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Lake Balaton Guide

June 24th, 2022

When the city just gets too hot and crowded, nothing soothes your soul better than a summer dip in Lake Balaton!  Getting there is as simple as jumping on a train and there are heaps of places to stay.

If you’re not familiar with the biggest lake in Hungary, we’re here to help! Check out our tips for a perfect trip to beautiful blue Balaton!

Northern coast or Southern coast?

Depending on what you are looking for you can decide which part of the lake you’d like to visit. In general the southern coast is better suited for typical beach vacationing while the northern coast is ideal for trips and hikes. However both ends have a myriad of picturesque places to see, excellent restaurants to eat at, good wine to taste and beautiful beaches to swim in.

Here you can find a more detailed guide about the chains of towns surrounding Hungary’s famous lake.

Where to stay?

When looking for accomodation close to the waters you can either try or airbnb. There are many hotels and apartments around the lake but they tend to book up fast during summer. If you prefer a more price-friendly camping experience then you could pitch a tent at several different camping sites on both coasts.  Some accommodations shy away from one day bookings, so if you can, stay for at least two nights, that way it’ll be easier to find a booking and also give you that extra time to kick up your feet and chill.

About the lake

Balaton is the largest lake in both Hungary and Central Europe. The water is a crystal clear blue and feels like a warm bath during summer. The beaches are covered with grass so they are perfect for a day out and a picnic: no sand in your sandwiches!  Some beaches are free, others you need to drop a few coins into a turnstile, costing around €3-5 for a daily pass. The beaches on the southern coast are shallower so if you prefer playing in the water or traveling with kids, it’s the perfect choice. On the northern coast you can still find family friendly beaches, however the water tends to deepen here quicker, so keep that in mind.  But without much in the way of currents, a safe frolic in the water is a sure bet. There aren’t any dangerous animals living in or around the lake either, with only honking ducks, tiny lizards and elegant swans sharing the waters with you.

You can have a go at different watersports on the lake as well such as water biking, SUPs and windsurfing.  

Getting around

Trains head to and around the lake on the daily, so if you’d like to visit different places around the coast, it might be your best bet. Tickets don’t cost much, especially if you’re just visiting a different town close to where you are staying. However you need to know that Hungarian trains are not the most reliable; they can be hot inside since many of them don't have AC and they tend to be late. 

If you are sporty, definitely try renting a bike! It's the best way to get around in the town where you’re staying. A cycling lane runs around the entire lake so if you want to get some exercise or visit some famous places in your neighborhood, then strap on that bike helmet and get peddling!  The real heroes circumvent the lake in one day but if you want to explore at your own pace, aim for 3-4 days!

Eating out

We already shared our tips about Hungarian beach food here but if you are on the beach, try lángos or boiled corn, a typical Hungarian summer snack. In the buffets you can find typical street food as well, such as hamburgers, kebabs and hot dogs.

For dinner, choose a famous Balaton restaurant! More and more places are opening up each year, serving the greatest gastronomic experiences the country has to offer.

Some examples:

Kistücsök Étterem (Balatonszemes)

Mala Garden (Siófok)

Konyhám (Fonyód)

Taberna Infinito (Kisapáti)

Hableány (Badacsonytomaj)

Kedvesem Bisztró (Balatonlelle)

BazsaLicom (Balatonfüred)

Neked főztem (Zánka)

What to do?

Besides renting a bike and exploring towns around the lake, there are many more things you can do. Hiking is popular on both ends of Balaton with the northern coast providing more hills for those seeking a gorgeous view.  Something different might be to explore the special mineral hills on the Balaton felvidék! The most famous is Szentgyörgy Hill, where you can take an easy 4 km hike and check out the special Basalt organs. Also, sample some of the best wine in the country at various little wineries on the hill!

On the southern coast you can soak up the view from the sphere lookout at Balatonboglár!  

To take amazing photos and collect some lavender, check out the famous lavender fields of Balaton! Kőröshegy (southern coast) and Tihany (northern coast) are very famous for this special lilac flower. For around €5, you can grab lavender for yourself, take pictures of the endless fragrant fields and try some lavender ice cream or lemonade. 

There are also tons of cultural programs throughout the whole summer, outside movie screenings, stand ups, theater plays and shows. There are also many festivals held around the lake, such as the famous Balaton Sound!

With summer in full sizzle, there’s no better place in Hungary to cool down from the baking sun than along the pristine cerulean waters of Central Europe’s most famous lake.  So grab your bikinis, board shorts and sunscreen and get splashing!