Lake Balaton, Hungary

Lake Balaton: All You Need to Know About the “Hungarian sea”

October 15, 2023

Lake Balaton is a freshwater lake located in Hungary, Central Europe. It is the largest lake in Central Europe and one of Hungary’s most popular tourist destinations.

In the title we referred to Lake Balaton as the “Hungarian sea” for a good reason. Lake Balaton is often called the “Hungarian sea” because of its size and popularity with locals and tourists alike.

Lake Balaton offers a wide range of leisure activities for visitors. The lake’s clear waters and sandy shores are perfect for swimming, sunbathing and water sports. Visitors can enjoy sailing, surfing, kayaking and many other water adventures.

There are many resorts around Lake Balaton offering comfortable accommodation, restaurants and entertainment. Some of the best known of these are Siófok, Balatonfüred and Keszthely. These towns attract tourists with their special atmosphere, walking routes and historical sights.

These experiences are why Lake Balaton is such a popular summer destination for Hungarians and foreign visitors alike.

Now, let’s see what you need to know about Lake Balaton as a tourist if you plan a trip there.

Towns around Lake Balaton

Along Lake Balaton there are numerous interesting small towns that serve as a kind of local center. In these lakeside towns you will find the most hotels, restaurants and leisure facilities.

So let’s take a look at the small towns along the shores of Lake Balaton and see what to know about them.


Keszthely is located on the northern shore of Lake Balaton and offers a wide range of interesting attractions and activities.

One of the main attractions in Keszthely is the Festetics Castle, which is the symbol of the town. This impressive baroque castle was built in the 18th century and is surrounded by a huge park. The castle houses a museum where you can discover the history of the Festetics family and enjoy the rich art and history collection.

Our most recommended destination in Keszthely is the area around the pier. Here you can find the Ferris Wheel, the Keszthely Sign and the Nostalgia Cruise Boat. In this area you can experience the real Balaton lakeside experience.

Keszthely is also an ideal starting point for exploring the area around Lake Balaton. Lake Hévíz, the largest natural warm thermal lake in Europe, is located near the town. The thermal waters of Hévíz offer excellent opportunities for relaxation and wellness.


One of the main attractions around Lake Balaton is the Tihany Peninsula. It is a picturesque area known for its beautiful views, lavender fields, and the Tihany Abbey, a Benedictine monastery dating back to the 11th century. The best view is from the promenade next to Tihany Abbey, perhaps the most iconic view on the entire shore of Lake Balaton.

Tihany hosts the famous Tihany Lavender Festival every year. The Lavender Festival is usually held in late June or early July. During this time, the streets of Tihany are filled with vendors selling lavender products, and you can also pick lavender and take photos in the lavender fields in the surrounding area. We highly recommend the Tihany Lavender Festival as an activity if you are visiting Lake Balaton.


Balatonfüred is a small town on the northern shore of Lake Balaton in Hungary. The town is a famous resort and tourist destination with beautiful natural surroundings and many cultural attractions. In the center of the town is the Tagore promenade, which runs along the shores of Lake Balaton and is surrounded by numerous restaurants, cafés and shops. Here you can enjoy a pleasant walk and enjoy the beautiful view of Lake Balaton.

Balatonfüred is also famous for its cultural events, such as the “Wine Weeks”, a traditional wine festival. Visitors can taste the excellent wines of the region and enjoy the entertaining shows.


Balatonboglár is a small town in the southern part of Lake Balaton, a popular summer destination.

The Platán beach in the center of town offers excellent opportunities for swimming, boating, beach and water sports.

Balatonboglár is also rich in cultural programs, and many events are held here throughout the year. One of the best known events is the Balatonboglár Wine Festival, a traditional wine festival where you can taste the region’s fine wines and enjoy Hungarian dishes.

Another famous attraction in Balatonboglár is the Janus Xantos Lookout, which is easily accessible from the town center. From the lookout, you can get a picturesque view of Lake Balaton.

We think Balatonboglár is one of the most pleasant destinations on Lake Balaton. It has a good infrastructure, a renovated beach and promenades, and offers a wonderful view from its pier.


Siófok is a town on the southern shore of Lake Balaton, also known as the “capital of Lake Balaton” (along with Keszthely and Balatonfüred). This vibrant and lively town is the largest in the region and offers visitors a wide range of entertainment.

The Golden Coast of Siófok offers a variety of water sports such as sailing, pedal boating and many other adventurous activities. The restaurants, bars and shops along the promenade along the shore are an excellent place to relax and taste Hungarian cuisine.

The town is famous for its fun nightlife and is particularly popular among young people. The Petőfi promenade area is full of lively bars and clubs.

The Siófok Ferris Wheel is located in the center of Siófok, right on the shores of Lake Balaton, and inside the town is the Siófok Water Tower, which offers views of the surrounding countryside and Lake Balaton.

Siófok is the ideal place for those who want an active and enjoyable holiday in the Lake Balaton region.

