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The Highlights of Lake Balaton
Hungary’s Lake Balaton—the country’s, and Central Europe’s, largest lake—runs for some 50 miles with charming towns and villages strung along its shorelines. While it has long been famous as a summer getaway—and the lake is undeniably enchanting on warm summer days when its waters shimmer under blue skies—it is increasingly a year-round destination. In every season, there are opportunities to visit some of Hungary’s historic sites, take advantage of a crowded cultural calendar, savor the flavors of its restaurants and wineries, and enjoy the outdoor activities that make the lake so appealing, from biking along lakeside trails to exploring it by boat.

Commissioned by the Government of Hungary with the support of the European Union.
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    Day 1
    Veszprém
    Your five-day journey around the lake will consist of making a big loop around it, traveling counter-clockwise. Start in Veszprém, nine miles north of the northern corner of the lake—the area closest to Budapest. Veszprém, one of Hungary’s oldest cities, has also been called the City of Queens—traditionally the country’s queens were crowned by the city’s bishop. The narrow cobblestone streets of the Castle Hill include a number of historical landmarks, such as St. Michael’s Cathedral and the Episcopal Palace. Veszprém also hosts many cultural events throughout the year. Each year the music event Veszprémfest, which takes place in July, invites top-class performers like Emeli Sande, Al Di Meola, and Jose Cura.
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    Day 2
    Balatonfüred
    Continue south this morning to Balatonfüred. This pleasant town has a long history as a lakeside getaway. Its streets are lined with 18th and 19th-century villas, while the Tagore Promenade is named for Rabindranath Tagore, the acclaimed Indian poet who spent time in Baltonfüred in the 1920s when he was visiting the areas natural springs known for its medicinal waters. Get lunch at Morzsa Bisztró, a cozy restaurant serving Scandinavian dishes all made with farm-fresh ingredients.

    A walk to the Tihany Peninsula, just to the east of town, will bring you to an 11th-century Benedictine Abbey, one of Hungary’s oldest churches. The church sits atop a cliff with postcard views of the lake and its southern shore.

    You’ll spend tonight at the comfortably elegant Villa Vitae in Balatonfüred.
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    Day 3
    Balaton Uplands National Park
    Start this morning with an electric bike ride along part of the northern shore of the lake. With its well-maintained cycling paths and its generally flat topography, especially along the southern shore, multi-day tours of Lake Balaton are increasingly popular. With a shoreline that is some 125 miles long, a journey around the entire lake by bike takes a minimum of two or three days. You’ll get a taste of it today on a shorter excursion.

    You’ll head higher up into the Balaton Uplands, and specifically the village of Köveskál, for lunch at Kővirág, one of the area’s most charming restaurants. On warm days, lunch is served alfresco in the shade of flowering fruit trees. On cooler ones, the dining room is warmed by a wood stove. Though the menu changes every three days, you can except to find some signature dishes like the cottage cheese dumplings.

    Take an afternoon hike along one of the trails near Köveskál. The Káli Basin portion of the park a variety of oaks, as well as groves of lindens and beech trees, and as you explore you may pass the ruins of long abandoned medieval villages while the steeples of churches still in use rise above the landscape.

    You’ll spend the next two nights at the Kali Art Hotel, in Köveskál, where original 18th-century buildings have been joined by newer cottages as well as two pools. The result is an appealing base for exploring this part of the Lake Balaton region.
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    Day 4
    A Boat Ride or a Day at the Baths
    Choose today from bathing in the waters of Lake Hévíz or boating on Lake Balaton.

    Lake Hévíz, just to the north of the western end of Lake Balaton, is the largest biologically active thermal lake of natural medicinal water in the world and the flow of the springs here is so strong that the entire lake is completely replenished every three days. The bath house here sits atop the lake, and its four different pools, all at different temperatures, are known for the healing properties of their mineral-rich water. Even if you aren’t in search of any specific cure, you’ll end a visit here with a feeling of being relaxed and rejuvenated.

    Alternatively, you can spend the day exploring Lake Balaton by boat, seeing the villages that dot its shoreline from the water. The Four Seasons in Budapest offers boat charters to its guests, while Lauren can arrange an independent one as well. Follow your time on the lake with a meal at the acclaimed Márga Bistrot, located at the St. Donát winery in Csopak. Here fusion cuisine is paired with views of the lake.
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    Day 5
    Balaton’s Southern Shore
    Start this morning with a visit to the Festetics Palace in Keszthely, at the western tip of the lake. Construction on this elaborate Baroque palace began in 1745, but it took a century to complete it. The Festetics counts who lived here were remarkably progressive aristocrats, founding a hospital as well as Europe’s first agricultural college. Today the palace houses a museum.

    Continue on next to Fonyód, on the south shore of the island. While the north shore of Lake Balaton includes low rolling hills, the south shore is flatter with views across the Hungarian plain. It’s also known for its shallower waters with beaches ideal for swimming. After a stroll through town, head a little farther east along the lake to the Globe Observatory in Balatonboglás for views over the lake.

    The southern shore of the lake is home to another of Hungary’s wine regions, Balatonboglár, known for its sparkling wines and full-bodied whites including rieslings and chardonnays. Sample some of the local products at Majthényi Présház in Balatonlelle, a family owned and operated winery. Several of the buildings, including the cellar and a small chapel, date from 1784. Today the estate includes a restaurant, where you can enjoy a meal with views of the lake before you make your way back to Budapest, where you’ll check into the Ritz-Carlton Budapest.