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Take a winter tour of historic wine cellars around Lake Balaton, each with their own unique decoration and quaint architectural solutions.
Experts are confident that remains discovered at the Benedictine Abbey of Tihany are the bones of András I, who ruled Hungary in the 11th century.
Look out for the opulent interiors of Festetics Palace in Keszthely when you watch the current Netflix fantasy series 'Shadow and Bone', partly filmed at the Baroque pile near Lake Balaton.
The most impressive formations in the Balaton Uplands were shaped by volcanic activity four or five million years ago when the entire area was covered by the Pannonian Sea. Today, the basalt surfaces reflect its original altitude. A wonderful view greets those who climb to the top of these solitary hills.
Basalt organs and chapels: Szent György-hegy
- The Szent György-hegy Basalt Organs Study Trail is almost four kilometres long, a circular trail with seven stations. Feel free to leave the path to explore the 30-40 metres tall basalt organs and the ice cave that stays cold even in the summer heat.
- Check out the orthodox chapel of Father Márton, the Baroque Lengyel Chapel and the abandoned Emmaus Chapel.
- One of the most beautiful local attractions, Tarányi Press House, will soon become a restaurant – until then you can appreciate it from the outside.
- Enjoy the view from Mennyország Bar, and then refill your water bottle at the Lion's Head Fountain.
Castle ruins everywhere
- A three-kilometre-long trail leads to the top of Csobánc, setting off from either Diszel or Gyulakeszi. The road leads between vineyards and ruined cellars.
- The ruins of Csobánc Castle at the summit offer an incredible view. No wonder it’s a beloved destination for paragliders. Famous Hungarian actress Klári Tolnay also had a holiday home here, which now houses the Villa Tolnay Winery and Guesthouse.
- Gyula Vezér Equestrian Farm is located at the edge of Gyulakeszi, at the foot of the hill. Here they offer horse-riding lessons and you can also pick up the traditional skill of cheese-making.
- Hajagos, next to Diszel, is a hill that stands out because of its origins: it wasn’t one big crater, but several smaller ones. Extensive mining reveals the interior of the volcano.
- A moderately difficult trail leads to the top of the high, narrow cone of Hegyesd. Although the 13th-century castle has almost entirely disappeared, the view and the tranquillity make the hike worthwhile.
- At 385 metres, Haláp is the youngest of the solitary hills. Mining here resulted in the loss of its basalt cap. Still, the view is just as beautiful. You can reach the summit through a pretty tricky trail that starts at the edge of Zalahaláp.
- The small Tóti-hegy has a wonderful 360-degree panorama that you shouldn’t miss.
- If you want to feel like an explorer, put on your hiking boots and conquer the wild Gulács.
- Everything you need to know about Badacsony is in this guide.
Szigliget is one of the most beautiful settlements around Lake Balaton. Its castle, renovated in 2013, and the study trail named Kamon-kő are both worth your time. You can also check out the mysterious Avasi church ruins while following the study trail.
Fish, lakes and caves
- Tapolca is famous for its two lakes: Cave Lake and Malom-tó. Make sure to register if you want to visit the cave as queues can get pretty long.
- Visit the colourful steps, see statues by Béla Raffay and László Marton, and enjoy a glass of wine while bundled up in a blanket – you can do all of this around Malom-tó.
- The promenade along the lake stretches to the edge of town, so you can follow Tapolca Creek on its way to Lake Balaton. The water is constantly 18-20 degrees warm, so a layer of fog can be seen above it when the weather is cold.
- The ruins of the medieval Tapolca castle and the museum can be found on Templom Hill right next to the lake.
- If you want to do something less touristy, visit the unique Y-shaped houses in the east of town.
- Lovers of flea markets should visit the town’s very own: held on Tuesday and Friday mornings by Road 77, it provides a unique experience for those who don’t mind a bit of a culture shock.
Exhibitions, cafés and treasure hunts
Diszel at the foot of Csobánc, is four kilometres from Tapolca. The two settlements are also connected by a bike trail.
- Első Magyar Látványtár is a unique exhibition space housed inside a remodelled water mill.
- Neighbouring Kávéház a Vörös Lóhoz is a community space and deli in one, with a kitchen that builds on ingredients from local producers.
- If you head towards Káli Basin from Tapolca, Gyulakeszi will be your first stop. Csigó Malom is at the edge of the village: it’s an antique shop and concert venue, with an exhibition of applied arts on display.
Where to eat
Tapolca: Although town’s popular Pura Vida Wine&Dine restaurant has moved to the dock at Keszthely, there are still plenty of other places nearby where you can grab a bite.
- For breakfast, strudels and hot chocolate, visit Rétes Bistro on Fő tér.
- Tópart Bistro has great trout and fritters. When the weather is good, you can enjoy them on the terrace with a view of the lake.
- Open until 2pm, thefish-frying place at the market is where they serve the trout that are farmed in the creek, so the ingredients are absolutely local.
- Atilla Bakos’ Family Restaurant offers calorie-rich feasts with meat-based dishes in focus.
- Villa Kabala has rethought, homely flavours for dinner – but you must reserve.
- Várkávézó awaits guests with homemade cookies and hot drinks on the way to the castle. It closes in the depths of winter.
- Gyulakeszi is home to the famous Autós Pihenő and its marrow-on-toast. Closed Wednesdays.
- Liliomkert market is the best place to be on Sundays: here you can grab hearty meals from local producers, or stop by for a freshly baked pie and mulled wine at neighbouring Kemencésház.
- Búzalelke Pékesség in Kisapáti is open for a few hours four days a week – you can also order ahead if you want to make sure you can get your hands on a great loaf of bread.
- Papa Aron and Taberna Infinito on Szent György-hegy offer great flavours and a nice view from spring to autumn. Papa Aron only serves vegetarian dishes.
- If you decide to head to Káli Basin, Mi a kő, Kővirág, Káli Art Inn, Fügekert and Neked Főztem Gasztrokocsma are the places to visit.