Whether wishing to cool ourselves on a hot summer day, enjoy water sports or try the beneficial effects of medicinal waters in winter, in any case I can only recommend you one thing: head for Balatonfüred!
The town located on the northern side of Lake Balaton has the feature of “two in one” when it comes to satisfying every seasonal need, whether talking about culture, entertainment or getting to know the Hungarian history.
Lake Balaton, or, since Hungary lacks salt-water sea we call it “the Hungarian sea”, has several wonderful settlements around. One of them is Balatonfüred which has all the facilities that made it an especially popular tourist destination.
Balatonfüred – the most popular holiday resort of Lake Balaton
Many call Balatonfüred the northern capital of Balaton – although there is a fierce competition for this and similar titles in the surrounding- , since it hosts several cultural events, not to mention its history.
Its popularity is also proved by the fact that it is the oldest holiday resort of the surrounding of Balaton, and its success has not decreased among visitors, due to its pleasant Mediterranean climate.
Its history goes back to so long that, believe it or not, its territory was inhabited even by prehistoric men. However, its former residents leaving the most traces here were the Romans, whose memory is preserved by many buildings, ruins and tombs, and later on, in the Age of the Árpád House seven settlements were on the site, proved by written records.
Medicinal water sources and the medicinal tourism of Balatonfüred
Its bathing culture goes back to the 1700s. The town itself was built on the banks of the Kék-patak (the Blue Creek) in which the Kék-forrás (the Blue Spring) still functions. It was that time when the so-called “sour water” was first mentioned, which doesn’t give any reason to fear, its name does not refer to its bad quality but to the fact that it is medicinal water.
Since 1722 its beneficial effect has been proved officially, and a whole industry was built on this feature. A hospital was built next to the initial wooden bath, with rooms to let, and “health tourism” started its unstoppable growth.
To these days it has been extended so much that we can choose from several thermal bath, beaches and hotels, where we can refresh our souls as well as our bodies. The town accommodates such institutions recognized in Europe, such as the Balatonfüred Hospital for Cardiology, where the medicinal bath is used by many people wishing to heal.
If we want to enjoy the effect of the sour water not only outside but inside as well, we must visit the Kossuth forrás (Kossuth Well) found at Gyógy Square, or the Schneider forrás (Schneider Well) on Tagore Promenade, where we can taste the water. The medicinal water helps in the case of such problems as cardiovascular diseases, bile- and intestinal disorders.
Until the 20th century the town had 3 carbonated water wells: Őskút (Ancient Well), which can be found next to the Hospital for Cardiology today, the above-mentioned Kossuth forrás (Kossuth Well) and Savós forrás (Wheyish Well) the water of which was drunk mixed with ewe’s cheese by the people having strong stomachs.
The Kék-szalag (The Blue Ribbon) Sailing Race
Even if we are not the type of people who love sitting in a thermal bath or having mudpack on our bodies, there are a lot of entertainment opportunities available for us.
If we arrive in the town in summer when the weather is nice, the answer is obvious: Lake Balaton. Balatonfüred is a real sailing super power, therefore several sailing-related programmes can be enjoyed by the visitors, ranging from the rent of a sailing boat to such spectacular events as the Blue Ribbon Sailing Race.
The route of the international Blue Ribbon is Balatonfüred-Balatonkenese-Siófok–Keszthely-Balatonfüred, and it is organized in July every year. It is one of the oldest and longest – nearly 155 kilometers long – challenges of this kind.
Even if you are not keen on sailing, it is worth spending some time at the event, since seeing more hundreds colorful sailing boats swimming on the huge lake is a unique experience.
If you are still not fed up with the boats called “dinghy” and their history, then head for the local Sailing Museum, or in other words, the Sailing History Interactive Exhibition, which can be seen in the first sailing clubhouse. Thanks to the modern technique the exhibition is really interesting and eventful, so do not expect a usual “let’s go, read everything and head for home” visit. It can be enjoyable for all generations, from children to the elderly.
Splash in Lake Balaton
We can choose among several beaches in the town, but maybe the one which I would point out by all means is Eszterházy beach and adventure bath, which welcomes the people wishing to have a bath in Reform era atmosphere. If we go there, we can swim in the lake as well as in more kinds of pools, and on top of all, we can enjoy the view looking out on Tihany.
The other popular bath is Kisfaludy beach, which is the biggest entertainment beach of the northern side: it provides peaceful relaxation with its high standard services and favorable prices.
If you long for wine specialties, head for the Balatonfüred wine festival
The Balaton surrounding is famous not only for the opportunities provided by the lake, but also for its wines. The hilly, gentle region of Balatonfüred is not an exception either, and the locals love celebrating this facility within the frame of a wine festival.
The Balatonfüred Wine Festival don’t leave it to chance to be visited, it lasts not only for a weekend but for nearly a month and presents the best wines of the region. Even the most chosy people can find their favorites from the nearly 300 wine specialties.
The event takes place on one of the central promenades of the town, on Tagore Promenade, which in itself is worth a walk along, if we are in Balatonfüred.
The settlement itself consists of 3 main parts: the old settlement along the railway track, the surrounding of the medicinal water sources, and the joining more modern, tourist buildings and hotels. One of the most important elements of it is one of the most visited promenades of the Balaton region, Tagore, where even more thousands people walk along in the busiest periods.
But where is its name, Tagore, from?
The person after whom it was named was Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian Nobel-prize winner poet. It is a well-grounded question that crosses everybody’s mind: what does Balatonfüred have to do with an Indian poet? The answer is to be found in the local sanatorium, since he came here to heal in the 1920s, and he recovered.
To the honor thereof the promenade was named after him, and a tree was also planted which now, 90 years after it happened, still can be seen together with the poem written to the tree by Tagore.
