Lake Balaton is not only the largest lake in Central Europe, it’s also one of the most picturesque destinations to holiday. Add pretty little towns and some beautiful Hungarian vineyards to the scene and it makes the perfect blend for a relaxing retreat. With National Wine and Cheese Day on 25 July, there is no better time to look at some of Hungary's most delicious wines as well as inspiring places to eat, drink, relax and enjoy the views.
The picturesque Lake Balaton has plenty of outdoor activities' such as cycling, hiking and water sports on the lake, as well as pretty beaches to relax on, making it a perfect holiday destination. Summer days can be spent splashing around in the lake and making sandcastles with the children, while winter means strapping on a pair of ice skates and skating on the frozen lake.
Lake Balaton also makes an exciting wine destination with lots of vineyards peppered along the miles and miles of rolling countryside, just waiting to be explored. Local grape varieties, including Kéknyelű, Juhfark, Furmint and the more famous Riesling and Szürkebarát (Pinot Gris) all grow in this area and are some of the best.
Waste no time in tasting them all, and make the most of the wine tours which the larger vineyards offer to learn all about the history and production of the wine. Visit the House of Balatonian Wines in Keszthely to sample the fruits from the vine by the glass.
When the wine tasting is over for the day, explore the flamboyant Festetics Palace - where there is one of the most incredible libraries you will ever see - and wander around its beautiful formal gardens.
If you have timed your visit during high season, nearby Badacsony provides a hop-on, hop-off bus tour between the wineries. It is also a great way to see the beautiful countryside and sights the area has to offer.
There are many estates to choose from, but Szeremley Borház is the grandest of them all. Sit outside to soak up the marvellous views of the lake, with a glass of their crisply refreshing Kéknyelű or Riesling. These varieties are best enjoyed with fish dishes, and the region overflows with fresh seafood.
Order some zander, which has a buttery flavour and goes perfectly with these local whites. It also happens to be one of Lake Balaton's most famous dishes.
For stylish surroundings and views, the Laposa Borbirtok is a modern option with a trendy terrace offering breathtaking views over the lake, serving some of the best wines. And there’s no fear of going hungry, as they serve platters of meats and cheeses to pair with their range of clean, pure white wines. Opt for the tangy mineral Juhfark and the spicy, dry Furmint for the best combination on your palate.
Afterwards, catch the ferry from the Tihany Peninsula and head for Balatonboglár - known as 'town of grapes and wine' - and the nearby Fonyód on the southern shore. The area has some fabulous sandy shores to relax on, so pack a towel to revel in a little rest time before you venture onwards.
If a bottle of red is more your thing, Konyári specialise in rouge varieties. Kékfrankos is deliciously juicy and fruity, while their Páva blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon is sumptuous and cries out for a hearty culinary accompaniment. Definitely give them a try.
Peckish? Luckily Majthényi Présház Borozó is just up the hill and is one of those places you just have to visit. This rustic restaurant is run by relatives of the Konyári family and it’s a magical place. The views take your breath away and the food here is quite the experience.
Rich and traditional it might be, but it is also heavenly with the wine. Order the duck liver or goulash to start, with roast goose leg and cabbage or venison for the main, which won't disappoint.
If you have time before you leave, Géza Légli-Kislaki is another producer with stellar wines. Three of the best here are the smooth and refined Kékfrankos, a fine Syrah and a fragrant, weighty take on Pinot Noir.
During summer, enjoy a tasting, with simple food such as a traditional Hungarian stew, al fresco on the terrace to make the most of the balmy weather. The food is really exceptional in Hungary, so ask the locals what they recommend and you will have the perfect dish to go with your wine of choice.
Whether you are a wine connoisseur or not, Hungary is a great holiday destination with plenty to do. With so much to explore along the lake's shores, food and drink to relish, and activities for all to enjoy, you will definitely need a week here to soak up the vistas and the vino!
If you're a member of the RCI Holiday Exchange programme and want Hungary to be the star of your next holiday adventure, there are 11 RCI-affiliated resorts to choose from. To see what there is on offer, check out our Resort Directory below and plan your next holiday to the beautiful vineyards of Hungary.
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