Lake Balaton is alive and well even during winter, with plenty of entertaining things to do and see.
Lake Balaton is a skating paradise, even when the lake itself doesn't freeze over, thanks to all the skating rinks you can find on the shore from Siófok to Szigliget. Once the lake is frozen, designated skating spots also open.
This guide has all the information you might need during your adventures around Lake Balaton at this time of the year, from sights and hikes to culinary delights. The free edition in English and Hungarian is available at the Tourinform offices around Budapest and Balaton.
Spending some time in a sauna is equal parts refreshing and relaxing. If you want to try a sauna session led by an expert, visit the Zenit Hotel or Aura Hotel in Balatonfüred. And if you are a seasoned sauna-goer, jump into the icy waters of Lake Balaton afterwards.
Finding accommodation around Balaton in winter can sometimes be a challenge. Guesthouses are probably the best options: on the north shore. Sárffy House is always a great destination, while on the south, Hunyady Bat Barn is the perfect choice.
There's a national treasure hidden below the surface at Balaton’s western edge: thermal water. It supplies many wells and spas that offer splashing fun for visitors. Enjoy its healing powers while relaxing in Hévíz's world-famous lake, or try nearby Kehidakustány. On the south shore, spa lovers can sample Zalakaros, Igal, Csisztapuszta and Siófok.
A hot sauna session should be followed by a bowl of hot soup that will make you forget about the cold weather outside. Attila Bakos’ Family Restaurant in Szigliget is a great choice for those who want to enjoy traditional flavours, while Rádpuszta, on the south shore, pairs soups with stellar wines and even a petting zoo for kids.
Lovers of meat should head to Attila Bakos’ Family Restaurant in Szigliget, Neked Főztem in Balatonfüred or Öreg Harang in Hévíz. These eateries will provide you with the best carnivorous delights in a cosy atmosphere.
For stellar meat-free courses, visit Veganeeta Home in Balatonalmádi: this vegan restaurant has a selection of dishes that are entirely plant-based. Another vegan Balaton restaurant, Palánta Zöld Ételbár on the south shore, also prepares its cuisine free of allergens.
Gasztrohegy is an event series focusing on Badacsony: it introduces nine eateries through seven themed weekends, while the Balatoni KÖR organisation hosts a Culinary Picnic in Csopak on February 23. There are also other local events celebrating food – the sausage festival at Fonyód is one of them.
The local red wines should not be ignored: Kishegy in Balatonlelle is known for its labels from cellars such as Légli and Pócz, but the north shore also has exciting items in store from the likes of Homola, Szent Donát and Jásdi.
The wine region of the north shore is based on this variety. Although the event that celebrates it is already fully booked, the Olaszriesling wines of the region are definitely worth a try, so make sure to order something from Jásdi or Szent Donát when you have the chance.
You can sail on the lake in winter, too, just make sure to wear layers. More and more docks stay open in winter, and thanks to an initiative by HidegenLégió, you can even join a big sailing trip on February 3.
The channel of Hévíz Lake has warm waters, which means it never freezes over. Steam rises atmospherically, even tropical fish appear. Tours are organised around the channel, allowing you to row your way slowly down to Kis-Balaton. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience, gliding past the snowy landscape while being surrounded by warmth.
Eplény’s ski arena has perfect snow for skiing, and it’s only a short drive away from Balaton. But if you are feeling brave enough, and the snow is deep enough, you can also slide down the side of a vineyard.
Just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean you can’t conquer the castles of Lake Balaton. Of course, if the road that leads up to Szigliget, Rezi or Csobánc are too icy, consider postponing the trip to the top. If the roads are fine, the climb is absolutely worth it just for that breathtakingly beautiful view.
One of the most beautiful sights is when the sun is shining in the morning after it has been snowing all night. If so, climb to one of Balaton’s lookout towers, perhaps the one at Fonyód or Tihany, and just take in the view.
Go below the surface to explore the incredible wonders underground. The north shore has beautiful caves, although some of them are only available with a guide. You can also take an underground boat in Tapolca or walk through the network of caves in Balatonfüred.
Keszthely is a great destination even in bad weather, as there are plenty of museums to visit. The Amazon House Visitor Centre is hosting an exhibition about leisure travel back in the day, the Balaton Museum focuses on the lake itself while the Festetics Palace features exhibitions on hunting and model railways, providing hours of entertainment for all ages.
Veszprém’s Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra will play at the Anna Grand Hotel in Balatonfüred on February 12, providing the perfect opportunity to recharge your batteries with a night of classical music.