Excursions around Hévíz
The region directly surrounding Hévíz offers a vast variety of leisure activities, excursions and beautiful sights. The unique natural treasures and the neighbourhood of Lake Balaton guarantee a colourful programme for visitors. Furthermore, the flora and fauna of Little Balaton and the Keszthely Hills as part of Balaton Uplands Natural Park have been a highly-protected region since the 1920s.
The nearest major town is Keszthely, the charming “capital” of Balaton, which, beyond a rich array of cultural programmes, also has a beach and great shopping.
Keszthely is a cultural and educational centre as well as a university town. Currently it is one of the most popular places in Balaton, visited by many tourists, likely because of its lovely old centre, historic monuments, museums, cultural programmes and the proximity of Hévíz. While Siófok is the party capital of Balaton, Keszthely is a more peaceful summer resort and is highly recommended for family holidays.
In the Middle Ages, Keszthely was a royal town ("villa regia"), while in a document dated 1421 it is mentioned as a country-town. At the time of the Turkish rule, the nunnery and church located in the heart of the city were reconstructed into a fortress. At the beginning of the 18th century, Keszthely became part of the domain of the Festetics family. In 1745, the family built a pompous palace here and transferred their residence to Keszthely. The baroque Festetics Mansion is the third-largest palace in the country, with 101 rooms, an ornate wrought iron gate, chapel and the Helikon Library with 86,000 volumes, including many rarities. In addition to the library room of the museum inside the palace, 16 other rooms are furnished with period furniture. Ornate firearms and the trophy collection of the Duke of Windischgrätz are also displayed. Concerts are organized regularly in the music hall of mirrors, the former dining room of the palace. The palace's French garden and English park are under protection because of the various types of plant species. In the back garden near the stalls, old carriages are on display.
It was the former owner of the chateau, count György Festetics, who founded Europe's first farming school, the Georgikon, providing university level education in 1797. The institute first only educated professionals for the domain, but it soon became a school of national significance. The history of the school, 19th-century viticulture and grain farming in the Balaton region are all on display at the Georgikon Manor Museum. The Festetics family has additionally done many other things for the town: a hospital was established by Kristóf Festetics in 1759, and a high school by Pál Festetics in 1772.
Other notable buildings in the main square are the Gothic parish church, built for the Franciscan order settled here, which had already existed by 1386. Gothic paintings on the largest surface in Hungary can be studied near the sanctuary of the church. After the Turkish rule, the church was renovated in the Baroque style, and its neo-Gothic tower was added in the 1880s. The monument of the Holy Trinity in the square was erected in 1770. Characteristic buildings on the promenade, starting from Főtér (the Main square) to the North, were erected during the second half of the 19th century. Composer Károly Goldmark was born in house No. 22 (the oldest house in Keszthely) on the promenade in 1830. A synagogue with arcades can also be found in the yard of the building.
The Helikon monument in the lovely park westward to the railway station commemorates former poets' meetings and games. The promenade in the park lined with plaques and sculptures of the town's famous personalities leads to the quay and the harbour.
All you wish to know about Lake Balaton, including its formation, flora and fauna, the history of bathing culture and waterborne traffic, as well as archaeological and ethnographic memorabilia over 7,000 years, can be seen at the Balaton Museum. The works of painter János Halápy (1893-1960) are exhibited in one room of the building.
A marzipan model of the Festetics Mansion is among the exhibits at the Marzipan Confectionery Museum.
The Puppet Museum in Keszthely occupies the building of an old mill. It offers a rich array of cute puppets and dolls displaying folk costumes and clothes of citizens and craftsmen from historical Hungary. On the third floor, visitors will find an exhibition of houses, churches and farm buildings that exemplify folk architecture.
The museum shares the building with three other exhibitions, which can each be visited with individual admission tickets: the so-called ‘Snail Parliament’, a miniature replica of the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest made of snail shells; a waxworks exhibition featuring personalities from Hungarian history; and the ‘Horrorarium’ - Museum of Torture.
