The accommodation market around Balaton has long evolved past the Zimmer Feri era both in terms of price and quality. After doing a little research, we found several guest houses that will put any lodgings offered in Provence to shame, and over the past few weeks we visited all of them. We slept in a press house, in a building that was once an old mill, and even in a 19th century mansion, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Now we really envy the photographers who work for the interior design magazine Lakáskultúra, so we decided to follow this article up with part II.
Villa Fiore, Lesencetomaj
Have you ever slept in a mill? You can do just that at Villa Fiore in Lesencetomaj. The dilapidated building that was once called the Gubacsi Mill was converted into a stylish countryside boutique hotel, which has eight rooms and exudes a truly cozy vibe – the perfect environment for relaxation. Instead of Lake Balaton, the panorama is dominated by Szent György-hegy.
All rooms are furnished in a distinct style, but all the different interiors have a rustic-romantic atmosphere. Located on the bank of the Lesence-patak, the villa has a Finnish sauna, as well as an indoor and outdoor pool, offering an alternative wellness regimen for those who wish to stay away from crowded Balaton beaches. The Balaton Uplands are reflected in the guest house’s cuisine, as are the flavours of the Mediterranean. In the summer season, rooms are available for a 21,000-26,000 HUF price per night, including breakfast.
Káli Art Inn, Köveskál
Nowadays, Köveskál is often called a gastro village, which is not at all surprising, seeing as the tiny township has three excellent restaurants. Many hungry people pop down just for a day to enjoy the food at Kővirág, Mi A Kő or Káli Art Inn, but the Káli Basin is exactly the kind of place where you’ll have to stay for at least a weekend to experience the region’s rejuvenating effect to the fullest. Despite giving guests the chance to recharge in a four-star hotele deluxe environment, Káli Art Inn has been renovated to fit perfectly into the surrounding landscape, so spending time here feels like being in grandma’s garden. The venue, which used to be a casino for army officers, has been reinterpreted by adding antique furniture and baldachin bathtubs.
Those with a romantic soul will surely appreciate the option of breakfast in the rose arbour or dipping in the pool in the huge garden, among thousands of colourful and fragrant flowers. Looking at the gourmet menu at last year’s Kálibuli, which featured viola soup and lamb ragout with potato dumplings, pesto and goat cheese, it is easy to tell what the food selection of the restaurant is like. For a hip weekend here you’ll have to dig deep into your pocket: in high season, the cheapest room without breakfast costs at least 35,000 HUF per night, whereas renting the two-bedroom guest house with living room will set you back almost 50,000 HUF.
Babérliget Guest House, Polány
If Káli Art Inn is the Provence of the north shore, Polány’s Babérliget is undoubtedly worthy of the same title on the south side. Coming here means leaving Lake Balaton behind just a little bit, but what you’ll get in return at the end of the 25-mintue drive is an estate enveloped by lavender bushes and grapevines. Tucked away among the hills of County Somogy, the mansion served as the seat of the noble Békeffy family in the second half of the 1800s. The present owners set out to revamp the garden and the buildings in Provence style, creating very inviting interiors with robust antique furniture. Upstairs there is a community space and even a light yoga room overlooking the Somogy hills.
The garden is just as tempting with a long alley of chestnut trees and a pool with sun loungers. Our personal favourite was the kitchen where guests can cook to their hearts content, making use of the massive countertop and the amazing range of cooking equipment. All ingredients are bought for you if you let them know in advance, but if you’re looking to kick back completely, you won’t even have to worry about food. The price of rooms and suites is between 27,000 and 54,000 HUF per night, breakfast included. Only a total of 10 rooms are available, so advance booking is strongly recommended.
Szászi Guest Houses, Hegymagas
Sleeping among rows of grapevines is an extraordinary experience, something we can attest to after spending a night at the Szászi Guest House, especially since, along with enjoying the peace and the chirping of birds, you can also get an insight into the everyday life of a winemaking family. Endre Szászi tends the grapes, his wife takes care of the roses, and all the while Mazsola, the family dog is on their heels. Within arm’s reach from the two guest houses, the terrace of the Szászi Cellar is where Endre Szászi or his son holds entertaining wine tasting sessions for the guests.
The family has two guest houses, which were once press houses, on Szent György-hegy; both of them offer sweeping vistas over Szigliget and Badacsony. The Diófa (walnut tree) press house, which can sleep six people, and the Nautra press house, which has enough room for a party of four, are full of natural, wooden furniture and accessories. The kitchens and bathrooms are fully equipped, and a heating system has been installed, so the houses are open to visitors in spring and autumn too. You can almost see the beach of Szigliget, as it’s a mere 5-minute drive away. In high season, the maximum price per person is 9,900 HUF per night with breakfast also included.
