Balaton in the off-season

As soon as school bells ring to mark the end of the summer season, the villages and towns around Lake Balaton are transformed back into attractive lakeside settlements, each with their own story to tell and wonders to explore.

Here's a perfect opportunity to swap the bustling city for a beautiful hike in order to discover the untouched nature of the Balaton highlands, taste the delicious wines in Badacsony or try invigorating ice-skating in the crisp winter air on Central Europe's largest lake!

Balatonfüred is the so-called „capital" of the north shore. Visit this picturesque town for a lakeside stroll on Tagore promenade, where you may see swans swimming by, take a drink of the unique acidulous spring waters and experience a touch of history among the classicist style villas and mansions.

Dive into nature further along the northern shoreline on foot or hop on a rented bike to discover the Balaton Highlands National Park, stretching across almost 57 thousand hectares, offering visitors signed routes on six nature trails for some peace and quiet in a beautiful landscape. The Balaton bike ring will take you past beautiful landmarks along the coastline.

For more 'joie de vivre', go straight to the Badacsony wine region for some lively wine-tasting programmes. Checking-in for a guaranteed programme sounds like a plan, but you can also pick any particular wine cellar for an individually-tailored wine-tasting.

Before arriving at the north-western tip of the lake, do not miss catching a bird's eye view of the lake from the medieval fortress at Szigliget. It's a bit of a climb, but the panorama of the lake and the valley of the volcanoes is well worth the effort. If in the mood for some more historic castle visits, visit Sümeg Castle, 20 km to the north, one of the largest and best preserved castles in Hungary, with 800 years of history to tell.

For a taste of how British and Hungarian aristocracy entertained, visit the baroque-style Festetics Palace open all year round in Keszthely, where Edward, Prince of Wales was received in October 1885 and again in 1888, during his "incognito" visits to Hungary. The complex today houses permanent and temporary exhibitions, the Helikon library and a castle museum depicting the lifestyle of Hungarian aristocracy in the 18th and 19th century.

Experience truly active recreation blended with the beautiful winter countryside once the lake freezes over. Enjoy ice-skating, sledging or even ice-sailing trips available in the larger towns, Balatonfüred, Keszthely and Siófok, where mulled wine and hot tea are also offered in the winter season to avoid frostbite. For further information on these activities and whether the ice is safe to skate on, please contact the Balatonfüred or the Siófok tourinform office.

After all the activities, why not enjoy a hearty meal and some good wine before selecting your next destination. Kistücsök, a cosy family-run restaurant and wine cellar in Balatonszemes is an ideal choice if you're in the neighbourhood. Borcsa Restaurant in Balatonfüred on the lakeshore offers a satisfying selection of international and Hungarian dishes all-year round, but if its a wine-restaurant you prefer, consider Borbarátok (Friends of wine)Restaurant in Badacsonytomaj, which also includes a B&B if you feel like staying the night.

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