Welcome to Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton is the largest freshwater lake in Europe and the
most popular vacation region in Hungary. Lining both shores of its
48-mile (77km) stretch are many towns and resorts, and the north
and south shores are distinctly different in character offering
something for everyone.
The south shore is thronged by a string of characterless holiday
resorts and high-rise buildings where crowds of young people
congregate for a hedonistic holiday of sun and fun. Besides the
pretty beaches and good swimming, there are numerous land and
water-based activities, and at night the discos pulse until the
early hours. Siófok is the largest and busiest resort that
dominates the southern shore during the summer months, but is
completely dead in winter.
The southern edges of the lake include the Golden and Silver
Shore beaches (Aranypart and Ezüstpart). Breaking away from the
beach life tourists can take a walk down either Beszédes and Petõfi
promenades. The Lutheran Church in Oulu Park is also a notable
attraction. A short day excursion to the nearby town of Zamárdi and
a visit to the towns Ethnographic Museum are well worth the
By contrast the northern shore has limited waterfront
development due to its deeper, colder waters and reed beds; its
attractions are of an historical and cultural nature rather than
activity-centred. Although there are resorts here, it is a
destination for those travellers looking for less ostentatious
showiness, rather more in the way of scenery, interesting towns and
sights, and mineral spas, complemented by the fine wines from the
nearby hills of Badacsony. Many of the villages on the shores of
the lake have a number of medieval ruins and fortresses.
The oldest and most popular spa resort is Balantonfüred, with an
easygoing sophistication and relaxed atmosphere. Jutting out into
the lake and almost joining the northern and southern shores is the
Tihany Peninsula, which has an old Benedictine Abbey in the quaint
town and is surrounded by a nature reserve, which many consider to
be the most beautiful place on the lake. To the west and marking
the end of the northern shore is the interesting town of Keszthely
with its Baroque Festetics Palace which was built in 1745 on the
foundations of a ruined castle.
Lake Balaton has been a popular recreation area since the Roman
times when the aristocracy built villas and set up health spas
here. It was also a famous winegrowing region and the graceful
rolling hills, cool water and warm sunshine still provide the
perfect setting and climate for both vacations and vineyards.
Information & Facts
With over 120 miles (200km) of cycle tracks around the villages
and shores of Lake Balaton, cycling is a popular way to get around.
Visitors to Balaton between May and September can make use of the
Balaton ferry to cross between the lake's southern and northern
shores (Tihany and Szántód), while excursion boats cruise between a
number of ports along the shores of the lake. Local buses are also
available and it is possible to drive between different towns
surrounding the lake.
Hungarian (Magyar) is the official language, but German
is widely spoken, especially in the areas close to the Austrian
border. English is spoken in tourist areas and most
Even though Hungary is part of the EU it does not use the Euro;
the official currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). Travellers
cheques are not widely favoured. Credit cards most accepted in the
country are AMEX, Diners Club, EnRoute, Euro/Mastercard, JCB and
Visa, and these can be used to withdraw cash from banks and ATMs
and to pay bills in hotels, restaurants and most shops. Banks
usually open between 8am and 4pm on weekdays and some are open on
Saturdays. ATMs and currency exchange machines are available in
towns and cities throughout the country. It is advisable to retain
exchange receipts for proof of legal currency exchange.