Winery visits should be on the top of your agenda, but there are fun things to do in Balaton even if you aren’t an oenophile.
#1 - Hike up to the Papsokai Saint Mihály church ruin (location)
This medieval church ruin is within a deserted and scenic park on the hillside of Balatonfüred and surrounded by old tombstones. The location is deeply atmospheric and it's hard not to feel a sense of time's passing. The Jewish cemetery is just further up the hill.
#2 - Visit the Tihany Abbey (location)
First-time visitors to Csopak shouldn't miss the imposing Baroque-style Benedictine monastery on the nearby Tihany Peninsula with a panorama that can rival any ocean views. The church also has an 11th-century crypt where lies the Abbey's founder, King Andrew I.
#3 - Visit Villa Romana, a Roman-era estate (location; open from April to October)
The area around Lake Balaton was part of the Roman Pannonia Province from the 1st century AD, and the excavated remains of an advanced agricultural estate — villa rustica — provide a peek into the lavish lifestyle of the upper crust. The central heating system, the gym, and the massive mosaic-covered study were just a few of the amenities of the 30-room villa. There’s also a lapidarium with Roman-era columns, tombstones, and sarcophagi from around Balaton.
#4 - Hike up to the Szigliget Castle (location)
In the 13th century, after the Mongol invasion left the country in ruins, King Béla IV had protective fortresses built across Hungary. These too were long ago destroyed, this time by the Habsburg army, but the remains of the Szigliget Castle provide sweeping 360 views of Balaton and the nearby volcanic hills. On your uphill climb, it’s worth stopping by Várkávézó for an ice cream or pastry.
#5 - See the Lengyel chapel & winery building (location)
The lengyeltóti Lengyel family was one of the feudal landlords and their pastel yellow Baroque chapel still dominates the south side of Szent-György Hill. The main opening of the church tower holds an equestrian statue of St. George, the namesake of the hill. Across the street stands the nicely renovated 18th century winery building of the Lengyel family (today part of a restaurant) — one of the few two-story Baroque-style winery buildings left in Balaton.
#6 - Take in the architecture of old winery buildings
In the 18th century, winery buildings began to spring up in the Balaton vineyards (prior to that, vintners brought the grapes back home and made the wines in the villages). People used the local stones as building materials and built the wineries partly into the hillsides to keep them cool. With Balaton's transformation into a summer resort, these adorable winery buildings with gleaming-white walls and thatched roofs are rapidly disappearing, but you can still see some scattered throughout the region if you look for them.