Exploring Lake Balaton Hungary – The Hungarian Sea

by Anjali Chawla

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If you are visiting Budapest in summer, take a perfect day trip to Lake Balaton Hungary, and thank me later!

What is Lake Balaton?

Dubbed the Hungarian Sea, about 50 miles long lake with charming little towns, rustic villages, resort towns, and vineyards stretched along its shorelines, Lake Balaton is Hungary’s and Central Europe’s largest freshwater lake.

Balaton is Hungary’s second most visited destination after Budapest for a good reason. Hungarians flock here every summer for some outdoor fun.

We visited Lake Balaton on our way to Budapest, Hungary from Zadar, Croatia. It can be a great destination for travelers looking for a peaceful day trip from Budapest.

Away from crowds, time seems to have stopped here.

balatonfured lake balaton hungary
Balatonfured Balaton Lake Hungary

Whenever I recommend people to add Lake Balaton to their Hungary bucket list, they respond with a question mark on their faces – Is Lake Balaton worth visiting?

Ah! I get that. Balaton is not your typical city-break destination. It might be famous among the locals but is still largely unknown among tourists.

As a typical Indian tourist, When we plan a dream Europe trip from India, the places that make it to our list almost always are the famous European capital cities like Paris, Budapest, Prague, Zagreb, Vienna, Bratislava, Rome, and so on.

badacsony mountain fonyod
Badacsony mountain Fonyod Balaton Lake in Hungary

Well, I’ve never been one to follow convention and crowd. Replacing touristy destinations with lesser-explored towns and villages (whether it’s Europe or any continent for that matter) has been a tradition now.

Okay. Before I go off on a tangent let’s get back to the main question.

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Is Lake Balaton Worth Visiting?

Hell yeah! Lake Balaton has been a top-rated and most-visited family destination in Hungary for decades.

It has been billed as the most thrilling gourmet region in the country because of its intriguing food, wine, and arts scene.

Over the years, the Hungarian Lake District’s popularity resulted in many spa towns and resorts along its foreshore.

Untouched countryside, thermal spas, pretty villages, wildlife, and a big blue lake shimmering under the summer sun – Welcome to Balaton!

tihany lake balaton hungary
Tihany Lake Balaton See Hungary

How Far is Lake Balaton from Budapest?

Well, there are a plethora of resort towns and villages spread out around the lake’s southern and northern shore – Siófok, Zamárdi, Balatonszemes, Balatonlelle, Badacsony, Veszprém, Balatonalmádi, Fonyód, Keszthely, Tihany, Csopak, Kapolcs and many more.

From Budapest, Siófok and Veszprém will be the closest resort towns. It takes about an hour via motorway M7 to reach them from Budapest.

So, the time of the journey from Budapest to Balaton solely depends upon the town or region you choose to visit.

Here are the driving distances and directions from Budapest to some of the major towns at Lake Balaton:

  • Budapest to Siófok – 1 hour 6 minutes via M7
  • Budapest to Veszprém – 1 hour 21 minutes via M7 and Route 8
  • Budapest to Balatonlelle – 1 hour 24 minutes via M7
  • Budapest to Csopak – 1 hour 27 minutes via M7
  • Budapest to Fonyód – 1 hour 28 minutes via M7
  • Budapest to Balatonfüred – 1 hour 33 minutes via M7
  • Budapest to Tihany – 1 hour 40 minutes via M7
  • Budapest to Kapolcs – 1 hour 45 minutes via M7 and Route 8
  • Budapest to Keszthely – 1 hour 53 minutes via M7
  • Budapest to Hévíz – 1 hour 57 minutes via M7
  • Budapest to Tapolca – 2 hours and 4 minutes via M7, Route 8, and Route 77
  • Budapest to Balaton Uplands National Park – 2 hours 20 minutes via M7
Balatonalmádi lake balaton hungary
Balatonalmádi Hungary Balaton Lake

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Things to do in and around Lake Balaton

Many of Balaton’s best attractions are away from the shore. Southern lakeside resorts like Siofok, have been thronged by tourists, but the northern shore is peaceful, and untouched and is a place to be for outdoor lovers.


The party capital of Balaton (as Hungarians call it), Siófok is one of the most popular holiday destinations along Lake Balaton’s southern shore best known for its beaches and nightlife.

Recommended Hotel in Siófok: Residence Balaton Wellness Hotel

siofok lake balaton hungary
Siofok Hungary Balaton Lake


A little away from Siofok, Zamárdi is a famous family destination with an adventure park, Balaton’s longest beach, and a bobsleigh track.

It’s also a famous destination for music lovers as it hosts the Balaton Sound, one of Europe’s largest open-air electronic music festivals.

