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15 Hungary holiday podcast – Budapest and Lake Balaton

In Podcast No 15 in my travel podcast series, you’ll hear about my week’s holiday in Hungary starting and ending in Budapest with a few days in between at Lake Balaton, a large freshwater lake that’s a popular Hungarian holiday destination. We spent four days in the laid back Hullám Hostel and visited the castles and palaces along the lake shore, took the ferry across the lake and floated around among the water lilies in the thermal spa at Hévíz. In Budapest we also enjoyed the Palatine Baths on Margaret Island, admired  the statues of the communist era at Memento park and spent our last day exploring the castle district and the Hungarian festival of folk arts that was being held over St Stephen’s day.

Heather at Szigliget castle near Lake Balaton, Hungary

Heather at Szigliget castle near Lake Balaton, Hungary

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I hope you enjoy the slide show below that is designed to accompany the podcast

Our first couple of nights in Budapest were spent at Mandragora Hostel, set in a turn of the century apartment building with an internal courtyard, with Indian style decor. We found the Mandragora Hostel charming and comfortable, and the staff were extremely helpful, but you should be aware that the location is on a busy intersection, so some of the rooms facing the road can be noisy.

On our first morning we walked around Margaret Island, a large public park set on an island in the middle of the Danube and visited the Palatine Strand Baths there. The park is named after the daughter of one of the kings of Budapest who vowed that if the Mongol invaders would cease their attacks, his daughter would devote her life to God, and so she spent her life here in a convent.

The Palatine Baths is ideal for families with a large number of different outdoor pools with fountains and jets, some for swimming, others with warm thermal water and waterslides and a wave machine. We had lunch at the snack bar beside the baths and managed to over-order six plates of chicken livers!

Palatinus Strand on Margaret Island, Budapest

Palatinus Strand on Margaret Island, Budapest

Souvenir stalls in the Central Market, Budapest

Souvenir stalls in the Central Market, Budapest

After we returned to the Margaret bridge at the end of the island, we took the No 2 public tram which is well known as a good sightseeing route as it runs along the Danube, past many of the major tourist sights such as the Hungarian Parliament building. We were pleased that we’d bought a 24 hour transport ticket which was valid for the metro, buses and trams and meant that we could hop on and off as many trams as we liked.

In the afternoon, we visited the Central market where we admired the beautifully presented stall selling vegetables and paprika products, and bought a few souvenirs on the upper floor, such as painted eggs which we planned to use as Christmas decorations. We tried some snacks from the food stalls that were also on the upper floor of the market and especially enjoyed the Lángos, that’s a cross between a pancake and a doughnut, with sweet and savoury toppings. Guy also enjoyed his dark malt Hungarian beer that was a little like Guinness.

The next day we drove down to Lake Balaton, stopping on the way at Memento park, where the statues of communist leaders and other sculptures from the Communist era are now on display. The only leader who’s stautue was destroyed was that of Stalin who was so hated after his death that his enormous statue was pulled down, leaving only his boots that are on a podium at the entrance to the park.

Laka Ballaton is a major holiday area, popular with Hungarians and Germans with many campsites, guest houses and holiday apartments around the lake, which is used for swimming, fishing and sailing. The lake side is very green and fringed with reeds, with sections of the shore that have been made into swimming areas with platforms and steps into the lake.

Révfülöp at Lake Balaton, Hungary

Révfülöp at Lake Balaton, Hungary

Hullam Hostel, Révfülöp by Lake Balaton

Hullam Hostel, Révfülöp by Lake Balaton

We loved our stay at Hullám Hostel, a stylish and friendly hostel, that attracts an international backpacking crowd, but is also very family friendly. At the Hullam Hostel we enjoyed the Hungarian goulash and other local specialities that they served up each night that was cooked in a cauldron over an open fire, served with bread on an all you can eat system. During our stay a juzz evening was held in the hostel to celebrate the Hungarian national holiday of St Stephen’s day and  you’ll here some of the music from the evening throughout the podcast.

We visited the nearby castle at Szigliget that was built in the 13th century, set on the top of a volcanic plug and clambered over the battlements to get amazing views over the lake and surrounding area. On the way back we drove through the wine growing area on the slopes of the volcanic plugs and stopped for lunch at Salföld, a pictureque traditional Hungarian Village, with Salföld Manor a restored show farm, and tried the sour cherry soup in the garden of the Pajta Galeria restaurant on the edge of the village.

Salföld, nr Lake Balaton, Hungary

Salföld, nr Lake Balaton, Hungary

Sour cherry soup at Pajta Galeria in Salföld, Hungary

Sour cherry soup at Pajta Galeria in Salföld, Hungary

On another day we visited the Festetics palace at Keszthely, built in baroque style in the 18th century with the air of a French Chateau, surrounded by formal gardens. We didn’t go into the palace as the queue was rather long but the formal gardens were free to enter, with fountains and colourful floral displays.

