, but even on paid beaches is usually only need to pay, just several hundred, or a thousand forints). Balaton area is huge: the Lake itself is 77km long, the width of the Lake ranges between 1.1 and 14km, the average width is 7-8 km. The area of the Lake Balaton is almost 600 km2. The settlements around the lake are usually small resort villages, mostly covered with one or two level weekend and “normal” houses, the biggest city is Siofok with approximately 24 000, Kesztely has 21 000, Balatonfured has 14 000 inhabitants. The Lake and the shore next to the Lake are usually plain area, but little further there are some smaller hills, and some middle-height hills. Asphalt covered bicycle road is going around the Lake, cycling around the Lake can be a several day program itself. The South shore of the Lake has shallower water, perhaps better for the kids, the North shore is deeper, better for swimming. At South shore there are more free beaches, than at the North shore. See the beaches at the right side of the page in the sub-pages in detail. The most crowded or “party” place is Siofok (Siófok), and Balatonfured(Balatonfüred). People don’t like crowded places has also a lot of alternatives: places mainly in Western or middle areas, on both shores. For nature lovers also has a lot to see: lots of birds, butterflies, all kind of animals, insects, fishes can be seen easily. I seen deer, roe deer several meters from the shore. At North side Basalt hills can be found, with wine cellars. In Keszthely the famous Festetics castle waiting for his visitors, even at night for classical music concerts. Balaton was a popular place in the past as well: several Castles can be found around the Lake. The Balaton shore area is also a popular wine-making area in Hungary. As I know there are no natural island in the Balaton, but there had been plans even in the past to create one.
It is important, the main season is in July-August, sometimes can be okay in end of June or beginning of September, but normally July-August is the optimal to be in the water, enjoy the sun, and have fun. Most people come here to be in the water, and laying on the beach. Off season the area becomes abandoned, many restaurants are not open. This times is good for watching the water or be in the nature. In Autumn lots of birds appear here during migration. Sometimes in winter the Lake is frozen, and if the ice is strong enough winter sports like skating is possible.
The shape of the Lake
Balaton has a longish shape, in East West direction, little bit sloping Southwise in Western direction.
Water level of Lake Balaton, history, geology
The average water level is 2-3m. Starting from the North shore the water quickly reach 2m depth, but after needed several km-s to reach the deepest points of 5-6m which area can be found at 1/3 width closer to South shore, after from 1km distance from the South shore the level is quickly become quite shallow. The Lake Balaton is barely deeper than this 5-6m depth, except at Tihany well, where it is 11m deep in a small area. Because it is a shallower lake it is more quickly warms up in summer and cools down in winter. The lake exist from the ice age which was 300,000 years before. Before that seems sea was in the place of all Hungary except the hills. It is known because of the drillings, which shows that under the Balaton approximately 20m layer can be found which is identical of the current material, below that a layer shows that there was a sea long ago here. This can be known of the shells can be found here. Among this layers peat layers also can be found which indicates that a marsh has been there some time. Peat only can be found in Marshes. Lake Balaton has a water collecting area approximately 3 times more than the Lake itself (1800 km2). The Lake Balaton doesn’t have an internal water supply, the water comes from rains and Zala river and 30 smaller springs. If the water level is too high there is a possibility to lead it in the Sio canal. The water has a very good quality, I read somewhere in a study this is so clear one can drink it (I don’t suggest, I never tried, but I like the fact that this is clean).
Flora and fauna of the Lake Balaton and surrounding areas
The Lake Balaton has rich flora and fauna. The reeds are more common in the North shore, but there are some in the South shore as well. Common species which can easily seen even in Summer season: Great egret, Little egret, Reed warbler, Common tern, all kinds of songbirds like Golden oriole, Nightingale, Savi’s warbler, Little bittern. Colourful birds like Kingfisher and Bee eaters are also can be seen some places. I’ve seen Otter in the Lake and adult deer with huge antler just next to the shore. Sometimes boars wonder in the water. Non-poisonous snakes are also common in the Lake and the surrounding areas. For wildlife photographers to get the most out of the time the best time is before or after beach season: January-June, or September-December.
