As being Hungarian, always fills my heart with joy and pride when someone mentions my home country or when I can read some nice reviews from other travelers about their experiences in Hungary. Not to mention if they decide to visit Lake Balaton as well, besides the obvious choice of Budapest. The Lake where actually I grew up and spent my first 18 years, the Lake that is definitely one of the most amazing spots of entire Europe.
And today my beloved lake was mentioned, not just randomly by a travel blog, but related to the next president of the United States of America, Joe Biden.
Tom Lantos Hungarian politician began his political career in (that time) Senator Biden’s Washington office. They are like-minded people, and it was always crucial for both of them to enforce human rights and liberal democracy. Tom Lantos was the one on whose advice Biden decided to spend his honeymoon after his second marriage near Lake Balaton.
“Tom Lantos organized everything and to Biden’s surprise he announced that he and his wife Annette would accompany the newlyweds. And indeed they went. All four of them. Biden later recalled that Lantos presented Hungary as if he were the CEO of a tourist agency. The best fish can be found in Hungary. Lake Balaton is the nicest lake in the whole world. The bridges across the Danube are the most spectacular in the universe. The world’s most famous scientists, actors, mathematicians, composers, and poets were all Hungarians. Not only Biden but scores of American delegations went to Hungary since and they all heard the same accolades from him.” (Source: Hungarian Spectrum)
So why is it so interesting to visit Lake Balaton?
Lake Balaton is a freshwater lake in the Transdanubian region of Hungary. It is the largest lake in Central Europe, and one of the region’s foremost tourist destinations. The Zala River provides the largest inflow of water to the lake, and the canalized Sió is the only outflow. The mountainous region of the northern shore is known both for its historic character and as a major wine region, while the flat southern shore is known for its resort towns. Balatonfüred and Hévíz developed early as resorts for the wealthy, but it was not until the late 19th century when landowners began building summer homes to rent out to the burgeoning middle classes.
The lake’s surface freezes during winters. The microclimate around Lake Balaton has also made the region ideal for viticulture. The Mediterranean-like climate, combined with the soil (containing volcanic rock), has made the region notable for its production of wines since the Roman period two thousand years ago.
What to do near Lake Balaton?
- The major resorts around the lake are Keszthely, the capital of the lake, and Siófok, Balatonfüred. Zamárdi – another resort town on the southern shore, has been the site of Balaton Sound, a notable electronic music festival since 2007.
- Balatonkenese is famous for hosting numerous traditional gastronomic events.
- Siófok is known for attracting young people to it because of its large discos, clubs, and summer festivals.
- Balatonfüred is a historical bathing town that is also being famous for hosting the annual Anna Ball.
- Keszthely – besides being the capital of Lake Balaton – is the site of the beautiful Festetics Palace. It was built in Baroque style, and the building now houses the Helikon Palace Museum. The palace’s construction, started by Kristóf Festetics in 1745, lasted more than a century. During this time, the palace, built at first on the foundations of a ruined castle, was tripled in size in two subsequent building campaigns, most recently in the 1880s, to designs by Viktor Rumpelmayer, living in Vienna. When Rumpelmayer died in 1885, the work was carried to completion by architects Gusztáv Haas and Miksa Paschkisch.
The peak tourist season extends from June until the end of August. The average water temperature during the summer is 25 °C, which makes bathing and swimming popular on the lake. Most of the beaches consist of either grass, rocks, or the silty sand that also makes up most of the bottom of the lake. Many resorts have artificial sandy beaches and all beaches have step access to the water. Other tourist attractions include sailing, fishing, and other water sports, as well as visiting the countryside and hills, wineries on the north coast, and nightlife on the south shore. The Tihany Peninsula is a breathtakingly beautiful and historical area.
Badacsony is a volcanic mountain and wine-growing region as well as a lakeside resort. The lake is almost completely surrounded by separated bike lanes to facilitate bicycle tourism. Although the peak season at the lake is the summer, Balaton is also frequented during the winter, when visitors go ice-fishing or even skate, sledge, or ice-sail on the lake if it freezes over, or visiting the thermal lake of Hévíz.
How to get there?
- Sármellék International Airport (also called Heviz-Balaton Airport) provides air service to Balaton (although most service is only seasonal), you can check their timetables during holiday season here
- By car, the drive takes 1,5-2 hours: via M7 highway or old route 7
- By train from Budapest takes approximately 2-3 hours to reach the Lake
- By bus from Budapest Népliget also 2-3 hours to get to Balaton
And once again: Congratulations Mr. President! 👏 Hope to see you again soon in Hungary!