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sights & culture Nagyon Balaton

Balaton’s iconic Gömbkilátó is ready to party

Balaton Piknik, one of the most popular festivals in the region, takes place on the grass around the iconic Gömbkilátó lookout tower. This aluminium structure with a fascinating history is more than ready to party on 13 and 14 September.

Várdomb in Balatonboglár, the 165-metre-high hill on which this lookout stands, can easily be spotted, even from the north shore of Lake Balaton. It was landowner Gaston Gaal who planted pines in the area, and these trees define the hill's appearance to this day. Or, to be more precise, they would do if it wasn’t for one thing: the giant structure of the Gömbkilátó.

Officially called the János Xantus Gömbkilátó, this iconic Balaton structure started life far from Balaton. It was inspired by the Brussels Atomium, made for the 1958 World Fair.

A team of young Hungarian engineers designed it, and the metal workers of Székesfehérvár finished the aluminium globe by 1963. It was then exhibited at the Budapest International Fair. The globe is 15 metres in diameter and made of 240 triangular plates.

Back then it was covered, but the sheet was removed in 1964. The council of Somogy County purchased it in 1966 and then it was moved to where it stands in Balatonboglár today.

Later on it received floodlights, an idea of architect László Zics, and since then it has been a part of the night-time panorama. Every now and then, the lookout tower needs a little renovation – though in the 2000s, it had to be closed for years. This thorough refurbishment was completed in 2012 and an adventure park built next to it.

It has been open continuously ever since. In high season, more than 40,000 visitors a month scale this landmark. Admission is 300 forints, 200 forints for children.

The grass around the Gömbkilátó hosted Balaton Piknik for the first time in 2018, and the festival is back this year. On Friday, Irish singer-songwriter Róisín Murphy and Afro-jazz exponent Nicola Conte take the stage, while on Saturday you can see UK electronica band, Morcheeba, indie-folk favourite José González and Brazilian bossa nova singer Bebel Gilberto

Tickets for Balaton Piknik are available here.

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