Kis (Little) Balaton
Kis Balaton is an interesting part of Lake Balaton. It is situated at the Southwest shore of Lake Balaton. It’s protected area is 150 km2. It is a protected reserve since 1951, part of the Ramsar agreement about wetlands. Long before the Kis Balaton area was part of the Lake, but when they build the railway in the South shore and makes the Lake water level smaller it dried out. After some time they realized that Zala river brings lots of Phosphorus and Nitrogen into the Lake Balaton which makes the Lake Balaton water not so clean. The obvious solution was to built back the former Kis Balaton area which they started at 1976 with constructed new dams for it and still the second Phase hasn’t completed yet. This shallow Lake area clean the water of Zala river before join Lake Balaton. At the same time Kis Balaton becomes a wonderful place for birds and wildlife. If we want to visit the area can start at Zalavar visitor center where they can inform about the possibilities. Kanyavar island is most common place where we can visit the area. Kanyavar island can be accessed little further down to Zalavar, after the Bridge can be accessed through the alley. On the bridge only can access the island by walking. Little bit before the Kanyavar island when we crossing the bridge right side a bicycle road can be found which crosses the Lake, this is the two possibility where we can access the area. Near Kanyavar island a buffalo reserve can be found. If we fortunate can see lots of water birds like Herons, Small and big cormorants, Grebes, Great egret, Blue heron and others. Approximately 250 bird species has been identified at the area, half of them breeding here.
Areas next to the shore, hotels
Usual criticism about Lake Balaton that it has some rectangular shaped socialist type not so aesthetic hotels. This is true but, most of the shore area is covered by 1 or 2 level weekend-houses, and “normal” houses, with nice alleys, and some older Castles and Villas. The 5 star flashing glittering hotels are not very common. People who like that perhaps Siofok or Balatonfured is a good target. Most places there are enormous quantity private owned apartmans is available usually with discounted price. One can have a good business with that can rent a 100 m2 upper level of the house with a huge garden with not so high prices.
Catering services, restaurants at Lake Balaton beaches
Most beaches are equipped with catering services, foods like see fish, and Hungarian Goulash are available almost everywhere at the shore. There are several restaurants also available mostly next to the Main road No 71 or 7, the most famous is Kicstucsok Restaurant at Balatonszemes at South shore. In Tihany also there are some good restaurants. The main season is from June to August, some restaurants are not open outside of main season.
On Both shores a good quality asphalt road goes around the Lake, bicycle road as well and the railway goes on both shores as well. The railway line is near the the shore which can be not so good for people in the camping near the shore who are not good sleepers. Between Fonyod and Badacsony a boat is going.
Restaurants around Lake Balaton
The general opinion that the best resturant at Lake Balaton is the
Kistücsök (small grig) restaurant
at Balatonszemes at the South shore. Obviously it is not the cheapest.
I think in main season reservation is needed.
Address: 8636, Balatonszemes, Bajcsy Zsilinszky u 25.
Telephone: +36 84 360 133
St Domokos restaurant
at Varvolgy (near Heviz or Keszthely but not at the shore) is also very nice.
The Restaurant can be found next to the main road at Varvölgy.
Some possible targets:
Tihany is the name of the peninsula as well, here is the smallest of the distance between the two shores of Lake Balaton. Thousand years old monastery can be found here, along with very interesting geological and natural values: a forest at the peninsula, two lakes, see the “internal” lake below, one of the deepest part of the Lake the “Tihany well”, good quality Restaurants and one of the interesting beach next to the forest: Sajkod is a smaller beach at the West side of the peninsula next to the forest. I was very surprised at the natural values kept so near to the Balaton. Tihany is one of the finest place in all Hungary.
Balatonfured is one of the bigger places in the North shore, unofficially often called the capital of the Balaton. Balatonfured is nice place and has a lot to offer: the Annagora aquapark with several slides and with a biggest wave pool of Hungary, several famous building and villa can be found here, together with the National heart hospital, the Loczy cave, the Balatonfured forest, the Jokai viewpoint, several wells and other attractions.
has a very interesting fortress ruin, see below, where we can have a nice view on the Lake. Also an Old castle park can be found here. The beach is very nice too. Szigliget is one of the quiter, smaller places.
is famous about it’s wine cellars on a small hill. Also near Badacsony a botanical garden can be found on the basalt hills. (Badacsonyors). Badacsony is also a name for the below hill.
there is a Festetics castle see below with night-time classical concerts, a puppet museum, Keszthely is sometimes referred as the “capital of the Balaton as it is one of the biggest city here.