On coming out of the palace, we followed signs to the Marzipan Museum, which was more of a patisserie and tea shop, with a room at the back displaying examples of cake decoration and marzipan models, including one of the Keszthely Palace. We enjoyed our cake and coffee at the end of the visit in the small courtyard at the back, although I thought it was stretching the point to call the display room a museum.

Heather at Festetics palace at Keszthely, Hungary

Heather at Festetics palace at Keszthely, Hungary

Thermal Lake at  Hévíz, Hungary

Thermal Lake at Hévíz, Hungary

In the afternoon we visited the thermal lake at Hévíz which is naturally heated and where the mineral properties of the water is thought to be very healthy. The spa is like a modern leisure centre, built on to the lake where swimmers float around in the warm lake with rubber or foam rings. It was a great example of the Eastern European enthusiasm for Wellness although a somewhat bizarre experience for us Brits.

On our third day in the Lake Balaton area, we crossed the lake on the ferry over to Balatonboglar to the southern shore and found a busy holiday scene with a funfair in full swing to celebrate the St Stephen’s day holiday. After a couple of hours wandering around the packed resort, we returned to the more tranquil northern shore and decided that we definitely preferred the area we were staying.

We dove back to Budapest where we stayed in Art’Otel for our final night of the holiday, with a great view of the Danube. The hotel is modern at the front although the back half is made up of older townhouses, joined by a pretty courtyard. The feature of the hotel is that it features the work of a single artist, Donald Sultan and we took an art tour to learn more about his art works on display in different parts of the hotel. The hotel is perfectly positioned for the castle district on the Buda side of the river and from the Art’Otel you can climb up through the cobbled streets to see some of the well known Budapest sights.

Church in Budapest

Church in Budapest

View from the Fishermen's bastion in Budapest

View from the Fishermen's bastion in Budapest

On our final day in Budapest we walked up to the Mátyás church which is notable for the decorative painted walls and colourful tiles,  and also saw the Fisherman’s Bastion, an ornate colonade where you can get a great view over the Danube. You will often find gypsy bands playing traditional folk music there and there are also a couple of cafes on the ramparts with a great view, and no doubt prices that include a premium for the view.

From there we walked along towards the Hungarian Royal Palace and found the Festival of Folk arts in full swing. There were many stalls with beautiful embroidery, painted eggs,  pottery and wood carvings and we enjoyed watching the Hungarian folk dancing and listening to the traditional music.

We took the Castle funicular down from the area of the Hungarian Royal Palace to the river level, which was only a 5 minute ride and rather expensive considering the short distance, although if you’re on a budget it’s perfectly easy to walk the short distance. We concluded that although we loved the Laka Ballaton area for a family summer holiday, there was plenty more to explore in Budapest and we’d really need a return trip to do it justice.

If you enjoyed this travel podcast please check out my other podcasts in my Travel Podcast Archive

Visitor information for Budapest and Lake Ballaton

On our holiday we stayed in the following accommodation;

Mandragora Boutique Hostel on the Pest side of Budapest
Compare prices and book Mandragora Boutique Hostel with Hotels Combined
Hullám Hostel in Révfülöp on the northern shore of Lake Ballaton
Book Hullam Hostel in Revfulop with Hostel Bookers
Art’Otel Budapest on the Buda side of the city, overlooking the Danube.
Compare prices and book Art’Otel Budapest with Hotels Combined

For more information on the other places we visited, please follow the links in this article to my other blog posts.

The jazz music used in the podcast was recorded on St Stephen’s day at Hullam Hostel. Gypsy violin music was recorded around the Fisherman’s Bastion and other folk music was recorded at the Festival of Folk Arts. The opening music was Venus as a Girl by Andy McGee on Musicalley.com

More articles from this trip to Hungary

Boot slapping, skirt twirling, Hungarian Folk Dancing – video
Memento Park – icons of Budapest’s Communist past
My Top 10 sights in Budapest
Thermal springs and rubber rings at Heviz in Hungary

Save on hotels with HotelsCombined.com

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Karen ho fatt
    March 6, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Never been to this part of Europe but would like to get there some day. As a matter of fact a co worker of mine moved back to Hungary after making his fortune in Canada-don’t blame him either.I also believe he purchased a house on the very same Lake Balaton.
    Karen ho fatt´s last blog post ..Coleman Pack-Away Portable Fireplace Grill Review – Compact and Convenient For Camping

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    March 8, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    @ Karen Lake Ballaton is a really popular holiday spot with Germans as well as Hungarians. I gather that during the cold war it was one of the few places where Germans from East and West Germay could meet and come for holidays

  • Reply
    La Cursiva Argentina
    March 9, 2011 at 3:21 am

    Amazing place!! greetings from Argentina!

