Badacsony is surrounded by mysteries – it’s the name of a settlement and a hill as well, with legends echoing among the trees of wild forests and stern basalt organs. It has a thousand hidden nooks waiting to be discovered. Its sight is never boring, and it always gives something to its wanderers. Besides being mystical, the place is also open minded: gastronomy has always been a part of the hill – including Welschrieslings with a hint of minerals from the basalt – and it’s been attracting tourists since ancient times.
It spitted lave millions of years ago, today it’s the highest monadnock of the Tapolca Basin. It’s a great hiking spot, especially in fall and spring when the air is crystal clear, the forests are on fire with colors, and there’re barely any other travelers on the cliffs.
- There are plenty of reasons to climb to the top of the hill; the long trail starts from Kisfaludy House and leads to Kisfaludy Lookout Tower through Exiles Stairs. Built in 2011, the lookout tower is not only Lake Balaton’s tallest one, but its design is also rather unique. We can take Nordic walking tours along the trail, or we can follow the so called Basalt Trail and explore the dark side of Badacsony through the 14 stations including the former internment camp which is quite unknown even among the locals.
- Located just above Kisfaludy House, there’s an interesting legend about Rózsakő (“Rose Stone”): renowned poet Sándor Kisfaludy used to sit on the smooth basalt cliff with his wife, Róza Szegedy while they enjoyed the beauty of Lake Balaton. The stone supposedly has magical powers: if a couple in love sits on it with their backs to the lake while holding hands, they will be together in a year. It’s also enough if the girl sits down and thinks about her lover and lets out a sigh. The one she thinks about will fall in love with her. Who knows if any of this is true, but one thing’s for sure: it’s a good place to sit down, so we shouldn’t leave – well, maybe just to pay a visit to the nearest winery.
- Tördemic Lookout Spot is near Kisfaludy Lookout Tower; this one used to be a tower as well (Kisfaludy lookout was actually built to look similar), and although there’s no building there now, the view is still inimitable. We can see the cellars of the nearby hillside spiked with basalt organs, the castle ruins of Szigliget, the other monadnocks, and if the weather is clear, we can even see Keszthelyi-hegység (“Keszthely Mountains”).
- The Ranolder Cross, the iconic monument of the hilltop, has been sitting on the southwestern side of Badacsony since 1857. They say that the larger pieces were pulled up to the hill by 40 buffaloes. According to old records, Bishop János Ranolder said the following when he first visited this place: “Our country is the most beautiful country, and this place, where we stand, is the most beautiful land of the world. Build a home for me here and raise a huge cross just above me on the basalt cliff for the memory of our Savior.” The bishop’s former – now decaying – villa can also be found here.
- There’s a legend regarding the cliff below the stone cross: if this piece of rock that stretches out is hit with a hammer or another stone, it makes a noise similar to the sound of a bell, and it can be heard miles away.
- We can reach the basalt-built, bastion-like Egry József Lookout Tower by following the blue trail from the cross. Here, we will have a view of the vineyards of Badacsony, the boat stop, and the two peaks of Fonyód’s hill.
- The famous basalt church in Badacsonytomaj’s center, the village museum, and the recently consecrated King Saint Stephen Chapel in the hillside are all worth a visit, just like the Pope John Paul II Memorial deep in the forest – it is decorated with the work of painter Erzsébet Udvardy.
- Folly Arboretum and Winery in Badacsonyörs is an interesting destination for those who wish to walk under hundreds-of-years old trees while sipping on the wines and cordials they make here.
- The Szegedy Róza House Literary and Wine Museum not only gives a glimpse into the poet and the young girl’s love, but also to the secrets of winemaking. Here we can taste the famous herb vermouth that they make according to Róza’s recipe.
- The works of József Egry, who was called the painter of Balaton, are on display at the center of the village, at Egry József Memorial Museum, while in Badacsonytördemic, the neighboring village, we can enjoy the unique wine-press collection in the garden of the village museum.
- The school of Tördemic houses an exhibition about writer Ferenc Herczegh with the original furniture and objects from his holiday home in Badacsonylábdihegy, complete with photographs and documents.
Badacsony-wine is worth the climb
Following Római Road, we will find great cellars along the way to the top (and some not-so-good ones as well).
- Immediately after starting our journey from the center, we will see the sign of Istvándy Borműhely (Wine Workshop) – it’s a sign that’s hard to miss. Given the name, the workshop gives a glimpse into the secrets of winemaking to those who are interested, but we can also simply sit down and enjoy their selection on the terrace. The wine workshop is also interesting because the tour that leads to the internment camp that was closed 50 years ago also starts from here.
- Németh Winery on Római Road is the citadel of artisan winemaking: the family believes in naturalness, so it’s not a surprise that the labels on their wax-sealed bottles are designed by their children or written by Mrs. Németh. They have such unique items as the ice wine and straw wine or pork chops marinated in Welschriesling.