With it’s famous Gold and Silver beaches one of the most visited place at the shore, and one of the bigger places around the Lake.
is a very nice place with a viewpoint, a very nice fishing lake, mostly forested area, next to it the “Nagyberek” reservatory area can be found. There are four beaches can be found here. At the Apartman booking is good to know that the train goes near the shore (perhaps true for the whole South shore, perhaps somebody cannot sleep well, for me was not disturbing). The train can be noisy for some, very nice places can be rent on the “hill” area, with a good view to the Lake. A boat trip possible to Badacsony. Csisztapuszta is a nearby Spa from 10-20 km from Fonyod. Csisztapuszta is a very small settlement, the Spa is located in the middle of a grassland. From the pool a good view possible on the adjacent grassland.
Boats going in and out of Siofok, between Fonyod and Badacsony, and between Tihany and Szantod.
Shopping around the Lake
Apart from smaller shops not many supermarkets there. Siofok, Balatonfured, Tapolca are the places where there are bigger supermarkets.
Some of this year’s events:
- Harley Davidson festival: Alsóörs 8-12th of June, 2015
- Balaton sound, Zamárdi 11-14th of July, 2015
- BMY festival Lake 9-12th of August 2015 Zamardi
- Blue Ribbon regatta
Programs, possibilities around the lake:
- fun in the water, swimming, doing nothing, read a book under a tree or umbrella, think about things, or life in general 🙂
- boat, surf, sailboat, rent a canoe
- fishing at Balaton and the surrounding fishing lakes (Fonyód, Balaton)
- Tihany peninsula : unique vulcanic stuctures, 1050 old monastery, two lakes, forest, natural beauty.
- Balatonederics Africa museum
- Keszthely: Festetich castle with classic concerts
- Balatonszárszó: Crocodile zoo
- Fenékpuszta: bird ringing station
- Kis Balaton natural reserve: Kányaváry island, Kápolnapuszta buffalo reservatory
- Fonyód fishing lake, viewpoint
- Csisztapuszta spa
- Hévíz hot water lake
- castle ruins in Szigliget, and Sümeg
- bicycling around the lake (you can go all around on dedicated bicycle road)
- Horse riding
- Wine road, check wine cellars in Badacsony
- Badacsony mountain hiking – on concrete stairs, vine cellars, Badacsonytomaj – Folly arboretum
- Cave lake at Tapolca
- Caves at Balatonfüred, Cserszegtomaj, Balatonederics, Szentgál
- Nagy Berek former swamp area next to Fonyód can go on asphalt road
- Festivals (Balaton sound, Harley davidson annual festival, etc)
- Veszprém zoo in rainy situation
Hotels around Lake Balaton
There are many Hotels nearby at different levels. The most Hotels can be found in Heviz, which is not at the shore of Lake Balaton, but not too far either. In Heviz a unique hot water lake can be found.
Hotel Tihany Atrium ****
Location: Tihany, Kenderföld út 19, 8237
Adler Hotel & Restaurant Tihany
Location: 8237 Tihany, Felsőkopaszhegyi u. 1/A
Hotel Halászkert Badacsony
Location: 8258 Badacsony, Park u. 5.
Hotel Neptun Badacsony
Location: 8261 Badacsony, Római u. 170.
Szindbád Hotel Balatonszemes
Location: 8636 Balatonszemes, Árnyas fasor 1.
Holiday Hotel Csopak
Location: 8229 Csopak, Szépkilátó utca 38.
Balaton Hotel Siófok ***
Location: 8600 Siófok, Petõfi sétány 9.
Hotel Azúr Siófok ****
Location: 8600 Siófok, Erkel Ferenc u. 2/c
Hotel Residence Siófok ****
Location: 8600 Siófok, Erkel Ferenc u. 49.
City Hotel Siófok ***
Location: 8600 Siófok, Szûcs u. 2.
Luxury Apartment Hotel Siófok
Location: 8600 Siófok, Beszédes József sétány 70/C
Premium Hotel Panoráma Siófok
Location: 8600 Siófok, Beszédes József sétány 80.
La Riva Hotel Siófok ***
Location: 8600 Siófok, Petõfi sétány 7.
Kristály Hotel Keszthely
Location: 8360 Keszthely, Lovassy S. u. 20.
Wellness Hotel Kakadu Keszthely ***+
Location: 8360 Keszthely, Pázmány Péter u. 14.
Hotel Wellamarin Zamardi ****+
Location: 8621 Zamárdi, Eötvös u. 15/1.