Other things to know about Lake Balaton

Here are the most important things that most tourists want to know when visiting Lake Balaton.

Dimensions and depth of Lake Balaton

Lake Balaton is 77 km long and varies in width from 1.3 to 12.7 km. The deepest point of Lake Balaton is near Tihany, where the lake is about 12 meters deep.

When to visit Lake Balaton

As for the weather, you can expect the same weather as elsewhere in Hungary. Winters are very cold, with daytime temperatures often below 0°C. The landscape is gray, so travel in winter is not recommended. In addition, many places are closed in winter.

In spring, the landscape becomes more colorful and flowers appear, but the weather is still only suitable for nature trips.

Summer is the best time to visit Lake Balaton. Not only are the temperatures ideal in summer (usually temperatures between 20-35°C), but all the restaurants, bars and clubs are open. Music festivals and wine festivals are also held in summer.

In autumn, you can still find some interesting places to visit, the weather is still good for hiking, nature walks and photography. However, in September many beach resorts close, so the offer for tourists becomes more limited again.

Lake Balaton water temperature

Lake Balaton’s water temperature is as variable as Hungary’s weather: cold in winter and hot in summer.

The lake is suitable for bathing only in summer, from about mid-June to early September. The best months for a beach holiday are July and August. Lake Balaton’s water is 23-28°C during the warmest part of the summer.

During the rest of the year, the lake is much colder and unsuitable for swimming.

In winter, the water of the lake is often frozen, but skating is prohibited in most cases, because the ice can be thin in mild winters.

How to get to Lake Balaton

Lake Balaton is relatively easy to reach from the other parts of Hungary. The M7 highway runs along the southern shore of the lake, from where the entire southern shore is easily accessible.

The northern towns can be reached from the main road 73 or the main road 84. On the northern shore of the lake, the road 71 runs close to the lake, offering several good views along the way.

How to get from Budapest to Lake Balaton

From Budapest, it is a perfect choice to organize a day trip to Lake Balaton.

How to get to Lake Balaton from Budapest is a frequently asked question, but the answer depends on which town you want to visit.

We suggest two ways to get to the southern shore from Budapest. On the one hand, the southern shore has a good train network, so there are regular trains from Budapest to the southern shore of Lake Balaton.

However, we think the best way to get there by car is via the M7 highway. Parking can be difficult in the summer peak season, but the journey by car is much quicker.

As an example, the Budapest-Balatonboglár journey takes about 1.5 hours by car, while by train the fastest option is 2.5 hours.

The northern shore of Lake Balaton can also be reached by train, but we recommend a car due to the long journey times.

Best things to do at Lake Balaton

We also list the attractions and best places of Lake Balaton below, but on Tripadvisor you will find a very good collection of the best things to do at Lake Balaton.

Best beaches at Lake Balaton

Of course, this is a very subjective question, but as Hungarians we recommend some of the best beaches to try.

Balatongyörök: Balatongyörök Beach

The beach is located in the center of Balatongyörök. You have to pay an entrance fee, but this is quite common on the northern shores.

We put it on our list because it is a well-located and well-supplied beach in Balatongyörök. There are many good restaurants, large parking lots and excellent beach facilities for tourists.

Keszthely: Municipal Beach

There are several beaches in and around Keszthely, e.g. the Municipal Beach and Helikon Beach. We would highlight the Municipal Beach as it is the most popular. It was one of the main destinations of our childhood, so we have many memories here. It is a sandy beach close to Keszthely’s attractions, with many restaurants and the possibility to rent a pedal boat. Excellent summer activities for families.

Balatonlelle: Sunshine Beach

Balatonlelle is a small town near Balatonboglár. It is one of our favorites because of its good infrastructure and good restaurants. Balatonlelle, for example, has by far the most restaurant serving gluten-free food.

Its most famous beach is the Sunshine Beach, which, as far as we know, charge an entrance fee. However, the beach offers very good services, especially for families. There are slides and a pool for children, as well as a playground.

Parking around the beach is a little difficult, but manageable. By the way, most of the restaurants are not on the beach, but rather near the Balatonlelle train station and the Móló promenade.

Balatonboglár: Platán Beach

We have already written above about the Platán Beach in Balatonboglár. This is the best beach in Balatonboglár. It is free of charge, parking is available, and it is close to all the attractions. The beach is not sandy, but has steps. Another disadvantage is that there are many water snakes.

Zamárdi: Zamárdi Free Beach

Zamárdi is most famous for the Balaton Sound festival. However, the promenade that runs right along the shore of Lake Balaton is one of the best places to visit at Lake Balaton.

There you will find the Zamárdi Free Beach. The huge beach offers many excellent recreational opportunities. Although the waterfront is stepped, don’t let that put you off. The beach has rental pedal boats, kayaks and sailboats, as well as plenty of restaurants. The long promenade is excellent for cycling or walking. So it is recommended for those who want to have fun on a free beach at Lake Balaton.