Born out of the cooperation of a young Hungarian-Indian couple, the French style countryside mansion called Sárga Ház (Yellow House) used to be yellow indeed, but looking for a yellow building won’t help you find this venue today. Sárga Ház is located in such an isolated spot that you’ll have to take a dirt path through the forest to reach the hillside accommodation. Guests have three two-storey apartments to choose from, all of which can sleep four people and are furnished to exude a mix of French elegance and an Oriental feel. The latter is the responsibility of Roa, the wife from India, who also regularly sells her hand-made jams and Indian rugs at the market in Káptalantóti. Overlooking the monadnocks of Balaton and shrouded in veils, the breakfast terrace would make even a Buddhist monk jealous, especially when Roa brings out her freshly baked corn bread. The four-person apartments can be rented for 30,000 HUF per night.
Csátó Guest House, Tihany
Anyone visiting the Csátó Guest Houses in the vicinity of the Tihany Abbey will feel like entering an open-air museum – but have no fear, the three historic loam-walled houses are in line with modern standards for maximum comfort, meaning that all six apartments are equipped with old ovens for baking bread, huge wooden boxes decorated with Hungarian folk motifs and microwave ovens. Everything is revamped here based on the same philosophy that was used in Tihany.
Every house has two apartments, one on the ground floor and the other one upstairs, with the latter ones being a bit more modern. If you’re looking for genuine rural romance, go for the ones downstairs. Go to the back of the garden, and enjoy the panorama of Balaton that is not unlike the view you’ll see from the promenade by the Tihany Abbey. If you come in high season, expect to pay 19,000-22,000 HUF for a four-person apartment.
Villa Millennium, Balatonalmádi
Having opened just a few weeks ago in Balatonalmádi, this stylishly renovated villa fills a gigantic niche in the village: the hundred-year-old refinedly tarnished building has a young and cool interior with colourful accessories and travel quotes painted above the beds. Every detail is tied to Balaton and sailing, a long-time obsession of one of the owners.
In the downstairs common area a spacious breakfast area has been created, but in fine weather everyone heads to the shady terrace behind the villa to sip on their morning coffee. The design of the primarily modern rooms is dominated by natural, wooden accessories and furniture. Guests have a few options when staying at Villa Millennium: there are twin and double rooms and a family apartment, and multiple smaller rooms can be converted into a bigger one with the help of doors. Where does the name come from? The house, which was the first guest house in Balatonalmádi, was built exactly 100 years ago. The cheapest room costs at least 17,000 HUF per night, with the price of breakfast also included.
Kislaki Guest Houses
Géza Légli adheres to the “back to nature” philosophy at his guest houses both in Szőlőskislak and on nearby János-hegy. For example, the four- and six-person guest houses on the hill are fitted with solar panels, and water and gas have been installed, but if you want to make coffee, you’ll need to use the stove.
The rooms are decorated with tasteful antique furniture, but the effect is not stiff at all. Endless rows of grapevines stretch into the distance just a few metres from the building. These houses have not been designed with wellness weekend enthusiasts in mind: you’ll have to give up some of the comfort you’ve grown used in the city in exchange for experiencing harmony with nature. Food is provided upon request, and at the Szőlőskislak location you can even try the Kislaki wines. The houses can be rented for 25,000-40,000 HUF per night.
Kata Wine House, Kapolcs
Located at the foot of Királykő (King Stone) in Kapolcs, this building is not modern by any stretch of the imagination – records suggest that it was erected in the late 1700s. It was restored to its former glory in 2001. The guest houses are equipped with every kitchen appliance possible, and come with a huge, green garden and a 30-metre wine cellar. The owners wanted to create top-quality lodgings in the countryside where guest can relax and enjoy excellent gastronomy.
At the enoteca in the cellar you can buy fine Balaton wines, and when it comes to food, the rosemary-garlic focaccia baked on site is just one of the mouth-watering treats. Breakfast is served in quite a creative way: a breakfast basket is prepared the night before with a loaf of bread, cheese, ham and eggs, so no one needs to rush to the breakfast table after a relaxing sleep. The wine house can accommodate 12-14 people at a time in one guest apartment and three smaller ones. In high season, an apartment costs 21,000 HUF, which doesn’t cover the breakfast basket.
Compared to the bustle and constant motion of Balatonfüred, it almost feels as though time has stood still at the Gombás Mansion, in the best sense of the expression. The oldest manor house in the entire Balaton Uplands region, the building can be found at the foot of Tamás-hegy, and bears the characteristics of Zopfstil and late baroque. Behind the ancient exterior there’s a modern interior with a Tuscan style terrace and courtyard looking out onto Balaton, an arched wine cellar, wellness facilities and a parquet-covered bar.
The mansion can accommodate about 30 people in eleven twin and double rooms, each of which come with a kitchenette. 100-square metre luxury apartments are also available, if that is what you are after. In high season, rooms and apartments can be rented for a price between 18,000 and 50,000 HUF.