What is worth watching in Balatonfüred
Jókai Villa and the Jókai lookout
If we are talking about literature, we must mention the famous Hungarian writer, Mór Jókai, who wrote the successful novel Arany ember, from which several scenes take place at Balaton, and the writer himself wrote his novel in his villa in the town.
The Jókai Villa works as a museum today, and if you visit it, you can see the study room of the great writer as it really looked. If we feel like getting to know the Hungarian literature, and want to read the above-mentioned novel, or just have a good trip, the nature trail called Aranyember útja (The Route of Aranyember) can be a good choice, since it leads to the Jókai lookout.
The trip is not long, altogether 600 meters, so even with a child it is easily made, besides this, it is unforgettable, and considering the view opening up to Lake Balaton, it is unmissable.
When it comes to excursions, we must mention the surrounding: Koloska-valley, Péter- and Tamás mountains or Lóczy-cave.
Amazing scarce plant species and karst scrub forest welcomes the visitors on this route. The Lóczy-cave in itself is an interesting programme, and inside it can be seen with a guide. The Triassic Formation is made even more enjoyable by spectacular limestone layers and cauldron-like, diverse forms of dissolution.
In Koloska-valley further family programmes are available: those who are curious of the forest and other wild animals of the surrounding, are recommended to visit the local Wildlife Park (Zoo), which can be visited in every season.
Balatonfüred has such deep-rooted traditions as the Anna-ball. When we think of Hungary, things like grey cattle, red pepper, ruin pubs, good wines and of course beautiful girls cross our minds. The Anna ball also started from this theory, where the most attractive girls of the region take part.
The first ball took place in 1825, to the honor of Anna Krisztina, the daughter of Szentgyörgyi Horváth Fülöp János. The family created in their home the centre of the social, cultural and intellectual life of that time, and many times such politicians, writers and public players appeared in their house, who played a significant role in the Hungarian history. One of them was, for example, Lajos Kossuth.
Anna finally met his future husband at this event later, when the ball became a tradition, and the young ladies presented here could also hope to find their future husbands here.
Later, the world changed, and although world wars and revolutions broke out, the Anna ball still enjoys popularity. Not only the beauty of the girls matters when choosing the winner, but their reflection also counts a lot, which is ranked by the audience.
If you want to take part in a historical time-travel, and the ball atmosphere is close to your personality, you need to buy a ticket for one of the balls (but in this case, please, do not leave you ball outfit at home!)
“The nightingale of the country”
As I have already mentioned, Balatonfüred is one of the oldest holiday resorts, being the beloved place of relaxation for many famous Hungarian people, among other, Lujza Blaha, who is known in the country as “the nightingale of the country”.
The former holiday home of the famous actress functions as a hotel and restaurant today, so, if you want to stay somewhere really exciting and historical, it is for sure the best choice.
The town relates to the world of theatre and performances in many respects, since the first Transdanubian Hungarian language stone theatre was built here, thanks to the efforts of Sándor Kisfaludy Hungarian poet.
The building reached its final stage in 1830-31, and functioned as a theatre for nearly 30 years, but finally it was demolished and the Gyógyterem (Healing Room) was built on its place.
Today only 6 Doric columns commemorate the first stone theatre which was placed in the Kiserdő (Small Forest) and the Theatre Days are organized here every year.
Although Balatonfüred is called by many people the town of culture, and it earned this title by having several monuments, museums and rich history, but the people longing for active relaxation will also find their favorite activities here.
Those who want a little adventure are recommended to go to Brázay-Adventure Park, which colors the swimming of the weekdays with extreme trails and games for more extreme visitors.
When it comes to extreme, we need to mention the Bicycle- and Adventure Park of Balatonfüred: here unusual obstacle trail, climbing towers, gliding trails and bicycle park welcomes the people longing for extraordinary experience.
However, the list of opportunities serving as active relaxations still did not end here. The development of modern technology and gadgets reached Balatonfüred as well, so the lovers of segway can also enjoy themselves, thanks to the High-Tech Sport Base.
If it is not satisfactory enough for somebody to make an excursion on foot, or this is what deters them, they can head for the nature on two wheels, in the frame of an organized tour. Not only segway but also e-bicycles are available, with which we can make a serious Balaton tour.
Kredenc wine bistro
Those who became hungry after all these programmes, will for sure find a restaurant or café to their taste in the surrounding. In the recent years, besides the well-established and popular places several youngish and trendy restaurants have been opened in the town.
So, apart from the authentic Hungarian meals the enthusiasts of the modern cuisine can also select among the places, since vegan and fine dining meals are also offered in the menus.
We need to highlight Kredenc borbisztró (Kredenc wine bistro), which fascinates its guests with changeable wine varieties besides its fine foods. Those who long for an bit of evening entertainment, are recommended to visit this place mainly on Saturday, because this time jazz, or acid-jazz music is played by the dj, or even a Balkan disco or a tango-salsa evening is formed spontaneously.
Why do I recommend Balatonfüred?
At first sight one maybe wouldn’t expect that much from a not too big settlement located on the Balaton shore, however, these places always hide more than what we would think first.
Balatonfüred is a good choice from many perspectives as well: its pleasant climate and the proximity of the lake are a good match themselves.
But the town was not satisfied with offering only these two attractive features, since it is continuously developing, and tries to get the best out of its facilities. We can say, without any exaggeration, that here really every generation can find the most suitable form of entertainment. Its thermal baths, beaches and the beautiful excursion places of the region provide unique experience, not to mention its cultural values.
We tend to look at and judge a country exclusively based on its capital city, and when we have already seen it, we put a tick next to the site, while missing several hidden and exciting settlements, such as Balatonfüred, which is only a bit more than 100 kilometers far from the capital city.