Lake Balaton is an affordable and often overlooked summer destination in Central Europe which offers breathtaking beauty and plenty of great activities. It’s often referred to as “The Hungarian Sea” because it’s the biggest freshwater lake in Central Europe and a popular destination for summer fun among Hungarians. Not only does it have sandy beaches, good food and exciting nightlife, but it’s also a great place to visit castles, villages, and vineyards or to enjoy water sports – there’s something for quite literally everyone. So, here are the basics for a one day itinerary in Lake Balaton.
What’s the best time to visit Lake Balaton?
The best time to visit the lake is summertime, especially during July and August when the temperatures are hottest, around 25 degrees Celsius. During the summer, you can also catch Balaton Sound, which takes place at the beginning of July. This is one of the biggest and brightest open-air electronic beach festivals in the whole of Europe. It’s well-known for hosting some of the biggest names in the music industry and DJs from around the world.
According to Lucie Hamilton, a travel blogger at Academized, “another great time to go in the summertime is in August during the Balatonfüred Wine Weeks, a prestigious and highly rated wine festival in Europe. During this time you can try all different types of local wines that might be the next prize winners.”
A few facts about Lake Balaton
There’s a lot more to Lake Balaton than just sitting on a beach by the lake and swimming. There are many different waterfront towns along the lake, for example, which have their own unique charm. The lake itself is about 120 kilometers southwest of Budapest and runs diagonally from the capital as an oblong shape for about 77 kilometers long. The lake is interesting because it’s not deep at all despite its size – in fact, the average depth is only 3.3 meters. In some areas, especially in the southeast, you have to walk a long time in the water before it even reaches your knees. This makes the lake very popular for families with young kids.
There are facilities and amenities all around the lakeshore, too, including health facilities, sports groups, entertainment, and even an airport. There is public transportation, but it can take time to get around this way because the lake is 77 kilometers long, after all, so you need to keep that in mind for a day trip. The easiest way to get around is with a car, and it’s easy to find parking all around the lake, with the exception of a couple of peak points in the summer.
Paul Labelle, a lifestyle writer at Boom Essays, explains that “public transportation is possible, but look at the timetable before planning your day to make sure it’s doable; in addition to buses, you can also take ferries and boats from town to town across the lake.”
One Day in Lake Balaton Guide
Follow this guide and make the best of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top things to do on your one day in Balaton Lake.
Enjoy a thermal bath
On your way to Lake Balaton, it’s recommended to stop at Hévíz Thermal Lake. This is a small resort town near the western end of Lake Balaton and a must-stop for tourists. It’s the largest thermal lake in the world where you can actually bathe in these healing waters. It has a water supply of 400 liters per second and you can find spa services, a sauna, a salt cave and more here. It’s definitely a good place for a short stop during your day.
Stop to smell the lavender
The next stop is Tihany Abbey and the Lavender Fields. The municipality of Tihany is on the northern side of the lake, situated on a picturesque peninsula overlooking Lake Balaton that’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s also a very popular destination on the lake, so a word of warning that it can get crowded during high season. Not only is the famous Tihany Abbey there, founded in 1055 by Hungarian King Andras, but also some great walkways, cute houses, and nature trails depending on what you prefer. If you’re there during the second half of June, you can see the annual Lavender Festival, fields of violet as far as the eye can see.
Act like Hungarian nobility
Then, head to Balatonfüred, the oldest resort town on the lake. It became famous in the latter half of the 19th century as the choice holiday destination for the nobility of Hungary. It’s also considered to be the water sports center and yacht launch point for Lake Balaton, so it could be a good option for your water activities. There are sailing regattas, festivals, and other fun competitions organized here throughout the summer months by the local yacht club.
The city is full of spa retreats, wellness shops, and a water park for some fun activities. This is where the wine festival is held in August, and it’s also the best town for some excellent cuisine, so you can pick up a delicious lunch here. We also recommend taking the “nostalgia train” city sightseeing tour here – you won’t regret it.
End your day on the water
Finally, you can’t go to Lake Balaton and not spend any time on the water, so we recommend that you finish your day in the city of Siófok, the capital of Lake Balaton. It’s the perfect place to end your day with a lot of facilities for visitors. You can also have the option to take a one hour cruise on the lake from here, or stay on shore and walk on the pier and through the city center before hitting the restaurants and nightclubs later. In terms of water sports, you can either go for a swim or try something like sailing or windsurfing, two very popular activities there.
Where to stay in Lake Balaton, Hungary?
There are endless options for accommodation at Lake Balaton; we’ll focus here on a few of those in Siófok. If you’re looking for more of an apartment-type accommodation, the best place to stay is VIP Apartman. You get a full apartment with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, satellite TV, dining area, kitchen, as well as WiFi, air conditioning, a garden, a private beach area, and free parking.
If you’d prefer more of a hotel, Hotel Lido is located in the center of the action at Siófok’s bustling Petőfi promenade, right at the beach of Lake Balaton. There is free Wi-Fi in the public areas and all rooms have TVs, a fridge, a private bathroom and some have a lake-view balcony and air-conditioning.
If you’re on a budget, we recommend Müller’s Hostel, which is in a good location to reach the train station, city center and the beach. There’s free WiFi and a shared kitchen, and guests can stay in the dorms or in private rooms.
Extra tips for visiting Lake Balaton
It’s easy to visit Lake Balaton in Hungary. Citizens of most European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Israel, UAE and most countries in America can go visa-free for 90 days. If you’re a citizen of the Schengen countries, you don’t even need a passport, but bring a valid ID for your stay.
It’s easy to do a day trip to Lake Balaton, even more if you have your own vehicle. In any case, there are enough activities for you to do without any fear of getting bored. Happy exploring!