Baltonfüred is a small town with 13.500 inhabitants, on the north shore of Lake Balaton, sorrounded by gently sloping hillocks. Foreign travellers – may they come here by rail, by road or by boat – start to feel the harmonious blend of past and present at the moment of their arrival. First and foremost the location of the town captures everyone: tender mountains on the north, the beautiful lake on the south embrace the town, which radiates that special Transdanubian serenity for ages. The town was inhabited already when the Romans conquered parts of Hungary. Walking in the town the visitor every now and then faces relics of old times. Ancient living quarters, old buildings, churches, homely vineyards, parks, mighty old trees preserve and whisper their messages to the people living here today.
The name of the town was first mentioned in the estate register of the Tihany abbacy. In the middle age there were several different settlements in the area where Balatonfüred lies today. First and foremost the so-called Füred, which became truly important only during the Reform Era. The name „Füred” does not come from the Hungarian word: „fürödni” (=to bathe) or „fürdő” (=bath), it stems from the word „fürjes” place, that is a place filled with quails. „Papsoka” is the name of the area to the west, it changed into „Siske” from the 14-th century on, and these two areas blended soon afterwards. On the north the so-called „Kéki-völgy” (=Bluish valley) reserved the name of the „Kék” village (=Blue village) till today. This whole valley used to belong to the Tihany Abbacy, and this villlage was mentioned in the estate register of Tihany in 1211 as a church estate. It was demolished and depopulated during the wars with the Turks, only the name survived. The name „blue” may refer to the many blue-coloured plants growing here: blackthorns, violets. Today the name still exists in the following place names: „Kéki-völgy” (=Bluish valley), „Kéki-dűlő” (=Bluish fields), „Kéki patak” (=Bluish brook).
The northern-east part of Füred called Arács used to be an independent village till 1954. And Arács encompassed the settlement called „Magyaré” by the end of the middle ages.
Historic traditions play a crucial role in the life and attitude of the inhabitants of the town and of those who were regular visitors here. The town is a tourist attraction for ages and it became a so-called healing resort in 1971 when the acidulous spring water of the town was officially accepted as healing water. Balatonfüred achieved the title of „International Town of Grapes and Wine” from 1987 on.
Balatonfüred is mainly known by its climate which is very similar to the Mediterranean and its spring waters containing carbonic acid. Even the sun shines somehow more gently here. Balatonfüred and its surrounding settlements lie in the so-called „Balaton Riviera”. This expresssion refers to the special micro-climate prevailing here. This climate is created by the foot-hills of the „Balaton felvidék” (=Balaton Highlands): the so-called „Tamás hegy” (=Thomas Hill), Sándor-, Péter- and Száka-hegy (=Alexander-, Peter- and „Száka” Hill) give protection against the icy winds coming from the direction of „Bakony” mountains. Continuous air movement between the land and Lake Balaton, constant winds provide clean air free of dust for people living here and the air heals diseases of the heart and blood-vessels, too. The water from the springs is used for healing in the National Heart Hospital. But anyone can taste and heal from the famous Füred acidulous spring waters at Kossuth spring, Berzsenyi well, Szekér Ernő spring and Schneider well. Thousands of people suffering from heart disease recovered in this hospital. Rabindranath Tagore, the famous Nobel-prize winning Hindu poet was healed here in 1926 and denominated a beautiful alley close to the shore of the lake.
The town is infinitely rich in historic memorial places. These were mostly renovated and restored. It may happen that some of these have been appointed different roles noawadys than their original one but they are part of our cultural life anyway. There are numerous villas and mansions in the town that contributed to the special beauty of Balatonfüred and made the town famous in faraway places of the earth.
The following buildings of great architectural value were constructed during the 18-th century, and still have definitive role in the atmosphere of our town: the „Nagyvendéglő” (=Great Restaurant), the National Heart Hospital, the spring –house of Kossuth Lajos spring, the bigger house of Pálóczi Horváth Ádám, the castle of Széchenyi Ferenc.
Balatonfüred started to truly develop in the 18-th century, during the so-called Reform Era. It became a favourite meeting place for progressive politicians and artists. In these times Balatonfüred played a really outstanding role in Hungary. There are many national monuments, important buildings, and numerous traditions that date from this era: for instance the first Anna Ball was held here in the Horváth mansion in 1825.
In 1831 Sándor Kisfaludy opened the first constant theatre of Transdanubia here, in Balatonfüred, which was a home to Hungarian language in an era when the official language of Hungary was German. It was made possible from donations and the help of Tihany abbacy. The historic, Reform Era atmosphere of the southern part of the town is made even richer by the Blaha Lujza villa, built in classsical style, where the famous actress and singer, the so-called „nightingale of the nation” spent her summers for 23 years. The building functions as a hotel and restaurant today. István Huray, the renowned doctor working in the spa also had several houses here, though the Dőry villa is said to be the most beautiful villa in Balatonfüred, which is well worth to visit. There is a circle-shaped building covered with a dome, with Ionian columns on the corner of Jókai and Blaha Lujza street. The „Kerek templom” (=Circle Church) designed by Fruhmann Antal based on the Pantheon building in Rome was built between 1841 and 1846. The Jókai villa was built in 1870 in early eclectic style. The building houses a constant exhibition showing the life of the greatest tale-teller of our nation and the way he lived here, in Balatonfüred.
The three churches of Balatonfüred arise in the upper part of the town as if protecting its tranquility: these are the „Református templom” (=Reformed Church), the „Katolikus templom” (= Catholic Church) and the freshly built „Evangélikus templom” (=Evangelical Church).
The old part of the town that used to be a village has numerous old houses that belong to the national heritage. Balatonarács used to be an independent village, but in 1954 it became part of Balatonfüred, and there are many beautiful old buildings here, as well. On the two sides of the main street leading to the oldtime village there are one-storied and two-storied old buildings built in a row. In the oldtime village, or oldtime city as it is called nowadays the following buildings preserve ancient folk traditions as shown on their memorial tablets. Siske street leads into a forest, and continues in a path, which offers a wonderful place to take trips around Balatonfüred.
The „Gombás-kúria” (=Gombás mansion), built in the second part of the 18-th century, is one of the most famous buildings of Balatonfüred. Those members of he lower nobility built cellar-mansions like these all around Lake Balaton who admired beauty and were endowed with a sense of style. They spent part of the year here every year. Balatonfüred used to be a favourite meeting place especially for the nobility living in Zala county, and they built dozens of similar cellar-mansions in Baroque or late-baroque style turning the Füred mountains into a truly colourful site.