DAY TRIP FROM BUDAPEST – EXPLORING NORTH SHORE OF BALATON LAKE

Looking for a day trip from Budapest along Balaton Lake, the largest lake in Europe? Then explore the ultimate itinerary I have crafted for you. This scenic trip will take you along the northern shore of the lake with frequent overlooks and lovely spots to enjoy. The first stop will be Tihany village with its famous Benedict Abbey. Next, you will take a relaxing break at Folly Arboretum and Winery to take in stunning views, nature walks, and of course, the wine. For more of Hungarian architecture, stop at the town of Keszthely and explore its primary attraction, Festetic Palace. At the end of the day, visit the unique Hungarian spa, Heviz Lake, for a rejuvenating float among water lilies. Here is your detailed road trip to Balaton Lake from Budapest.

Day trip from Budapest. Views of Balaton Lake.
You will find many beautiful views along Balaton Lake in Hungary.

DAY TRIP FROM BUDAPEST – EXPLORING NORTH SHORE OF BALATON LAKE

Without a doubt, the Hungarian capital can keep you busy for days. (Follow my Budapest Travel Guide to visit the city. ) But there is more to Hungary than Budapest. After days of intense sightseeing, you will need a break from the hustle and bustle of the large city. I encourage you to explore Lake Balaton’s countryside. It will be a leisure trip with beautiful views along the way, some historical sights, and relaxing stops that will let you get a feel of the country.

Beautiful meadows can be along the shores of Balaton Lake.
I really enjoyed my October day trip from Budapest to Balaton Lake not only for the views of the lake but also for beautiful meadows.

Balaton Lake, Hungary

Balaton Lake is the second most popular travel destination in Hungary after Budapest. Europe’s largest lake, often called the Hungarian Sea, attracts millions of visitors every summer. Most tourists come during the summer months to enjoy swimming, watersports, and family-friendly parks. Grass covers many of the lake’s beaches, though some resorts have created artificial sandy beaches. But it is a lovely area to visit at any time of the year. In the low season, Balaton Lake offers wineries, pleasant resort towns, and plenty of natural beauty.

Day trip from Budapest. A bench overlooking Balaton Lake.
Imagine just sitting here with a glass of wine!

Tihany, Hungary

Surrounded by mountains covered with vineyards and forests, the unspoiled Tihany Peninsula is the number one attraction of Balaton Lake. The whole peninsula is recognized as a historic district. Tihany village, perched on an 80m-high plateau along the peninsula’s eastern coast, is home to the Benedictine Abbey, founded in 1055 AD. During the summer months, the church attracts many visitors and often gets overcrowded, but it is not the case offseason. At the end of June, Tihany rivals lavender fields of Provance with its waves of intensely purple and fragrant lavender fields. During the off-season months, shops and restaurants fill up with everything lavender, from oils and soaps to lavender flavored alcohol and chocolate.

Lavender still standing at the shore of Balaton Lake in late October.
I loved the idyllic scene found along the shores of Balaton Lake.

Folly Arboretum and Winery

The winery was my favorite part of the day trip from Budapest to Balaton Lake. We stopped for the wine, but the views and gardens took the center stage immediately. The arboretum impressed with a unique collection of cedars and cypresses clinging to the hill and with a wide variety of flowers and herbs. Make sure to bring good shoes to navigate the steep paths there. The views from the climb will pay for your effort. After the walk, you will be glad to award yourself with wine and food available on the site.
Folly Arboretum and Winery on Balaton Lake, Hungary.
Well deserved tasting at Folly Arboretum and Winery

Keszthely with Festetic Palace

Keszthely, at the western edge of Balaton Lake, is one of the loveliest spots in the area, and far removed from the tourist hot spots. During the summer, you can take a dip in small shallow beaches by day, and absorb the lively yet relaxed ambiance by night.

Festetics Palace – Keszthely’s most famous attraction

If you are looking for architectural attractions during your day trip from Budapest, make sure to stop at Festetics Palace in the town of Keszthely. The Festetics family, of Croatian origin, moved to Hungary in the 17th century. It was recognized as one of the most significant ducal families in Hungary. In 1739 Christopher Festetics bought the Keszthely palace and chose it to be the center of his estates. Today, eighteen beautiful rooms in the baroque south wing are part of the Helikon Palace Museum. 

Balaton Lake. Festetics Palace - Keszthely's most popular attraction.
Festetics Palace in the town of Keszthely, Hungary, impresses with its architectures and gardens.

Lake Heviz – the final stop of a day trip from Budapest

Your day trip from Budapest will end at the famous medicinal spa, Lake Haviz, located slightly inland from Balaton Lake. You are probably curious why to look for more thermal baths if you can enjoy so many of them in Budapest. It is because Lake Heviz offers a unique experience. It is the biggest biologically active, natural medicinal water in the world. You can float there outdoors among water lilies and be a part of nature.

Budapest Day trip. Lake Heviz.
Lake Heviz, the largest medicinal lake in the world.

The health benefits of Lake Heviz have been known since the Roman era. Its water contains dissolved gases and minerals, all beneficial for recuperating from rheumatic and nervous disorders, as well as post-operative recovery and locomotor conditions. The water in the lake changes every three and a half days and keeps uniformly clean and warm, about 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit).

Lake Heviz spa complex.
Lake Heviz spa complex, as seen from the parking lot.

How to visit Lake Heviz

The lake, open all year, is large and deep. You can swim in it, but if you want to float, you will need a noodle or a floating ring. These devices are available to purchase outside, near the parking lot. Also, take your own towel and flip-flops. You should not spend more than 30 minutes in the water as it is biologically active. But you can repeat your sessions in the water. Children under 12 are not allowed in the lake. Restaurants and bars are available on the site.

Hungarian desserts you can try while driving around Balaton Lake.
Do not forget to try local desserts when traveling along Balaton Lake.
Changing rooms in Lake Heviz

Here is a word of warning for my American reader, you may find changing rooms a bit challenging for your taste. There are private rooms to change your clothes, but the locker areas serve both men and women. You will not be exposed to nudity, but European men are not shy about walking in their underwear. And let me tell you, they do not wear boxers!

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