Recommended Hotel in Zamárdi: Zamárdi Design Apartment

zamardi lake balaton hungary
Zamardi Lake of Balaton Hungary


We stayed in Fonyód. It’s from here that passengers board ferries across the lake to the famous wine region on the northern shore, Badacsony.

fonyod lake balaton hungary
Lake Balaton Hungary: Largest Freshwater Lake in Hungary and Central Europe

Where to stay in Fonyód? We stayed at a pretty Airbnb. Our host, Edit was warm and friendly. She tried her best to communicate and help us even though she didn’t know English.

We were welcomed with chocolates and a bottle of local wine.

fonyod airbnb pocz winery rose Balatonlelle
airbnb fonyod lake balaton


Known as the town of grapes and wine, Balatonboglár is a popular wine region on the southern shore.

You can visit the Majthényi Présház, a family-owned winery for an authentic experience.

Don’t forget to climb the unique lookout tower, the Globe Observatory for jaw-dropping views over the lake area.

Recommended Hotel in Balatonboglar: Partvilla Balatonboglar


Balatonlelle has Kishegy (Little Hill). Take a walk on the hill to admire one of the best sunsets of Lake Balaton.

Recommended Hotel in Balatonlelle: Butique Apartman

Balatonboglár lake balaton hungary
little chapel Balatonlelle lake balaton hungary

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Located between Lake Balaton and the Bakony Hills, Veszprém is one of the oldest cities in Hungary.

It’s nicknamed the City of Queens as the queens of Hungary were crowned by the bishop of Veszprém.

The city swaddles Hungary’s significant historic sites. You can see one of Hungary’s first stone castles, the Episcopal Palace, and the first Cathedral, St. Michael’s Cathedral.

The Porcelain factory of Herend is a recommended detour from Veszprém.

Recommended Hotel in Veszprém: Oázis Apartman


A little village on volcanic hills in Veszprém county, Szigliget is best known for its medieval castle, Szigliget Castle. A short hike to the castle is worth the effort!

Recommended Hotel in Szigliget: Kilátás a tóra Apartman


This tiny village boasts one of the most iconic and beautiful chapels of Lake Balaton, Lengyel Chapel. Perched on Szent György-hill, the chapel features views over Szigliget.

Recommended Hotel in Hegymagas: Szent György Cottage


A traditional lakeside getaway, Balatonfüred hosts the eminent annual beauty pageant, the Anna Ball of Balatonfüred.

It’s also famous as a great yachting and fishing destination in Hungary.

Tagore Promenade is named after the famous Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore. The poet spent quite a time in Balatonfüred when he was traveling the natural springs in the Balaton region.

Recommended Place to Stay in Balatonfüred: Apartment Villanna

veszprém lake balaton hungary
colorful houses balatonfured lake balaton hungary
Colorful Houses Balatonfured
lavender fields tihany
Lavender Fields Tihany

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Located in Veszprém County on the Tihany Peninsula (the narrowest point of lake Balaton ), Tihany is celebrated for its 11th-century Benedictine Abbey Church, one of the oldest churches in Hungary.

The church perches on a cliff offering picture-postcard views of the lake’s southern shore.

Climb the Tihany Echo Hill to relish the views over Lake Balaton or shout your name from the hill to listen to the echo.

Come July and August, the fields of Tihany transform into gorgeous bright violet carpets of blossoming lavender, a sight to behold, of course.

Recommended Hotel in Tihany: Oliver Lux


It’s a well-known wine-growing region on the northern shore. Take a wine tour at Márga Bisztro and taste signature wine from Csopak, Welschriesling.

Where to Stay in Csopak: Balatoni Élmény

Where to eat in Csopak: Borkuria Bistro located at St. Donát winery

Csopak lake balaton hungary
Csopak Balaton Hungary


Keszthely, the largest town by the lake on the western shore is famous among history and culture lovers.

It houses Baroque-style Festetics-Castle, Helikon Library, and the Balaton Museum.

The town is quite close to Europe’s largest thermal lake, Hévíz Lake.

Where to stay in Keszthely: Toldi68 Apartmanház

Festetics Castle Keszthely lake balaton
Festetics Castle Keszthely Balaton

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Hévíz Lake

Take a dip in Hévíz Lake, World’s largest thermal lake with natural medicinal water.

Recommended Hotel in Hévíz: Lotus Therme Hotel & Spa

Heviz Lake thermal spa
Heviz Lake Thermal Spa Balaton Hungary


Located in Veszprém county, Tapolca is a charming town close to Lake Balaton.

It’s visited by tourists for its unique attraction – Lake Cave. It’s best explored on a guided tour. The entry fee is 2000 HUF.

Recommended Hotel in Tapolca: Tópart Apartman

tapolca lake balaton hungary
Tapolca Hungary
lake cave tapolca balaton hungary
Lake Cave Tapolca


One of Hungary’s iconic wine regions, Badascony is popular across Europe for its white wine. At 438 meters, Badascony Hill is the region’s highest point. The vineyards belt the hill and the landscape and the scenery reminded me of Italy’s Tuscany region.