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    March 9, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Greetings also to you in Argentina

  • Reply
    portfolioprophetreviews
    March 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I also have never been to Hungary, but the photos have inspired me to visit sometime. I thought it was communist – have you had any negative experiences there?
    portfolioprophetreviews´s last blog post ..Portfolio Prophet Review – What Are ETF’S

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    March 9, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    @portfolio prophet
    Hungary is a democracy although the communist years are part of it’s recent history – we only had positive experiences there.

  • Reply
    Lainie Liberti
    March 19, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    We loved this episode! I learned so much about Budapest (and I even lived with a Hungarian for 4 years. ) I’ve always wanted to visit a public bath!

    Wondering, did you and your husband eat all 6 chicken dishes?

    We always enjoy your podcasts!!!
    Well done, Heather!

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    March 19, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    @ Lainie Thanks so much, the baths are a must in Budapest. I checked with my husband and he managed to eat most of the 6 plates of chicken livers.

  • Reply
    Travel Blog Posts | Best Blog Posts in March | easyJet Holidays Blog
    April 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    […] is a great read with some great photography and a podcast about the trip. Visit the blog here and have a […]

  • Reply
    Roiunlimited
    April 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I really like these places near Budapest specially Church, Balaton lake in Hungary. The place you described in this post is very interesting. I’m also eager to visit these places. If I’ll got a chance in near future, I’ll surely visit this place.
    Roiunlimited

  • Reply
    Umbria Villa
    April 22, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Of all the places, Lake Ballaton seems to be an amazing place to visit. Also all the palaces and the lakes that you have described with the pictures seems really fabulous. Thank you for making us aware of so beautiful places.

  • Reply
    Nisha
    May 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks for the interesting blog, I loved looking at your pictures, full of culture!
    Nisha´s last blog post ..Best Holiday Parks

  • Reply
    sapir
    May 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    it’s the first time i’m visiting at your blog – and i really enjoy this post! lovely photos! hope to see more soon…
    sapir´s last blog post ..what is a homeland security check

  • Reply
    van025
    May 20, 2011 at 8:44 am

    The more I visit your blog,the more I admire you because you have so many chances to visit many beatiful landscapes all over the world.
    van025´s last blog post ..Start Your GMAT Test Prep Early and Study Consistently

  • Reply
    braintory
    May 27, 2011 at 2:32 am

    Finally, a good site that isn’t in my face trying to constantly sell me something. Thanks, please keep up the good work.

    braintory´s last blog post ..How can I play super mario bros online for free

  • Reply
    braintory
    May 31, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Good post. This is a very nice blog that I will definitively come back to more times this year! Thanks for informative post. I am sure this post has helped me save many hours of browsing other similar posts just to find what I was looking for. I just want to say: Thank you!
    braintory´s last blog post ..All the Amazing Places To Uncover Ford trucks- New &amp Employed For Sale

  • Reply
    Terry
    June 13, 2011 at 4:51 am

    Nice site and great pictures! I REALLY want to visit Hungary some day and I’m definitely going to bookmark your site so I can reference it when I’m able to go. I’ll be back to read more about your fun adventures!

  • Reply
    Abby
    June 25, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Ohhhh dying to see Hungary. My mom is going to Budapest in November — the first country she’ll visit before me. I’m so proud!!

    • Reply
      Heather
      June 26, 2011 at 9:02 pm

      I’m sure your Mum will enjoy all the spas – they are quite an institution in Budapest

  • Reply
    Lindy at AnyTrip
    June 30, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    I loved Budapest, just got back last week. Isn’t it the most wonderful city?! I couldn’t stop ‘ooh’-ing and ‘aah’-ing over the buildings. Amazing….

    • Reply
      Heather
      July 3, 2011 at 2:49 pm

      Yes, it’s a very attractive city – did you try out any of the spas and hot baths? They seem to be all over Budapest and part of the experience of visiting the city.

  • Reply
    Paul
    September 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Love Balaton so much I bought an apartment there!
    So peaceful and the spas can wash away years of stress and strain!
    Paul´s last blog post ..Starting A Gift Basket Business.

    • Reply
      Heather
      September 21, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      @ Paul – I can understand why you’d want to spend your holiday time there – I trust that you’ve tasted you way through all the vineyards on the northern shore?

  • Reply
    Paul
    November 18, 2011 at 8:55 am

    lol, absolutely Heather!
    It would be rude not to pop by a couple of the great estates dotted around the Balaton!
    They produce some really nice, undiscovered wines, especially the Kekfrankos, a light easy drinking red….

  • Reply
    Heather
    January 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    @Lindy Yes there are some really elegant buildings in Budapest

  • Reply
    It it's Friday it must be a weekend break in Budapest with Avios | Heather on her travels
    February 14, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    […] at Avios are sending me for a three day break. I was last there in August 2010, when I spent a week in Hungary with the family, exploring the sights of Budapest and relaxing further south, near Lake Balaton. The couple of days […]

  • Reply
    Holiday in Cambodia
    October 3, 2014 at 5:59 am

    Love it so much. Thanks for your informative post.

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