There are special towns and settlements around Lake Balaton that stand out from the rest. You can’t go wrong if you choose from these.
As in all areas, we can find the best at Lake Balaton: the most beautiful, the most bustling, the most historic, and the list could still be continued. Of course, I am not a believer in labeling either, but sometimes it is very useful to know these characteristics of the given cities and settlements.
This makes it even easier to choose which ones to take if you are to walk around Lake Balaton or if you are specifically looking for something, somewhere. I have highlighted for you a few special settlements around Lake Balaton, which include family-friendly, partying, or just relaxing places.
The eternal dilemma: Which one is better and why – the northern or southern shore of Lake Balaton?
1. Party heaven: Siófok
It is no secret that when it comes to a party on the shores of Lake Balaton, Siófok will be the leader. Of course, this city is about much more than never-ending nights. In fact, Siófok is one of the best places around Lake Balaton.
I definitely recommend it to those who love the spin of life and are looking for new experiences even during a getaway.
We can discover the famous 45-meter high Water Tower in the city center, which is also a symbol of the city, but there are many good restaurants and pubs in the heart of Siófok.
In summer, though, perhaps the most attractive location may be the waterfront, and there can be no complaint about it. There is everything from the free beach to the fully equipped and always lively Grand Beach. There is even an extra attraction inside the beach, the Ferris wheel, which, if you have no agoraphobia, you shouldn’t miss: admiring Lake Balaton and the surrounding area is an amazing experience.
Nagystrand (Grand Beach) has earned its name, as it is the largest and most visited beach on Lake Balaton: it awaits visitors with better and better services on 8 hectares. As the sun sets and the beach empties, resting and sunbathing are taken over by the partygoers.
The Plázs beach inside the Grand Beach becomes a real VIP center in the evenings. There is always some kind of concert and party until dawn. There are those who come here specifically for the evening party, day lounging and relaxing, but those who would paddle into calmer waters should not be disappointed either.
Of course there is also a much more familiar and restrained program here: we can see the inverted house, where we can see the fully furnished building from a bat’s perspective.
If you are arriving with children, it is definitely worth visiting the Bella Zoo (link), or we can admire the rose garden and for the lovers of fishing, there is the fishing lake in Sóstó as well.
2. The Sightseeing Keszthely
Keszthely, located on the northern shore of Lake Balaton, is one of the most beautiful cities. You can’t go wrong with Keszthely, a good choice for those who love a variety of programs.
I especially recommend it to those who would not only like to relax on the beach or swim in Lake Balaton, but also like to see the city, explore the museums and sights.
In Keszthely, there is plenty to explore, in addition to the various beaches, some of which we can have a bit more fun, especially recommended for young people, and there are also smaller, quieter, family-friendly versions.
One of the most famous sights of the city is the Festetics Castle, which is only worth visiting here because of the part of the park. In addition to the opportunity to see into the past lives, everyday lives of the counts, and even, to the extent of a photo, even their dress, there are many other thrills within the park.
We can watch exotic plants in the Palm House or unusual birds in the Bird Park. But we can also get acquainted with the development of chariots: all in one place.
For those who want to know more about Lake Balaton and the surrounding area, I recommend the Balaton Museum.
However, Keszthely is not only recommended for museum lovers: many cultural and entertainment programs await us here, especially during the summer. Almost every week, there is a festival either on the shores of Lake Balaton or in the main square.
Whether it’s a wine or beer festival, maybe some kind of gastro festival or concerts, no one can get bored here. It is precisely this good in this city that is both calm and bustling. It is possible to go on big excursions in the area, swim or see the city, and have fun in the evening.
What I would still like to highlight, and perhaps few people know, is the sailing culture of Keszthely. Visit the renovated port of Keszthely where it is good to walk, but we can even try ourselves on board. Just you and the beautiful boat in the middle of Lake Balaton.
Still, I recommend it mainly to those who do not want a swarming crowd like Siófok, but still want to enjoy the pulsation of a small town.
Want to know the best places to visit in Hungary? Read my article on this topic!
3. Balatonlelle with the little ones
We could think that coming with little kids on vacation, hiking is an impossible mission. In fact, this has its difficulties, but if we arrive in a wonderful place like Balatonlelle, everything is easier.
This charming settlement is located on the southern shore of Lake Balaton, so the lower water level, for example, is in favor of it, which is a real relief for a family with small children.
What is the difference between the northern and southern shores of Lake Balaton?