Badacsony lake balaton hungary

Balaton Uplands National Park


A little village in Balaton Uplands, Kapolcs along with neighboring villages of Taliándörögd and Vigántpetend host the largest multi-art festival in Hungary, The Valley of Arts Festival every year in July.

If not for the festival, you can visit the village for its pretty row of water mills at Eger stream’s shore.

Where to Stay in Kapolcs: Kapolcs Cottage

kali basin balaton uplands
Kali Basin Balaton Uplands National Park

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There are some amazing trails near the village of Köveskál on the Balaton uplands.

Where to Spend a night in Köveskál: Káli Art Inn

Best Beaches on lake Balaton

Almost all the beaches on Lake Balaton are grassy with playgrounds. Some of them offer a host of water activities like kayaking, paddle boating, and surfing.

Some have an entrance fee of about HUF 500 per adult while some are free.  

They are open from May through October.

The Balaton Association award the Blue Wave Flags (Kék Hullám Zászló) to the best beaches on the Balaton every season. You can check the list of best beaches on the Hungarian sea’s shores here.

We spent time on Fonyód Sándortelepi Panorama Beach. It was clean and well-maintained.

fonyod hungary
Fonyod Hungary Balaton

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How to Get to Lake Balaton from Budapest

Lake Balaton is just over an hour’s drive from Budapest.

Note: Lake Balaton region is also within a drivable distance from other European cities of Zagreb, Ljubljana, Bratislava, and Graz.

If you have a car, the M7 motorway to Siófok is the fastest road to get to the lake’s northern shore. For Balatonfüred, leave the M7 onto Route 71 while for Veszprém, leave M7 onto Route 8.

For solo and budget travelers, local public transportation is in place. Regular trains run from Budapest’s Déli Station to all main resort towns. Regular buses run from the Népliget bus terminal.

Alternatively, you can also book a private or group tour with an expert local guide. Taste Hungary is rated highly for its expert food and wine tours from Budapest to the wine regions around Lake Balaton.

Here are some more recommendations:

How to Get Around Lake Balaton


By all means, the fastest way to get around Lake Balaton is by car. And the best part is that parking isn’t an issue here.

Passenger Ferries

Regular ferries and boats connect the major towns around the lake. You can take a passenger ferry from Siófok to Tihany and Balatonfüred, and from Fonyód to Keszthely and Badascony.

Rent a Boat

Renting a boat is another option if you’re willing to spend a few hundred thousand forints.


Another beautiful way to discover the gems of Lake Balaton is by bike – you can actually cycle around the lake. It’s pretty easy with dedicated bike lanes and a well-signposted cycle trail.

Check the Balaton Bikemap.

fonyod lake balaton hungary
Fonyod, Lake Balaton Hungary

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When to Visit Lake Balaton

The summer months of June to August are the best months to go and thus bring a lot of crowds. During the off-season, the lake is serene and peaceful.

Convinced to add Lake Balaton to your itinerary for Hungary? Great decision!

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lake balaton hungary

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Anjali Chawla

A story-weaver, and a writer, Anjali is a true-blue traveler. Her passion for travel and writing inspired her to handcraft this space she calls her virtual home. She travels far and wide to experience new cultures and bring back stories to share with her readers. Her hubby and her 14-year-old daughter are her best travel buddies. Join her as she unclothes the beauty and culture around the world, one place at a time.

12 thoughts on “Exploring Lake Balaton Hungary – The Hungarian Sea”

  1. I had never heard of this lake, but it looks really beautiful and so does the surrounding area! Great idea for a future trip in Europe 🙂

    • In fact we hadn’t heard about Lake Balaton before we started planning about Hungary. But after visiting, we would recommend everyone visiting Hungary to include this lake in the itinerary.

    • Yes definitely, Hungary has so much more to it. Lake Balaton is one of them. Do plan to revisit Hungary and check out this beautiful lake. Let us know if you need any help.

  2. This looks like such a pretty lake area to visit, and I love how many different types of things there are to do here as well.

    • Yes this lake is very gorgeous and perfect to spend a day indulging in the activities. It is a favorite among the locals.

  3. Wow this lake is so beautiful! I admittedly never heard of Lake Balaton before, but not you put it on my bucket list for when I return to Hungary in the future. 🙂 Your photos are also so beautiful! 🙂

    • Isn’t it? We were blown away by its beauty. Absolutely, do add it to your bucket list for next visit. Do let us know if you need any help. Thanks for reading and liking it.

    • I know when we visited we were stunned by its beauty. This is so popular among locals equally as much as world travelers. Hope you can visit it someday.

  4. So many beautiful places! I went to Hungary last year, wish I had known about all of these then 🙂 Thanks for sharing

    • I know sometimes we regret. But think on the positive side, this will inspire you to travel again to Hungary. Hope you can make it the next time


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