Best lookouts around Lake Balaton

Personally, we like the best views from the hills on the shores of Lake Balaton. These are natural lookouts that are accessible with a short hike.

These are the viewpoints from which you can enjoy a fantastic view of Lake Balaton:

  • Tihany: In Tihany, at the top of the hill, from the promenade next to the abbey, you get one of the best views of Lake Balaton. The view is especially breathtaking in summer, when Lake Balaton is full of sailboats and the water is a beautiful turquoise.
  • Badacsony: Badacsony is the most iconic mountain in the Lake Balaton region, and perhaps even in Hungary. Its distinctive shape can be recognized from afar, and it is visible from almost any point on Lake Balaton. There are hiking trails on the side of the mountain, which also offer a good view of Lake Balaton and the vineyards of Badacsony.
  • Szigliget: Close to Badacsony is Szigliget, where you can climb to the remains of a medieval fortress. From the fortress, you can enjoy a wonderful view of Lake Balaton.
  • Balatongyörök: In Balatongyörök there are many hiking trails to lookout points. The best one, in our opinion, is the Batsányi Viewing Tower, which you can reach by a short hike.
  • Fonyód: the Szaplonczay promenade in Fonyód offers one of the best views of Lake Balaton.
  • Kőröshegyi Viaduct: If you are on the M7 highway, don’t miss Hungary’s largest viaduct, the Kőröshegyi Viaduct, which offers a magnificent view of Lake Balaton. It is not possible to stop, but you can enjoy the view on the way.

For another list of Balaton viewpoints, check out this Tripadvisor link.

Best hotels at Lake Balaton

Below we recommend some accommodation around Lake Balaton. You can choose the exact location, the number of passengers and the best hotels around Lake Balaton based on your budget.

Camping at Lake Balaton

Camping has become increasingly popular again in recent years, and this is also true for Lake Balaton. There used to be many campsites on Lake Balaton, and they are still in operation today. These are generally cheaper campsites with fewer services than tourists experience in Western Europe.

To be honest, we often find the quality of service in campsites poor. So camping at Lake Balaton is recommended primarily for those who want to travel on a low budget.

We recommend using Google Maps to find campsites at Lake Balaton, as these campsites are not always available on booking sites such as

Festivals at Lake Balaton

Summer is festival time in Hungary. From June to September you can find music, food and drink festivals in many Hungarian towns and cities.

Lake Balaton is a popular venue for these festivals.

The world-famous music festival Balaton Sound is held every year in Zamárdi, on the southern shore of Lake Balaton. Balaton Sound organizes huge parties, often with world-famous star performers. The entrance fee is expensive, but it still attracts a lot of tourists every year.

Another type of festival is the wine festival. Since Lake Balaton is famous for its wines, wine festivals are common in the towns around Lake Balaton during the grape harvest, from late August to early September. Such wine festivals are also held in Balatonboglár and Balatonfüred. These festivals are often as much about the food as the wine, so you can try Hungarian specialities too.

In addition, there are many smaller events around Lake Balaton: the Balaton Cross Swimming Competition, sailing competitions, other sporting events. So Lake Balaton is also an excellent destination for water sports lovers.

Hungarian cuisine at Lake Balaton

At Lake Balaton you can find all the specialities of Hungarian cuisine. In this aspect, the Lake Balaton region is one of the most important gastronomic destinations in the country. The most popular Hungarian dishes at Lake Balaton are lángos and fried hake, but in fact you can find all Hungarian dishes there: catfish stew with dumplings, fish soup, stew, goulash, and pancakes. In addition, internationally known dishes such as pizza, hamburger, gyros… etc. are becoming more common.

Our advice is to try as many Hungarian dishes as you can. Although Hungarian food is often spicy and fatty, most tourists love it.

You can find the best restaurants most easily via Tripadvisor.

Balaton Wine Region

Lake Balaton is also famous for its wine production. Around Lake Balaton you can find special Hungarian wine varieties such as Cserszegi Fűszeres or Furmint.

The Balaton Wine Region is made up of six wine areas and many wineries, producing many of the best Hungarian wines. You can taste the wines of Balaton at these wineries, at wine festivals and on the beaches of Lake Balaton.

As mentioned above, every year, wine festivals are organized in different towns of Lake Balaton. The most popular is the Balatonboglár Wine Festival, which is held every year around the national holiday of 20 August.

Pro tip: Our personal favorites are two sparkling wines. The BB brand’s sparkling wines, Spumante and Frizzante, are the best we have ever had. If you visit Lake Balaton, don’t miss them!

Overall, Lake Balaton is a diverse destination where visitors can enjoy the beauty of nature, water sports, cultural attractions and local gastronomy. Around the lake there are many opportunities to recreate.

We hope our article has helped you to get to know Lake Balaton better and that you will soon be among the visitors to Hungary.

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