Hotel Platán Zamárdi
Location: 8621 Zamárdi, Damjanich u. 2/b
Hotel Família Zamárdi
Location: 8621 Zamárdi, Endrédi u. 1/A
Sirály Hotel Zamárdi
Location: 8621 Zamárdi, Kiss Ernõ u. 1/C
Club Hotel Füred Balatonfüred
Location: 8230 Balatonfüred, Anna sétány 1-3.
Hotel Annabella Balatonfüred
Location: 8230 Balatonfüred, Deák Ferenc u. 25.
Hotel Margaréta Balatonfüred
Location: 8230 Balatonfüred, Széchenyi u. 53.
Hotel Tagore Balatonfüred
Location: 8230 Balatonfüred, Deák Ferenc u. 56.
Hotel Silver Resort Balatonfüred
Location: 8230 Balatonfüred, Zákonyi Ferenc u. 4.
Astoria Hotel Balatonfüred ***
Location: 8230 Balatonfüred, Jókai u. 28.
Anna Grand Hotel Balatonfüred – Wine & Vital ****
Location: 8230 Balatonfüred, Gyógy tér 1.
Hotel Balaton Fonyód ***
Location: 8640 Fonyód Szt István u 1.
Part Hotel Balatonlelle
Location: 8638 Balatonlelle, Köztársaság u. 46.
Club Regatta Balatonlelle
Location: 8638 Balatonlelle, Vadvirág u. 2.
Sirály Hotel Balatonlelle
Hotel Francoise Balatonlelle
Location: 8368 Balatonlelle, Köztársaság út 31.
Riviéra Park Hotel Balatonföldvár ***
Location: 8623 Balatonföldvár, Somogyi Béla u. 5-7.
Anna Mária villa Balatonföldvár ***
Location: 8623 Balatonföldvár, Rákóczi út 9.
Hotel Panoráma Balatongyörök ***+
Location: 8313 Balatongyörök, Petõfi utca 5.
Ramada Hotel & Resort Balatonalmádi
Location: 8220 Balatonalmádi, Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Endre u. 14.
Lotus Therme Hotel & Spa Hévíz *****
Location: 8380 Hévíz, Lótuszvirág u. 1.
Naturmed Hotel Carbona Hévíz
Location: 8380 Hévíz, Attila u. 1.
Hotel Erzsébet Hévíz
Location: 8380 Hévíz, Erzsébet királyné útja 13-15.
Hunguest Hotel Panoráma Hévíz
Location: Hunguest Hotel Panoráma Hévíz ***+
Hunguest Hotel Helios Hévíz ***+
Location: 8380 Hévíz, Vörösmarty Mihály u. 91.
Danubius Health Spa Resort Aqua Hévíz
Location: 8380 Hévíz, Kossuth Lajos u. 13-15.
Palace Hotel Hévíz
Location: 8380 Hévíz, Rákóczi utca 1-3.
Hotel Europa Fit Hévíz ****+
Location: 8380 Hévíz, Jókai u. 3.
Szent Kristóf Hotel Hévíz ***
Location: 8380 Hévíz, Erzsébet királyné út 1.
Ágnes Hotel Hévíz
Location: 8380 Hévíz, Honvéd u. 7.
Aquamarin Hotel Hévíz
Location: 8380 Hévíz, Honvéd u. 14.
Tópart Hotel Balatonvilágos
Location: 8171 Balatonvilágos, Zrínyi u. 1.
Hotel Kék tó Balatonszárszó
Location: 8624 Balatonszárszó, Ady Endre u. 3.
Apart from the Hotels there are many apartments to let here. Apartments are usually cheaper than Hotels.
Areas around the Lake Balaton
Veszprem is a city of Queens is not very far from Lake Balaton and is one of the bigger town nearby. Veszprem has a Castle, a nice zoo, several beautiful historical buildings, a construction museum, and a friendly atmosphere. In Southwest side of the Lake Balaton Somogy county can be found. Here are the most forests in Hungary. Several ten kilometers from the Shore small villages can be found, some of them with abandoned houses. Somogy is not very densely populated area. Some naturally very nice place can be found here, with abundant wildlife: forests, Lakes in the forests, interesting meadows.
In North vulcanic hills can be found near the Lake area a little further the Bakony hills can be found. The best places are situated in Csesznek, Bakonybel, Fenyofo area. The whole area is green and beautiful, with plenty of butterflies, birds, mammals, and other creatures. In Csesznek a Castle can be found.