Avtor: ANITA RÁDONYI
Due to its unfortunate name in Slovene, Lake Balaton (or Blatno jezero (Muddy Lake) in Slovene) might not be one of the most inviting destinations for Slovenians. Luckily, I’m here to prove to you that it is worth your attention! There are a number of reasons it has always been one of the most popular destinations among Hungarians and tourists visiting the country. Besides being the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe (77 km max. length, 14 km max. width), the historical towns and vivid cultural life dotting its shores have a lot to offer to people of different interests.
Depending on how much time you have, I would certainly recommend visiting both the Northern and the Southern shores, as they greatly differ in character. Along the more hilly Northern shore numerous historical sights attract tourists, such as Balatonfüred, with its romantic, charming promenades and artsy atmosphere; Tihany, which is best known for its picturesque Benedictine Abbey that is surrounded by a nature reserve, as well as for hosting an annual Lavender Festival; Szigliget, where you can visit the ruins of an ancient, 12th-century castle and catch a a breathtaking view of the lake; or Keszthely, the biggest town around Lake Balaton, home to the ornate Festetics castle and several museums.
If you are visiting the Northern Shore, don’t miss local wineries that offer a gorgeous selection of premium wines. Probably the best place to taste local wines is Badacsony, where grapes were already being cultivated in Roman times. This hilly region provides perfect conditions for winemaking, and the sunny slopes produce several types of grapes. The most popular wines of the region tend to be dry and full-bodied whites, such as Szürkebarát, Olaszrizling, Chardonnay, and Ottonel Muskotály – the latter for the lovers of sweet wines. If you prefer a red wine or rosé, you won’t be disappointed either, and be sure not to miss a good Cabernet Sauvignon and most definitely a glass of fresh, sparkling rosé.
The Southern shore is an excellent choice for those who like to indulge themselves by relaxing on sandy beaches, trying a variety of water sports, or opt to uncover the busy nightlife. Several little towns are located here; most of them are full of small, family-run bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants, and free, shallow beaches make for a great option for families with small children. With its sand-covered beaches (Aranypart, meaning Golden shore), Siófok – the capital of the Southern shore – is the perfect destination for sunbathing or sipping colorful cocktails at one of the pool bars, not to mention the number of clubs that offer an unforgettable party experience as soon as the night falls.
If you prefer an active holiday, you can try windsurfing or water skiing, or for the more adventurous bungee jumping is also available. In the event you prefer keeping your feet on the ground, you can rent a bike in any city and cycle around the whole lake (206 km) or just visit a couple of nearby attractions at your leisure. The Southern shore is relatively flat, so even those recreational cyclists can enjoy their ride on the well-maintained bike lanes.
Where to eat & drink
1. Laposa Wine Terrace – Badacsony. A breathtaking view, the finest wines from the region, and exquisite, home-made cheese, ham, and sausage plates for the most sophisticated taste buds.
2. Kishableány – Badacsony. Iconic Balaton atmosphere, a huge selection of local wines and craft beers, juicy burgers, and soothing DJ sets on weekends.
3. Malackrumpli Bistro – Tihany. Carefully selected organic, local ingredients for lovers of honest gastronomy. Don’t miss their mangalica dishes (an ancient Hungarian breed of a domestic pig)!
4. Neked főztem – Zánka. A relatively new gastro pub with a chill, laid-back beach atmosphere, quality beach food and refreshing rosé fröccs (rosé spritzer).
5. Várkávézó – Szigliget. Best craft ice cream around the lake with several flavors of seasonal fruity delights.
Some useful phrases in Hungarian
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