From here, you can easily reach Fonyód, Balatonboglár, Szárszó and Balatonszemes by train, so you can easily hike in the area. This small quiet yet not boring city is the perfect choice for a peaceful holiday. You can enjoy the sunset and a short walk on the pier, or you can take a cruise on Lake Balaton.
Most of the beaches are free, so this can also be an important aspect when arriving with a family: you don’t have to bother with the entry fee. What I especially recommend for people with a small child or children is the Napfény strand (Sunshine Beach): it is one of the biggest attractions in the city, not far from the boat station. A real seaside atmosphere awaits us, created from sand dug out of the riverbed: an excellent terrain for sandcastle builders.
In addition, the water is slowly deepening and clear, and the whole beach is very tidy. Don’t miss the adventure pool, where adult and children’s pools, as well as the sauna world, await you.
While the children play on the wave slide, parents can relax in the hot tub or on the sun terrace. In addition to the beach, the city also has attractions: there is, for example, the Szalay Castle, which is a real little classicist building that now houses an African museum.
For those who love small, romantic lakeside towns, where a wonderful environment and real relaxation await them – if the children leave, of course 😀 – Balatonlelle is a good choice.
4. A little romance in Tihany
Just married? Old-fashioned couples? First date? Anyway, I know the perfect venue for that particular fire to jump out or explode. The Tihany Peninsula is one of the most wonderful parts of Lake Balaton, which hides many wonders.
It’s the perfect dating spot, and not just because it has a myriad of corners where you can create the perfect, incompatible joint photo. 😉
This small tiny, romantic settlement, full of little cute shops, winding streets, with a breathtaking panorama of Lake Balaton, is the perfect place for a walk.
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In season, you can take one or more bouquets of lavender together in the field, explore the historical values of the place, the abbey together, and listen to the echo of Tihany together.
Have a delicious lavender ice cream, admire Lake Balaton, drink a delicious Lake Balaton wine in one of the restaurants… I leave the rest to you, the atmosphere is sure to be there.
5. Balatonfüred – The most upscale city on Lake Balaton
There has always been something upscale in Balatonfüred that was noticed by many Hungarian nobles, writers, and important people, so it soon became a kind of cultural center in the area.
If you love good stories, history, ancient big buildings, and balls, Balatonfüred is your place.
Balatonfüred is the oldest resort on Lake Balaton and is also called the capital of the northern shore.
Beyond culture, the other attraction lies in the spa as well as its Mediterranean climate. Balatonfüred is a healing place with a long history, where people from many parts of the world came to heal, including many famous people.
The Anna Ball, which has become a tradition since then, is also a must go, which is also hosted by Balatonfüred. The first ball took place back in the 1800s, in honor of the daughter of a local nobleman, Krisztina.
And since then, the beauty of the Anna Ball has been chosen every year, for whom the fact that it is beautiful is not enough, but it must also meet a number of other criteria. If you have the opportunity, take part in this history-evoking event once, which is sure to be an experience of a lifetime.
6. Balatonföldvár is the best place for water lovers
If you want to enjoy Lake Balaton, be it in the form of a cruise, swimming, or some water sport, I wholeheartedly recommend Balatonföldvár.
It may not be the most popular or most easily accessible town, but you will not be disappointed when you visit here. Those who love secluded places to come with family, friends, and even alone, it is a great experience; this city was invented for them.
Perfect location for sailing, rowing, but even surfing. If you are looking for a real sporty break, this is the best place.
Balatonföldvár is a special place around Lake Balaton in several views. Mainly because it is an amazing sight to see the panorama of the neighboring Tihany while bathing.
More other unique opportunities await you here, for example, on Lake Balaton, you are only allowed to cross the shore by small sailboat, surfboard, or possibly kayak.
This allows you to have an experience like nowhere else: not only that it can be a real challenge, but also a breathtaking hiking opportunity. To explore the Tihany Peninsula by kayak or SUP, I don’t think we need to go into deep detail about this, you have to experience it.
It is also in favor of Balatonföldvár that the water reaches up to the chest in most places, so it is a safe terrain for beginners as well.
If you are learning to swim, surf, or enjoy any water sport now, you can do it here. And that certain thermal wind! What does this mean? This is a stable wind that develops here in a unique way on Lake Balaton, which is accompanied by sunshine and wave-free water. Pretty good pairing.
A real sailing culture has developed here, which is also indicated by the huge port: you will never be alone on the water here.
7. Festival in Zamárdi
When the summer season starts on Lake Balaton, it also means that the festivals in Zamárdi will take over the lead role.
If you want peace and quietness, you can either visit Zamárdi while the festival-goers are asleep, or engrave the festival-free days on your calendar well. I’ll tell you, it’s going to be hard.
