Lake Balaton Getaway: A One Week Travel Itinerary

A pale peach sunset sky fades into the surface of the calm water at Hungary's Lake Balaton.
Sunset at beautiful Lake Balaton, Hungary. Photo © Fesus Robert/123rf.

Whether you like to party till you drop, appreciate nature, or crave cultured evenings sipping the region’s finest wines, you will find that Hungary’s Lake Balaton has something for everyone.

Day 1: Budapest to Siófok

Get in the car or jump on one of the trains regularly leaving Budapest’s Keleti and Déli train stations and prepare yourself for Siófok—Lake Balaton’s Dionysian capital. Upon arrival, find the hostel, guesthouse, or wellness center you’ve secured a room at, then waste no time heading for Siófok Beach. Work on that tan or stay in shape by joining a game of beach volleyball. When hunger strikes, grab a snack at any of the many kiosks or dive into a tasty traditional dish at the excellent Csárdás Restaurant. Spend some time walking down the treelined promenades, and if you’re looking for a different place to take an afternoon dip, check out either the Aranypart (Gold Coast) or Ezüstpart (Silver Coast). Freshen up and grab some dinner before beginning what is sure to be a long night. Head back to Siófok Beach for nonstop fun at the Coke Club or hit the Palace Dance Club or Bacardi Music Café for dancing till dawn.

Day 2: Siófok

Travel map of Siófok, Hungary
Sleep in, shake off that hangover, and head back to whatever beach you fancy for more fun in the sun. Add some culture to your visit by checking out peaceful and romantic Millennium Park—the perfect antidote to the frenzy of activity that surrounds the rest of town. Head for the railroad and have an unbelievable lunch at Hintaló Vendéglő, known to satisfy even the most finicky of diners. Drop by the unique Evangelical Lutheran Church, designed by Ybl Prize-winning architect Imre Makovecz, then make your way through the shops and stalls of Kálmán Promenade and pick up a souvenir or two. After dinner, take a nice long walk, enjoy the sunset, and figure out whether you really want to knock off early in a town that was born ready to party.

Day 3: Balatonfüred

Head north to pretty Balatonfüred, where the old world meets the new. Check into your hotel, then make your way to the center of town, where you’ll find Lajos Kossuth Spring. Drink deeply from its curative springs and feel the debauchery of Siófok pleasantly fade away. Have lunch at the outdoor Cimbora Grill Garden and gorge on the wide array of grilled meat dishes as well as the generous salad bar on offer. Walk around town admiring the tasteful villas and charming residential districts, stopping for a cup of coffee or souvenir shopping along the way. Enjoy a fantastic meal on Stefánia Vitorlás Restaurant’s sunny terrace and make sure to save some room for one of the over 40 desserts available. If you feel rested enough and could do with another party, check out Café La Luna or Waikiki Cocktail Bar for tasty cocktails and remarkable views of the lake.

Day 4: Tihany

Travel map of Tihany, Hungary
Take the boat over to Tihany and settle into a nice hotel or inn along the bay. Give yourself a couple of hours to explore the peninsula’s pretty interior, which includes the Inner Lake and Outer Lake, accessible via a trail from Tihany village. Once you’ve built up an appetite, head for Fogas Csárda, Tihany’s oldest traditional restaurant and a hit with both visitors and locals. Stroll along the cobblestone streets of charming Tihany village and have a look at all the handicrafts, wine, and embroidery for sale before moving on to impressive Tihany Benedictine Abbey. When you’re done admiring the wood carvings and baroque pulpit inside, take the path to the left of the church leading up to Echo Hill. Enjoy gorgeous views of the lake and shout a few words when you get to the top to find out how the hill got its name. Unwind with dinner at the superb Ferenc Cellar Tavern and finish the evening with a glass of wine or a pleasant walk.

Day 5: Badacsony

Take the train west to beautiful Badacsony and find yourself a nice hotel along the shore or guesthouse in the center of town. Take one of the many walking trails leading to the legendary Basalt Hills and lose yourself among the geological gems. For lunch, try the excellent pike perch at the Szent Orban Wine-House and Restaurant and drink in the wonderful panoramic view from its summer terrace. Spend the rest of the day wine tasting, moving from wine cellar to wine cellar and enjoying the beautiful vistas along the way. If visiting during the end of July, make sure to stick around for at least one day and night of the Badacsony Wine Festival.

Day 6: Keszthely

Travel map of Keszthely, Hungary
Get up at a decent hour and head to Keszthely, located at the far western tip of the lake. Check into a pension along the shore or in the center of town and waste no time getting to Festetics Palace, Hungary’s fourth-largest palace. Enjoy a tasty lunch at Jóbarát Vendéglő, then spend a couple of hours at the highly informative Balaton Museum or enjoy an afternoon of walking around town checking out the shops and Keszthely’s open-air market. This is your last night at Lake Balaton, so spoil yourself with a wonderful dinner and then cap off the night with drinks at John’s Pub or the more alternative 512 Club.

Day 7: Back to Budapest

After finishing breakfast, jump in the car or on the train and make your way back to the capital.

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Prague & Budapest.