This article is about what to do in Keszthely, the main town on the western shore of Lake Balaton and the informal capital of the lake. Keszthely is a nice and cosy town, funny for tourist, liveable for locals and interesting for everyone because of its rich history, its culture and great life quality.
We arrived there from Tihany and we stayed for a while. Read here our article about Tihany. Probably we will not be impartial speaking about Keszthely. This is Anna’s hometown and we have been together many times.
Keszthely is famous because of the lake. Discover here that even Joe Biden decided to spend his honeymoon on Balaton. The town has nice beaches (strand in Hungarian), which are very popular among Hungarian tourists but also for Germans, Polish and Italians. The climate in Keszthely is perfect in summer and the good gastronomy and the low prices of food, drinks and accommodations make the town a perfect destination for all those European tourists that prefer to stay away from Mediterranean crowded spots. From North to South, the most popular beaches in town are:
On the lake’s shore there is a popular dock called Keszthely Moló surrounded by food stalls where you can taste the traditional Hungarian Lángos (don’t miss that guys!) or to have a drink. Close to the lake, in Helikon Park, it is possible to walk under centuries-old maple trees and admire a dome-shaped monument.
The origin of the town dates back to the time of the Roman Empire, although the historical golden period was in the 18th and 19th Centuries when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was as its zenith. Festetics Palace, the most impressive architectural gem in Keszthely, is a heir of that time. We could visit this impressive 18th-century building off-season and its very worth to be able to walk around without groups around. The rooms are decorated with original antique furniture. You can visit its awesome library, see the grounds of the farm, the stables and a museum of hunting and horse carriages, called the Kocsimuzeum. To take a relaxing stroll in the outside gardens admiring the façade of the building is highly recommended too.
From Festetics Palace, it is a good idea to to roll down (or up!) until arrive to Fő tér, the main square of the old town. The promenade is called Kossuth Lajos utca and it is a nice pedestrian street with cute cafés and shops. It is true that locals tend to avoid some of the restaurants there because they are way too much focused on tourists. Next to the square, there is a Franciscan church called Keszthelyi Magyarok Nagyasszonya-templom and the beautiful yellow building of Vajda János Gimnázium where Anna studied when she was a teenager. This square is probably my favorite spot in town since in winter time there is usually a Christmas market with lovely Hungarian street food, mulled wine and other goods.
Keszthely is reach in culture. There are some interesting museums in town:
- Balaton Museum, this museum explains the history of the lake since Roman times.
- Marzipan Museum, where besides you can learn how the famous Hungarian marzipan is being made, you can also taste them!
- Goldmark residence, near the square visitors can spot this baroque building where the composer Károly Goldmark was born.
Keszthely is a town with all the services to make you feel comfortable, 4 shopping malls, nice bars and many attractions nearby. In Keszthely there are some recommended restaurants too. Unfortunately, our favorite, Pura Vida, a fusion Spanish restaurant run by a Hungarian chef has closed and taken over by another owner.
Hévíz is just five kilometres from Keszthely and this little town gives home to the world’s second-largest thermal lake, which is the biggest thermal lake in Europe. You could enjoy the delights of a bath in naturally healing, warm thermal water. Read our complete article about Lake Hévíz.
You can get to Keszthely by plane to Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport and then by bus (3h), train (3.5h) or rental car (2h). There are some charter connections to Hévíz-Balaton Airport, about 18 kilometers from Keszthely.