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A Culinary Getaway to Hungary’s Inland Sea
Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest lake, stretches for some 50 miles, beginning just about an hour by car from Budapest. It’s long been a favorite summer weekend getaway for residents of the capital, but in recent years the Balaton region has also emerged as a destination for gourmets and oenophiles. New bistros showcase the best of local ingredients while chefs take Hungarian cuisine in surprising and innovative directions. 

Four of Hungary’s wine regions border the lake, with small estates producing limited vintages following a combination of age-old traditions with the latest organic and environmentally sensitive practices. Add in stunning views of Lake Balaton, one of Hungary’s true gems, and the result is meals to remember.

Commissioned by the Government of Hungary with the support of the European Union.
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    Day 1
    Start your Lake Balaton excursion in Balatonfüred, a spa town at the northern end of the lake—the section closest to Budapest (roughly a 90-minute drive). Handsome villas from the 18th and 19th centuries that welcomed many travelers in search of a “water cure” from the Kossuth spring still stand. A walk along the Tagore Promenade—named for Rabindranath Tagore, the acclaimed Indian poet who visited the town in the 1920s—offers postcard views of the lake. On the Tihany Peninsula, just to the west of town, a Benedictine abbey from the 11th century is one of the country’s oldest churches, and perhaps the one with the most enviable setting, overlooking the lake.

    Dine tonight at Kredenc in Balatonfüred, where tapas-style dishes are paired with the best Balaton wines before continuing on to the Villa Vitae where you will spend the night.
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    Day 2
    Sample the Wines
    Start the day with an electric bike ride along a portion of the north shore of Lake Balaton. When you are ready for lunch, make your way to the village of Zanka where the Neked Főztem Restaurant serves everything from casual burgers to more gourmet options like grilled fish and steaks in an inviting farmhouse dining room.

    Continue later in the day to Badacsony, towards the southern end of the lake. Start your wine tasting tour at the Laposa Wine Estate, a family which specializes in a few grape varieties that thrive in the lake’s rich volcanic soil. Other stops on your tasting tour today will include the Istvándy Winery, which has been producing some of Balaton’s top wines for over two centuries. The Csendes Dűlő Wine Estate sits on the southern side of Orsi Hill, where the vines grow in mineral-rich volcanic soil that gives Balaton wines their distinctive flavor.

    You’ll backtrack some to reach your hotel tonight, the wonderfully bucolic Káli Art Inn, located in Köveskál. The town was, for centuries, a center of the wine trade with merchants selling the local products to Vienna. Several of the inn’s buildings dates from the 18th century although it has only operated as a hotel since 2000. The stone buildings with wooden beamed ceilings have a rustic farmhouse atmosphere, while the gardens are filled with blooms in the lazy days of summer.
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    Day 3
    Balaton’s Southern Shore
    Lap around the bottom of Balaton this morning, and then make your way leisurely back towards Budapest stopping along the way at villages and towns on the lake’s southern shore. Have your bathing suit handy, this side of the lake is known for having some of the best beaches. Stop at Balatonszemes for lunch at Kistücsök, one of the top fine-dining restaurants on the lake while a final tasting at the family-run Majthényi Présház winery offers an opportunity to sample the products from another of the lake’s wine regions, this one best known for its sparkling wines and excellent rieslings and chardonnays, among other varieties.

    You’ll then continue back to Budapest, arriving in time for dinner—perhaps paired with a wine from Balaton. Having spent three days celebrating the art of fine cooking, your hotel in Budapest is dedicated to another art, music. Every room of the Aria Hotel is dedicated to a famous performer or composer, ranging from classical to contemporary. The hotel is also located in a lively part of Pest, with lively restaurants and charming stores right outside your front door.