- The wines of Málik Cellar are all aged in barrels and besides the classic Balaton varieties, we can also try the likes of Budai zöld, Zeus, and Bakator varieties – plus the cellar is open all year round.
- Those who climb up to the top of the hill deserve a reward: the view from Laposa Winery is postcard-like, the wines are exquisite, the delicious snacks are always in harmony with the season, and they remain open even in Winter; we can taste the best wines of the region among colorful deck chairs and hay bales at frissTerasz, which also belongs to the Laposa family.
Looking around, we can decide where to go next. Below us there’re many more great cellars of the Badacsony region, it would be a sin to not go to all of them. However, that requires a car or a bike, as they’re a bit further away from the center.
- We can fill our bellies at Istvándy Winery in Badacsonytomaj: they don’t have a menu, Csilla Istvándy uses whatever in season to make the meals she dreamed up the night before. In 2016 they opened a Picnic Bar on the estate; here they serve cool wines, ice creams with pálinka and wine, focaccia, and sandwiches from a remodeled circus caravan. We only have to take a blanket to sit on and we can enjoy the view of the land with the grazing cattle.
- Borbély Family Winery with its award-winning wines is not far from here, and we can even stay the night as they have a guesthouse in the middle of the vineyard. We can get their wines at Borterasz on Római Road.
- Skizo in Tördemic has exciting items in bottles with unique labels.
- Although it’s technically in Badacsonyörs, Csendes Dűlő Estate is still pretty close. Its owners have been taking care of the vineyards for almost half a century and Júlia Dóra Molnár turned it into a 21st century, homey cellar with all the things one might need for a relaxing time.
- The estate of the area’s iconic winemaker, Péter Váli not only gives us great wines, but the host will also bake us something delicious if we make an appointment in advance. They recently opened Tuscan-style guesthouses on the estate.
- After all the wine it’s time for pálinka: we can get intimate with almost 30 types of pálinkas at the Renaissance Pálinka House in Badacsony.
A bite of Badacsony
Badacsony not only has the traditional Balaton-side gastronomy of lángos and hake, but there are also some some new wave spots that try to use what's in season, and what's available locally. Here are the places we recommend for those who want to have a meal in the area:
- Kishableány, a beach food bistro that stays open until the end of September, can be found at the center – here we can taste some items from the region, but mostly Laposa and Bezerics wines as they were the ones who created this place.
- The other spot is Pláne Badacsony’s cozy terrace. Besides the wines of renowned wineries, we can also taste the products of lesser known winemakers like Zoltán Málik or Gyula Ghymeses Szarka, or the Két Jóbarát meg az Anti.
- We can find Borbarátok Restaurant and Pension on Római Road on the way to the hill – its menu is filled with classic, Hungarian-style meals.
- Moving on, we will stumble upon the restaurant that was established by Huba Szeremley: here we can have dinner under the arbor, feel the intoxicating scent of grapes, while watching the smooth surface of the water – this is a unique and unforgettable experience. The restaurant of Szeremley Wine House serves specialty meals made from the gray cattle, mangalica, and buffalo meat produced at their organic farm.
- Kisfaludy-ház Restaurant was originally the renowned poet’s press house. With no blind test behind us, we would refrain from commenting on its kitchen, however, the view from the restaurant’s terrace is undoubtedly beautiful.
- After all the wine on the hill, we can slowly get down to the beach of Badacsonytomaj with the help of gravity – Kalóz Beach Bistro is a must-have stop here: stuffed pies, burgers with ribs, and artisan cordials await us here.
Even a cellar-crawl requires some sleep
Just as it is colorful when it comes to wineries and restaurants, Badacsony is also pretty versatile with its accommodation.
- Hotel Bonvino Wine&Spa stands out because it was the first one in the area to have wellness amenities so it’s pretty popular even in winter.
- Besides the main building of Bacchus Apartman, four apartments, a playground, and a vinoteca of local wines await guests here.
- Patent Hostel is popular among the younger generations. Its terrace with its soft sofas and colorful fairy lights is perfect for having a barbecue and some wine in the evening, and it’s probably the hostel’s most alluring area.
- Those who wish to stay at a truly stylish rural accommodation should visit Óbester Pension, where the owner, Zoltán Illés is behind the grill from Friday to Sunday; we can pair up the meats with renowned wines from the region.
- We can stay at four different rooms at Borbély Family Winery, each of them named after a monadnock; the meals are homemade, there’s a playground for the children, and the main winery is here so we can even see the everyday chores of the winemaking process.
Badacsonytomaj has a great built beach. The Municipal Beach and the neighboring Badacsony Beach await visitors with large green areas and open-air toys. There’s also a bike-shed with 80 spots in Badacsonytomaj. Not too many people know about Bányász Beach where we can sunbathe on a sandy beach amid an atmosphere reminding of the past.
Translated by Emma Póli