Lake Balaton has long been a favourite among those looking for an alternative beach holiday. It’s a huge lake, covering 372 square miles, and offers a varied range of activities for couples and families alike. Here are my top 10 things to do in the region.

The Festetics Palace in Keszthely is an incredible 100-room palace that is a must-visit if you're in the Balaton area. Over the years, 18 of the rooms have been given up to Helikon Palace Museum, which incorporates the fabulous Helikon Library, holding an impressive 100,000 books.

Get cultured - Keszthely is the capital of Balaton, a graceful university town at the western end of the lake. A highlight is the 18th-century Festetics Palace, one of the country’s finest aristocratic mansions. The furnishings are stunning, but don’t overlook the beautiful grounds outside.

As the capital of Balaton, Keszthely has lots to offer to tourists. Filled with charming streets which play host to museums, fantastic architecture and lots of restaurants offering traditional Hungarian dishes. This is an area foodies will fall in love with.

The grounds of the Festetics Palace are free to enter, so make the most of it and enjoy the pretty gardens. There's a wide range of plants and flowers to enjoy, as well as an impressive fountain - it is a beautiful place for a wander.

Try some wine - Balaton is a proud wine-producing region, and you’ll find local cellars all around the lake. I’ve enjoyed many a meander up Badacsony Hill, which has a series of little wine shacks dotted along the way.

Hungary is famed for being one of the best wine regions in the world. With many vineyards in the Lake Balaton area, there are so many opportunities to visit and taste some of their delicious creations.

Badacsony Hill is one of the prettiest areas of the Balaton wine region, with the vineyards set around Mount Badacsony. Appreciate the beautiful views and landscapes while you’re exploring this area.

Party time - Night owls love Balaton because it has a pocket of the best clubs and bars outside Budapest. The leading light is Siófok, the lake’s largest resort, which has open-fronted drinking spots, themed parties and big-name DJs.

Siófok is one of Hungary's best nightlife areas, with plenty of bars and clubs to choose from. The Siofok Beach Club Palace is one of the most popular nightclubs in the town, attracting world-famous DJs and a packed house every night.

Siófok comes alive at night with bars and restaurants that cater to even the pickiest of visitors. Here, you will find cuisine from around the world, as well as all-night nightclubs and bars.

On your bike - If you want to get active, hire a bike and take to the marked cycle trail that runs all around the lake. The really committed can attempt the whole route, which runs for almost 155 miles, but you can of course do as little or as much as you like. Alternatively, cycle out to the Balaton Uplands beyond the northern shore, a place of meadows and hills and unusual volcanic rock formations.

The Lake Balaton area has some fantastic cycling routes, thanks to the stunning landscapes and views across the lake. It really is a great idea to get out and see what the area has to offer and what better way to get around than a bike?

We are sailing - most of the beaches have dinghies for hire, but to get right out into the lake it’s best to board something bigger. Sightseeing cruises - including those offering dinner, music and dancing - depart from the piers at resorts like Siófok and Balatonfüred, but a cheaper option is simply to take the public ferry that stops at the main settlements around the lake.

There's no better way to see the sights than to get on a boat and see what Lake Balaton has to offer from the water. There are so many different options for sightseeing cruises, from local ferries to organised evening events. The choice is yours.

Going wild - Kis-Balaton (Little Balaton) to the west has become a haven for egrets, herons and bitterns. In autumn, 20,000 bean geese rest in the reed beds during their migration, and some rare migrant species like Arctic tern have also been sighted. The lake is protected, and you’ll need to visit with a guide. If you have kids, make a visit to the Kápolnapuszta Buffalo Reserve near Balatonmagyaród, which has ancient buffalo species brought to Hungary by Asiatic tribes over 1,000 years ago.

If you want a change of scenery, head to the Kápolnapuszta Buffalo Reserve to get close up to the incredible buffalo and to learn all about them. You won't have to go far, the reserve is only a ten-minute drive from Lake Balaton. A brilliant day out.

The wildlife in the Lake Balaton area is thriving, so definitely bring your binoculars when you visit. If you head to Kis-Balaton you'll no doubt come across some fantastic birds, and if you happen to visit during migration season, you're in for a treat.

Abbey hour - The volcanic peninsula of Tihany juts into the lake from the northern shore, and has a lovely village of quaint peasant houses. Its main attraction, though, is the two-towered Benedictine Abbey, which has an extravagant 18th-century interior and a crypt dating back to the 11th century.

Benedictine Abbey is a beautiful old church overlooking Lake Balaton, and a fantastic place to wander around. The gardens are beautiful as well, so make sure you explore them after gazing at the Abbey's spectacular architecture.

Tihany is a very pretty town filled with little shops and restaurants. One of the prettiest parts of town is its large fields of lavender, which bloom in spring and are a delight to see.

In hot water - Around five miles northwest of Balaton is Hévíz, a place that has become legendary for the healing powers of its waters. Lake Hévíz is Europe’s biggest thermal lake, a crater nearly 130-feet deep and fed by hot springs that gush 60 million litres of water a day. It’s warm all year, so you can bathe in deepest winter if you wish, and the minerals in the water and mud are said to do wonders for the skin and rheumatic disorders.

Lake Hévíz is the largest thermal lake in the world, and where Hungary gets its famous spa destination reputation. The water is said to help those with rheumatic illnesses, so spend as long as you need soaking in the lake.

While soaking away your troubles in Lake Hévíz's healing waters, don't forget to take in some of the beautiful surroundings. The area is home to so many pretty flowers and wildlife, it all adds up to the perfect spot for some relaxation.

Spa town - Arguably the most elegant spot on the lake is the spa town of Balatonfüred. In the 19th century, this was where the country’s great and good came to take the waters, and it has an atmospheric promenade and a park filled with lime trees planted by the 'bigwigs' from the worlds of politics and the arts.

Life’s a beach - But ultimately, for all its culture and wildlife and wine, Balaton is best known as a place to relax on a beach in the sun. There are beaches of all sizes, from peaceful areas of grass away from the hullabaloo, to crowded stretches of sand with bars and playgrounds, as well as a host of water craft to rent.

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