If, on the other hand, you are a fan of many styles of festival, this is the place for you. Everything from big to small, from techno to alternative music is here. One of the largest and internationally known techno festivals is Balaton Sound, where the most famous DJs will be present.
If you’re looking for a slightly smaller and cheaper festival, I recommend the Beach Festival or “mini Sound,” the B My Lake Festival. The programs are getting better every year, and for each festival, more and more names are on the list of performers. And what speaks for Zamárdi, in addition to the fact that it is a beautiful place, is the festival atmosphere that swings around the city at that time.
Not only can this pulsating power be felt at night, but also during the day. The downtown area is filled with a bit of tired but cheerful young people and with them, this place comes to life. If you want to be a part of this magic, have a good dip in Lake Balaton, and also have a good party, then head to Zamárdi.
8. Wine power: Badacsony and its surroundings
Wine, Lake Balaton, and Badacsony: these three things live in unquestionable symbiosis with one another.
If you are a huge wine expert, and if your knowledge does not extend beyond being red or white, I recommend you visit Badacsony and its surroundings.
This place can be exciting for a winery, a wine connoisseur, and an incompetent person. Plenty of famous vineries and wineries await those interested, who will make wine tasting a real experience.
Not only with the unquestionably delicious Balaton wines, but also because of its gastronomic specialties, it is worth having a tour here. And in this environment, the nectar is somehow enjoyable even better. Badacsonytomaj, Badacsonytördemic, and Badacsonyörs are among the best routes where there are wineries such as the famous Laposa estate or Szabó cellar.
The Badacsony wine region is mainly known for its white wines, such as Italian Riesling and Rhine Riesling. Also known as the Valley of the Volcanoes, the countryside has such wonderful natural features as few other places in the area.
A glass of good wine in our hands is a must-see in the mountains and the sparkling waters of Lake Balaton. I recommend it to everyone who loves beautiful, good wines, fresh air and nature: all this together Badacsony itself.
9. Örvényes: the most secluded settlement on Lake Balaton
Do you want to hide from the eyes of the world? Only you and nature? In Örvényes everything is added, from the beautiful surroundings to the relaxed atmosphere.
If something, you don’t have to be afraid of the crowd here: it lies on the central-north shore of Lake Balaton and is inhabited by only 170 people. It has been a thriving and inhabited area since the Middle Ages, and has remained a charming, slightly hidden village ever since.
It is mainly known as a wine region, and the locals also do room rental. There is also a bicycle path next to Örvényes, and thanks to the Balaton-Upland National Park, which surrounds the settlement, there is also a hiking trail.
It also has an amazing panorama: Tihany and Balatonföldvár can also be seen from here. If we really want nothing more than a little rest, swimming, good wines while nature surrounds us, then look no further: It is Örvényes. Hospitable people and perfect tranquility await us here.
I recommend it especially to stressful managers, entrepreneurs, tired families who would break out of town, and long for the healing and replenishing power of green and water.
10. For the lovers of excursions, there is Monoszló
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to look at things from a little distance, such as Lake Balaton. The picturesque Balaton Uplands holds many wonders for us, including the 337-meter Hegyestű, which is one of the most special witness mountains for Lake Balaton.
The Balaton Uplands, located between Bakony and the Keszthely Plateau, offer many exciting settlements and hiking opportunities. Thanks to the former volcanic activities and the Pannonian Sea that covers the whole area, today we can climb and roam exciting volcanic witness mountains.
One of the most special places around Lake Balaton is Hegyestű which is located next to Monoszló. Unfortunately, few people know it, although it is worth a visit.
The northern half has completely disappeared, thanks to the former mining activities, giving the mountain a shape that can be recognized from afar.
As a result, the interior of the former volcano became visible, and we can learn even more about the geological processes at the demonstration site. Stairs lead to the top of the mountain, from where the whole of Lake Balaton unfolds in front of our eyes. It is a perfect place to relax and switch off, and that is what everyone deserves.
The best places around Lake Balaton – Summary
Lake Balaton is beautiful in itself. But because of the settlements on its shores, the time spent here promises to be even more meaningful, which we will certainly not regret.
Let’s go to Siófok for a big party, or discover the sights of Keszthely, or retreat from the noise of the world and relax in Örvényes.
Whichever way we decide, we will not regret it. One thing is for sure: the immeasurable charm of the settlements around Lake Balaton will captivate us. We will want to come back over and over again to be enchanted by the Lake and live all the fantastic experiences that Lake Balaton and its surroundings can only give.