Awesome new places can be found in abundance around Balaton, so we came up with the idea of a trip around the lake starting in Veszprém and ending in Balatonfüred that features all of our fresh favorites from a top-notch cake shop and a secluded castle with beautiful natural surroundings you can explore on Segway to a peaceful hillside perfect for a picnic and a massive luxury hotel.
Imagine that you and your friends all get into a 40-year-old VW Transporter, and cruise around the lake, visiting all the brand new hangouts that have opened since the beginning of the year. We already gave you the scoop on the new restaurants of the north shore, and now we take a look at the hotels, guesthouses, cake shops, museums, wineries, bars, and other special spots that are way above the average. We begin in Veszprém, proceeding in a clockwise direction until we reach Balatonfüred, our final destination.
Tucked away in the downtown area, in a courtyard named Fortuna, Tizen1 Café in Veszprém is an ideal place to kick off our tour. Breakfast and an energizing espresso are essential for a good start to the day, and here you get both from a champion barista who really knows what he’s doing. The pleasant, clean design of the interior is the cherry on top of the cake (or cappuccino if you’re into that sort of thing).
Launched earlier this year, Villa Gréta is different from most places on Siófok’s busy Petőfi Promenade, and that’s actually part of why we love it so much. The cool confectionery is run by a couple from the town of Nagykőrös, who left their old lives behind and built a business based on the exceptional cake-making skills of the wife. Reasonable prices, stylish premises, and divine flavors a few meters from Balaton and the center of town.
After indulging on a bunch of dreamy cakes, you can visit the doyen of pálinkamaking and learn how the Hungarian brandy of gods is made from heaps of fresh fruit. If you have kids, you don’t have to worry about taking them along with you: the playground will definitely keep them occupied, and they can munch on delicious dried fruit and sip on sensational syrups. Sited by the cellars of the village, this place is all about fruit (as the name appropriately suggests), so the pálinka served here is of the highest possible quality.
The renovation of the Festetics-Inkey Palace and the surrounding estate has luckily produced a more convincing result than the classic, overly embellished, frilly palace hotels you so often come across. The overhaul of the complex is a slow, but steady process, and what comes out of it is wild and romantic, natural and monumental at the same time. Both Segways and oldtimers are available for those who wish to explore the estate and the tranquil countryside of Somogy County. The guesthouses have a pleasantly rustic feel, which accurately reflects what life is like in this distant corner of the country. Finding your way here is perhaps not the easiest thing: leave Fonyód and head toward Kaposvár via Lengyeltóti, then take a left in the direction of Mernye, and you’ll arrive in Alsóbogát after a very sharp bend.
Once you’re feeling relaxed enough, it’s time to visit Kéthely, the emerging winemaking center of the south shore where Kristinus has created a modern wine estate that wouldn’t be out of place in the Weinviertel. The project itself is not entirely new, but this year has brought lots of big improvements. One of them is Vinotel, a wine-themed hotel with ten rooms; another is the estate’s very own wine cinema. The Gastro Workshop serves tasty dishes made by skilled and acclaimed chefs to go harmoniously with the excellent wines.
From a big and toothsome meal in Kéthely to a super, new museum in similarly named Keszthely. We’ve mentioned in our roundup for a rainy day that Amazon Hotel, which stood abandoned for years, finally got a new lease on life with the help of funding from the EU, and the transformation was worth every last euro cent: found at the end of the passenger zone, the venue has been turned into a modern and enjoyable exhibition space. The exhibit showcases the traveling habits of the nobility, and features old-fashioned carriages (which, by the way, you can climb up to test), archive footage, and even an old parlor car of the Hungarian national railway company. A market is held here on a regular basis, and there's a botanical garden next door.
The newest member of the Laposa family, frissTerasz opened it Badacsony in June. Whether you’re on a tour of Badacsony’s wine cellars or you arrive in flip-flops to lounge on the hay bales and watch a Euro2016 game, you’re equally welcome here. In terms of wines and wine snacks, this place is a goldmine: there’s hearty bread and dripping, even better grilled sausages and sandwiches, and the vintages are not only supplied by Laposa, but also by Gilvesy, Istvándy, and Skizo, among others.
If you dig the vibe of frissTerasz, you’ll also like Picnic Bar on the edge of Káptalantóti, which is similar, but even more chilled out (if that’s possible). Operating out of a transformed circus car, the bar serves light rosés, strong rieslings, and other refreshing drinks. Grab a glass, settle down on the lawn, and let yourself be mesmerized by the stunning panorama; that’s all anyone needs.
Continue the trip around Balaton, and you’ll find yourself in the Káli Basin. Instead of a recently opened gourmet restaurant, the newest attraction on the gastro main street of Köveskál is a wine terrace with benches, pallets, and hay bales, run by Káli Kövek in the winery’s back garden. The burgers are supplied by Frankie’s Food Truck: the meat in the Káli burger comes from a butcher in Révfülöp, the vegetables are produced locally, and all of these are packed into a bun that’s baked in the village of Kisapáti. The wines are all made at the cellar; for example, a deciliter of Kavics costs 200 forints, which is a pretty good deal.
After drinking all that delectable wine, it’s best to let a sober member of the party take over the steering wheel, and drive you to Balatonfüred, which saw several new openings this year. When Manézs was chased away from the neighborhood of Zákonyi Ferenc Street, the owners didn’t give up, and opened the eatery at a new location, next to Malackrumpli. The circus car is still there, the bar is stocked with craft beers, syrups from Kapolcs, and local wines, and the guest area is furnished with old tables and chairs - rescued from the attic and various markets - that have been nicely restored. Located on the edge of town, Manézs is widely regarded as a great bistro with one of the coziest gardens around Balaton. Music and fröccs flow late into the evening, even after the kitchen’s been closed.
Manézs Bistro (closed)
Address: 8230 Balatonfüred, Tihanyi Road
Once a neglected, ugly edifice, Hotel Füred on Széchenyi Road is now one of the town’s luxury landmarks. No expense was spared during the renovation of the interior; billions were spent on the facelift and the construction of additional blocks. The hotel has everything you’d expect to find in an establishment of such caliber: a luxurious wellness department, luxurious rooms, luxurious breakfast, and luxurious chandeliers. If you’re planning on spending one of the nights on the tour here, you might want to apply for a loan first.
Not too long ago, a very casual surf pub opened in the center of Balatonfüred, which provides an excellent setting for ending your trip. Cool, but simple furniture, a good wine selection, beers from the Czech Republic and Balatonvilágos, and light snacks: this is Hello Tourist in a nutshell. The setting of the neighboring historic buildings and the huge, shady chestnut tree in the garden make the whole atmosphere charmingly complete.