Grey winter weekends can be made more colourful by a trip to Lake Balaton where you can enjoy the lack of crowds and an abundance of fine food.
If there’s enough snowfall, Eplény’s ski arena opens, providing a great option for an active weekend – just make sure to check out the webcam before heading there, so that you won’t be disappointed.
Have a hearty soup or a delicious game dish after conquering the slopes; Oliva also offers Italian and Far Eastern cuisine along with Hungarian.
Observation tower on Soós-hegy
If you only have a little time to spend at Lake Balaton, visit the Balatonakarattya High Shore, from where you can see all of Lake Balaton’s eastern basin. Put on your boots and hike to the mysterious caves carved into the side of the shoreline, or visit the Soós-hegyi Lookout Tower.
Pörc Delikát in Balatonkenese has abundant cold platters, sausages, ribs and pork rind to munch on after the hike. You can also take smoked meats, salamis, matured goats’ cheese and artisanal spreads home with you.
Open: Tue-Thur until 6pm, Fri-Sat until 7pm, Sun until 4pm.
Endrődi Sándor Lookout Tower
Csákány-hegy is a 317-metre-high hill next to Csopak, which can be reached through Nosztori-völgy or from Paloznak. The hill’s Endrődi Sándor Lookout Tower has a view of Lake Balaton’s eastern basin as well as the southern slopes of Bakony.
The view is just as beautiful from Márga Bistro in Csopak. The restaurant uses local ingredients, serves the wines of Szent Donát Manor, and if you arrive in time, has a gorgeous view of the sunset. With high quality comes higher prices, meaning that main courses start at 3-4,000 forints, while desserts and soups are priced at around 1,500-2,000 forints.
Open: After Jan 27 Mon, Thur-Sun.
One of Tihany’s most mysterious sights, Barátlakások is surrounded by many a legend. Three of the caves that were provided monks with a home still remain intact, while the rest disappeared throughout the centuries. You can also take a walk to the geyser cones and Lake Belső if you are in the area.
Although it isn’t a restaurant, Apátsági Rege Confectionery has various warm dishes within its selection, and a great view of the lake. Make sure to try the desserts as well, as they are excellent.
Open: Mon, Wed-Thur & Sun 10am-6pm, Fri-Sat 10am-7pm.
One of Hungary’s most interesting geological formations is, in fact, the remaining part of a volcano’s pipe, shaped by erosion. In winter, this place is like a whole other planet. You can see the entire Káli Basin from the top, while various rocks are scattered around at the foot of the hill.
Zánka’s Neked Főztem Gastropub is a few kilometres from here. The selection always changes, depending on which ingredients can be sourced locally. If the weather is nice, stay on the terrace for a while and enjoy the view.
Open: Daily noon-9pm.
Fekete-hegy is surrounded by Balatonhenye, Szentbékkálla and Köveskál. Its lakes can be easily approached from the direction of Szentbékkálla, because that way you can stop at the Eötvös Károly Lookout Tower, from where you can gaze down at Káli Basin from a height of 369 metres.
Even in winter, you have to book a table even if you want to dine at the popular Kővirág in Köveskál. Although the romantic garden is out of the question in this weather, the seasonal meals made with locally sourced ingredients will taste just as delicious by the fire.
Open: From Feb 1 Fri-Sun noon-10pm.
Somló is not just a place for fiery wine. If you dare to go to the top, the long hike will be rewarded by an open-air exhibition, abandoned cellars, a lookout tower and a castle. Make sure to check out the geological formation called Kőkonyha, but only if the ground isn’t slippery.
Kreinbacher Estate is located at the foot of the mountain: their new-wave kitchen offers Hungarian cuisine based on local flavours. The guided tour is also worth your time, as you can learn a lot about champagne-making. And if you don’t have to drive, try the award-winning champagne as well.
The former Szeremley Wine House was recently revived as the St Orban Restaurant. The vine-covered terrace and the interior remain the same, but the selection has been made more select to ensure reliable quality.
Open in winter during events surrounding Gasztrohegy (Jan 25-27 & Feb 22-24).
Castle of Szigliget
Many believe that the best view of Lake Balaton is from here: the lake to the south, and the lands of Tapolcai-medence to the north. The castle was renovated in 2013, so now it has new walls, roofs, towers and exhibition areas. The nearby Avasi Church ruins are also worth a visit.
Szigliget’s Villa Kabala was opened in the former Mediterranean-style home of painter István Farkas. They serve reimagined Hungarian dishes here, paired with a unique tranquillity and a gorgeous view.
Open: Winter Mon, Thur-Sun noon-9.30pm. Reservations recommended.
Szent Mihály Chapel
Hungary’s only fishermen’s chapel can be found on Vonyarcvashegy’s Szent Mihály Hill. Legend has it that 46 fishermen went out to a stormy winter Lake Balaton to capture some fish, and 40 of them were spared thanks to their patron saint – they escaped on the floating ice blocks. The view from here is especially beautiful on a clear day.
Winemaker József Bock and chef Lajos Bíró opened their Balaton restaurant at the Zenit Hotel in Vonyarcvashegy. Visit this place for great Hungarian cuisine and fish dishes.
Open: From Jan 11 Daily 11am-10pm.
In summer, the channel serves as a public beach for those who want to enjoy the thermal waters for free. In winter, it’s a wonderful spot for a walk. You can also join a ten-kilometre jaunt by boat, as the channel’s water never freezes.
Afterwards enjoy a tasty pizza, burger or a meal with a Mediterranean feel at Pura Vida Port in Keszthely’s marina.
Open: until end of Feb Fri-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-5pm.
For more information, visit their Facebook page.If you can go on without pizza, visit their other outlet in Tapolca.
Kis-Balaton, with its marshlands and rich fauna, is a beautiful destination even in winter. Kányavári Island can be visited at this time too, with an enchanting, 15-stop study trail.
Kristinus Winery is only a short drive away. Their Gasztro Műhely prepares meals to suit their wines. You only know what the ingredients are, the results are always a surprise.
Open: Wed-Sun noon-4pm & 6pm-10pm. Reservations required.
Töreki Lakes – Déli part BBQ
The Töreki Nature Reserve is on the western edge of Siófok. It’s an island of peace, with an abundance of artificial lakes, incredibly quiet in winter. There’s a 12-stop study trail that guides visitors along the nine kilometres.
After your trek, go back to civilisation and enjoy the sizeable smoked meats of Déli Part BBQ.
Open: Mon, Thur-Sun noon-9pm.