Throughout Hungary's history, kings, politicians, musicians, authors, architects and artists have created a unique national identity that continues to be nurtured by the latest generation of Hungarians. You can get a real flavour of Hungary past and present by tasting the culture in its galleries and museums. Furthermore, there are clues all around in the country’s architecture.
A significant factor in the city’s development and culture was the presence of one of the wealthiest aristocratic families, the Festetics family. Their splendid baroque castle has been transformed into a museum and is still one of the most beautiful mementoes of the Balaton region. Among the permanent exhibitions of the Helicon Castle Museum, you can visit the exhibition introducing the aristocratic lifestyles of the 18th-19th century, the art of the Islamic world, the large display of hunting trophies and antler racks, as well as the carriage museum housed in the stable and the carriage house. In the park and the luminous halls of the castle many a concert is organised weekly every summer. Keszthely is rich in museums and exhibition halls. Visitors of the city are advised to see the History Waxworks Museum, the Snail Parliament, the Doll Museum and the Georgikon Manor Museum. Visitors with a sweet tooth will enjoy spending time at the Marzipan Museum and the Café. The dioramas and displays of the magnificent Balaton Museum will acquaint you with the development and history of the lake, its ecology, archeological finds, ethnography and the history of its beach life.
The most famous wine hill of the Balaton region. The grapes from which the Badacsonyi Szürkebarát and the Kéknyelű wines are made are grown here. On the south side of this 437 metre high basalt hill outstanding restaurants and wineries welcome guests. The Kisfaludy lookout on the top of the hill offers a memorable view. Not far from the marina, we can find the home of the artist of the Balaton, József Egry. The house has been converted into a museum to remember his life and works.
A most conspicuous point on the landscape, as well as the map, of the northern shore is the Tihany Peninsula. Its lonely block looms over the straits like a sentinel. On its smaller hill a church and a monastery were founded in Tihany as early as nine centuries ago. The royal decree, the deed that dates back to A.D. 1055 commissioning the establishment of the monetary, contains the oldest words written in the Hungarian language in an otherwise Latin context. The only remaining part of the original church that is still visible today is the lower chapel built in the Romanesque style and supported by thick, stubby pillars. A baroque abbey has been built over it. The museums of Tihany: The Benedictine Abbey Museum, The Outdoor Museum of Ethnography (house of the peasant farmer and the house of the fishing guild) and the Doll Museum. An organ concert is held in the abbey every summer.
Balatonfüred, although its name can be derived from “quails” rather than the Hungarian word for bath (fürdő), was the city where the Balaton bathing culture was born in the 17th century. Füred is a city of other firsts also. The first Kisfaludy steam locomotive was built and launched here in 1846; later, the first sailing yachts were constructed here, and the first stone-built theatre opened here with performances in Hungarian. All of the above helped introduce a new era in the history of Hungarian tourism. A walk in Füred should be begun at the Health Square reminiscent of the time of the reformation, which has been completely rebuilt in recent years—at the famous Kossuth Spring. Walking through the century old park and then along the Tagore Promenade situated along the lakeshore, we will be led to one of the most beautiful harbors of the city. The Round Church nearby is a popular attraction for visitors, not only because of its peculiar shape but for its murals and paintings created by renowned artists as well. Only a few minutes’ walk from here is where the mansion of one of the “princes” of Hungarian literature Mór Jókai stands, which is now a museum.
Siófok, one of the busiest tourist centres of the nation, is “the capital city of the Hungarian summer.” Its resort and villa area were built at the end of the 19th century as the grandest scale touristic undertaking of the time. The renowned composer of many operettas, Imre Kálmán was born here, whose birth house is now a museum for the artist. Operetta galas are held in the city every summer in the framework of the Kálmán cult. Siófok’s name is now virtually inseparable from the Egg Festival, which is held here in October on the world day of eggs. The one-of-a-kind in the nation Egg Art Festival can be visited here annually as a permanent exhibition. Several art galleries can be found in Siófok, where exhibitions of works by famous artists are visible.
We recommend the museums to those also who are on a round tour of Lake Balaton. The Factory Museum of Wine Production in Balatonboglár is well worth a visit, as are the Lacework Museum of Balatonendréd and the Africa Museum of Balatonederics. The latter houses the exhibition of Dr. Endre Nagy Africa hunter’s antler trophies and ethnographic artifacts collected over a period of 40 years, as well as live animals indigenous to Hungary and other parts of the world. Many famous names are associated with Lake Balaton; their memorial museums introduce parts of Hungary’s history and culture. In addition to those of József Egry artist and Imre Kálmán operetta composer mentioned above, we must not forget the memorial museums of poet Attila József in Balatonszárszó, legendary actor Zoltán Latinovits in Balatonszemes, as well as that of politician and statesman Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky. It is recommended to visitors of the Balaton region to visit its many impressive churches, among them, most notably, the Benedictine Abbey of Tihany.
The Avas Church in Szigliget evokes the memory of ages past, the church ruins in Dörgicse, the ruins of the former Benedictine Abbey in Somogyvár and the Máma church ruins in BalatonfÅ±zfÅ‘, to name a few. Salient of the churches operating today are the Catholic Church in Balatonfüred, Saint Andrew’s Church in Badacsomytomaj, as well as the Catholic and Christian Reformed churches of Siófok, Balatonszárszó and Keszthely. There are several places where we can find Roman ruins in the region: one of the most famous ones is the Roman villa farm in Balácapuszta, but there are ruins near Örvényes and Fenékpuszta, too.
The Balaton region is not only rich in museums but in exhibition halls as well. Its castle ruins trace the history of the Hungarian people. The Kinizsi Castle in Nagyvázsony and the Castle of Szigliget were important posts in the battles against the invading Turks, as were the castles found in Sümeg and Csesznek. Artifacts from the past are displayed in each castle and are revived during the Castle Games organised on the fortresses’ premises.