Nothing can ruin a fun vacation at Balaton more easily than M7 on a late Friday afternoon, but rain is a close second. A couple of weeks ago we visited Keszthely with ambitious plans, but the clouds and northwesterly winds made us reschedule. We had no choice: we added a new test to our “Enyém a Balaton!” campaign, exploring the options Keszthely and Hévíz offer when hiking, sailing, and the beach are out of the question. We checked out a museum, a new restaurant, and we immersed ourselves in the most touristy part of Hévíz. And the best thing is: we didn't regret it.
Hunting Museum and Model Railway Exhibition
Located behind Festetics Palace, the museum is a great warm-up activity to do before you head into the stunning palace building; a complete tour takes about an hour. The two exhibits are housed in a brand new building, and you can also find various plastic models and a helicopter simulator inside. If it’s not raining, you can hop on the mini train in the garden. Tickets are available in a variety of types and combinations; the combination tickets can be used at a number of other local museums.
The members of the Festetics clan were keen hunters, and while their vast trophy collection was lost, the collections of other noble families were not. If you’re interested in seeing a diverse display of wonderful animals in hunting trophy form, you’ll enjoy the experience. The exhibition is especially exciting for little kids because animals hailing from the same continent are showcased on room-size dioramas, and the loudspeakers play animal noises. If hunting creeps you out, you might want to skip this one.
The model railway is a whole other story: more peaceful and absolutely monumental. Featuring two kilometers of rails, a thousand buildings, and 160 locomotives and cars, the exhibition shows parts of Zala County and Germany as well as the Austrian Semmering Pass. It’s clear that no expense was spared: the schedule is operated by professional software, and the materials are all high quality, but parts of the exhibit need some more work. If you loved Miniversum on Budapest’s Andrássy Avenue, you’ll be a fan of this place, too (one of the people working on Miniversum helps with the maintenance of this display).
How much did we pay?
1,600 forints/person for both exhibitions, but those visiting just one will only have to pay 1,100 forints.
When you’ve had your fill of hunting and trains, make your way to the marina by Libás Beach: Bistro Classico is gone, but a new eatery has taken its place fairly recently. Run by Dániel Bezerics, the restaurant is the second Paletta of Lake Balaton.
One of us tried the daily lunch menu, a soup and a main dish for 1,350 forints; both the veggie soup with pumpkin seed chips and the fried chicken thigh with rice, peas, and liver were delicious. We also tested Paletta’s own burger (1,650 forints): the flavors and the patty were great, the only problem we had was that the sandwich was tall, but not very wide, so we didn’t manage to eat it in a sophisticated manner.
After the test meal, we sat down to talk to the owner, who told us that the main aim was to serve breakfast and lunch (the latter as a daily menu), while also providing an à la carte selection and bistro dishes for dinner. Like all the other successful businesses in the neighborhood, they work with local ingredients, which is very important to Dániel Bezerics. Organic produce comes from Cserszegtomaj, the asparagus from Balatonszemes, the Angus beef from Balatonfenyves, and the beer from the Abbey of Zirc.
The kitchen is quite slow still, but the food is divine. As the owner puts it: “we like to take our time with everything to create memorable dishes”. News of the establishment is already spreading, even though it only opened a week and a half ago. Last Saturday they prepared 30 portions for lunch, and 120 guests showed up in the end. The plans are ambitious: they want to add an outdoor barbecue smoker, a cauldron stand, and a fish grill, and they want to host concerts and parties at the upstairs champagne bar. They’re still in the early stages, and the goal is to perfect even the tiniest details, and then offer the guests fantastic, yet reasonably priced grub.
How much did we pay?
3,000 forints for two, and neither of us left hungry.
Previously known as Amazon Hotel, the old inn built at the beginning of the 18th century had been undeservedly neglected for a very long time, but it recently received a much needed facelift, with renovation works concluded just a few weeks ago. The refurbished premises house an innovative, interactive exhibition showcasing the traveling habits of the nobility. Manager Zoltán Varga showed us around the ever-expanding exhibit, which was created based on thorough research, and comprises items from a variety of other museums.
The 1,500-square meter exhibition space features stories about the joys and perils of traveling in a carriage, by train, car, or steamboat. Visitors can step into the shoes of a real carriage driver, and start a van with an old-fashioned starting handle. The exhibition is easy to navigate thanks to the lines and pictograms on the floor. An audio guide system will be set up soon, and the interior of an old parlor car of the Hungarian national railway company will be put on display in the near future. An arts and crafts fair will open in the courtyard, and the neighboring botanical gardens are also being renovated, so this will soon become one of the coolest museums in the Balaton region.
How much did we pay?
The exhibition is part of Helikon Palace Museum, but you need to buy a separate ticket to enter; an adult ticket costs 1,300 forints.
Macchiato Caffe, Hévíz
Some say Hévíz is practically a suburb of Keszthely; in any case, if you look at a map of the region, you can see that Hévíz is located directly next to the suburbs of Keszthely. It’s worth taking a short drive to the spa town: you’ll find a gem of a café that’s wrongly regarded as an average touristy spot. There’s more to Macchiato than meets the eye: it sells unique cakes made at a confectionery factory in Gyenesdiás.
Manager Szabolcs Karádi said the confectionery has been open for 13 years, with updates happening every two years; the next one is scheduled for next year when they’ll launch a new delicatessen bistro. He owns the factory in Gyenesdiás, which supplies cakes and confections to another twelve towns. They employ seven confectioners, who sometimes work under the guidance of Florentine master confectioner Alessandro Noferini. The ingredients are mostly imported to guarantee an authentic Italian effect. The tonka beans, for example, come from Vienna.
Based on our test, we can confirm the effectiveness of this method: both of the cakes we tried, one of them made with forest fruits and the other with vanilla cream and jam, were excellent. We came to the conclusion that the shop would get much more hype if it were located on a tiny street of Gyenesdiás instead of the center of Hévíz.
How much did we pay?
1,380 forints for the two cakes.
Other places to drop by in case of rain
Here are a couple more places worth checking out if it's chucking it down with rain outside:
- Balaton Escape escape game, Gyenesdiás,
- Fontana Cinema, Hévíz,
- Balaton Museum, Keszthely,
- Balaton Theater, Keszthely,
- Helikon Palace Museum, Keszthely,
- Marzipan Museum and Confectionery, Keszthely,
- Castle Cellar, the new location of Bistro Classico, Keszthely,
- Jóbarát Restaurant, Keszthely,
- Öreg Harang, Hévíz, Egregy (three years ago it was Tavern of the Year according to Gault Millau)
- Hévíz Lake Spa
This article is part of “Enyém a Balaton!”, the joint campaign of MasterCard® and We Love Balaton.