Lake Balaton is the most popular summer holiday destination in Hungary, famous for its many lakeside towns, local wines, lakeside festivals, and more.
If you’ve seen it all in Budapest, including all the thermal baths, it’s time to broaden your horizon and explore more of Hungary. If you’re visiting during the summer season, Lake Balaton is a must-see attraction in the countryside. Often called “the Hungarian Sea”, Balaton is the most popular holiday destination of the locals, and thanks to the small size of the country, it’s easily reachable from the capital – by car or public transportation. And once you’re there, we can assure you, you won’t want to leave. The warm water, the sweet local wines, the tasty lángos, the lakeside music, culture, and art festivals as well as the charming little towns of the area all offer different experiences just over 100 km from Budapest. Read on and find out which part of the Balaton you should discover first!
As the biggest lake in Central Europe with a 230 km-long coastline and 40 villages around it, Lake Balaton is undoubtedly the number one summer getaway spot in Hungary. The south coast is famous for its shallow water that often heats up to 25-26 Celsius degrees during summer season, while on the northern bank, you can plunge into deeper and cooler waters. And if you can’t pick a side, you can also rent a kayak, a paddleboat, a stand-up paddle, or (with a license) take a sailing boat out to the open water.
If you’re a lover of sailing, make sure to schedule your trip during the Blue Ribbon (Kékszalag) Sailing Race.
Located on the north coast of Balaton, Badacsony is both the name of the mountain top and the town in that region. Thanks to its southern slopes and volcanic basalt soil, the hill is the most famous wine region by the Balaton. You can spend a day or so in the company of good food and wine as you casually hike up to the top, stopping by the many vineyards along the way. Once on the top, you will get a breathtaking view over the lake – something you simply cannot miss! Besides its tasty wine, Badacsony is also the gate of the Balaton Uplands National Park where you can explore the many hills on the northern bank of the lake.
And if tasting one region’s wine is not enough for you while in Hungary, check out where you can get the best wine tasting experiences in Budapest.
If you prefer to slow down while on holiday, Tihany is definitely the place to be. Formed by an ancient volcanic crater, Tihany Peninsula is well-known for its trademark echo sounds, the sweet fragrance of lavender fields, and the Benedictine monastery atop the hill that offers yet another panoramic view over the Balaton and the region. The charming little town of Tihany is also definitely worth a stroll, and if you’re up for exploring more, you can look for a series of man-made caves from the 11th century, called Hermit’s Caves.
If you’d like to see other towns near Tihany, make sure to visit Balatonfüred, the home of the famous Anna Ball and many other cultural events.
Among the many faces of Balaton, you can find a buzzing nightlife at more than one corner of the lake. Without a doubt, Lake Balaton’s party capital is Siófok, located on the southern shores. From early June until late August, the town is vibrant with the sounds and lights of the nightclubs stretching along the waterfront. Besides Siófok, Balaton also has its own music festival, Balaton Sound, which happens yearly in Zamárdi, a town nearby Siófok.
For those more interested in cultural and art festivals, we recommend the Valley of Arts in the Káli Basin, famous for its experimental art performances, garden concerts, and exceptional atmosphere.
The fastest and most convenient way to get to Lake Balaton is by car. Take motorway M7 and get prepared for busy roads, especially during the weekends. If you’re going to the south shore, stay on M7 until you get to your destination, but if you’d like to get to the north shore, you will need to take the exit where M7 crossed Road 71. Don’t forget to purchase a motorway pass before starting your journey!
If you prefer to use public transportation, you can choose between train and bus services, running frequently from Budapest. Trains leave from the Déli Train Station (on the Buda side, metro line M2), while buses embark from Népliget Bus Station (on the Pest side, metro line M3). Bon voyage!
- How big is Lake Balaton in Hungary?
- Lake Balaton is the biggest lake in Central Europe: it is 77 km long, 14 km wide, with a mean depth of 3.2 m. It has an approx. 230 km-long coastline with 40 villages and towns located by its south and north shores. On the south shores, the water is shallow and warm, while the north shores offer cooler and deeper waters.
- What are the best places at Lake Balaton?
- Depending on one’s preference, Lake Balaton offers various activities during the summer season. Badacsony is the main wine region, the Tihany Peninsula, the Káli Basin, and the Balaton Uplands National Park is perfect for hiking, while Siófok, Balatonfüred, and Zamárdi are the region’s party, culture, and festival centers, respectively.
- How far is Lake Balaton from Budapest? How can I get there?
- Depending on the preferred village and shore, Lake Balaton is situated a bit over 100 km away from Budapest. If you’re going by car, take motorway M7 straight to the south shores, and turn to Road 71 to get to the north shores. Trains go from Déli station, while buses go from Népliget Station from Budapest.