The miniature Parliament building accurately reflects the proportions of the original one, and is made out of 4.5 million (!) snail shells by an elderly lady who devoted her life to this masterpiece. The dimensions of the original neo-Gothic building in Budapest are the following: Length: 268 m; Height: 96m; Ground-space: 17.500 m2; 10 inner courts; 29 staircases (20 km long in total) and 691 rooms.
The Waxworks Museum features nearly 40 celebrities from different eras in Hungarian history: Hungarian kings and other sovereigns, generals, poets and authors, all in period costumes.
The Torture Museum displays torturing techniques and methods from the Middle Ages up to the present, and includes countries from France to Japan.
The island baths, built in 1892 with a timber structure protruding deep into the lake, is an interesting sight.
Programmes in the summer season in Keszthely start at the end of April with the Helikon Ceremony of Literature. This event was first organized in 1817 and has by now become a tradition. The opening of the Summer Season is followed by programmes of the Balaton Festival in May. Classical music programmes in the Festetics Palace are nationally famous. In addition to solo evenings and chamber music concerts, master courses are also held there. The Keszthely Summer Theatre is held in July and August in the palace park. The Wine Festival in August attracts many visitors.
Helikon Palace Museum - Festetics palace (Helikon Kastélymúzeum - Festetics Kastély)
Address: 8360 Keszthely, Kastély u. 1.
Phone: (+36 83) 314-194
Balaton Museum(Balatoni Múzeum)
Address: 8360 Keszthely, Múzeum u. 2.
Tel/Fax: (+36) 83 312351
Open: 19/01-30/04: Tue-Sat 10.00-17.00;
02/05-31/10 Tue-Sun 10.00-18.00;
02/11-12/12: Tue-Sat 9.00-17.00
Puppet Museum – Folk Costumes and Folk Architecture(Népviseletes Babamúzeum és Népi Építészeti Kiállítás)
Miniature Parliament (Csigaparlament)
Waxworks Museum (Történelmi Panoptikum)
Horrorarium – Museum of Torture (Kínzó Múzeum)
Address: 8360 Keszthely, Kossuth u. 11.
Tel-fax: (+36 83) 318-855; Phone: (+36 30) 855 6533
Opening times: Winter: 10.00-17.00, Summer 9.00-19.00
Balatonederics - Safari Park and Africa Museum (Afrika Múzeum és Állatkert)
Founded by the famed hunter Dr. Endre Nagy, a son of Balatonederics, who spent a portion of his life hunting and collecting objects in Tanzania (Africa), the Africa Museum boasts a rich collection of artefacts, including trophies and African ethnographic objects. The building was once the mansion of the Nagy family. Although not indigenous to the region, camels, buffaloes and zebras are resident in the Safari Park around the building.
Address: 8312 Balatonederics, Kültelek 11. (Next to Route No 71)
Phone: (+36 87) 466-105
The charming village of Cserszegtomaj is situated at the foot of the Keszthely Hills, northwest from Lake Balaton in the neighbourhood of Keszthely, Hévíz and Rezi.
Cserszegtomaj is known for its botanical garden at the edge of the village. In an area of 20 hectares, some 200 pine species and other evergreens can be seen.
Address: Cserszegtomaj, Barát u. 15.
Opening times: 1 March - 30 October, Mo-Fri 8.00-16.00
Another interesting place to see here is the highly-protected well cave discovered accidentally while drilling a well in the 1930s. The labyrinth-like cave is among the ten longest caves in Hungary, and is famous for its brown hematite cave formations and grey and red hematite deposits. Access to the cave is difficult and restricted, and only group visits through prior appointment are possible. The visit starts with a descent through a 52m deep artificial shaft, which is 1.2m in diameter.
A place also worth visiting is the Margit lookout tower next to the botanical garden. (An elevator is also available.)
The wine called "Cserszegi Fűszeres" (Flavourful wine from Cserszeg) was named after the village Cserszeg, and was awarded "The Wine of the World" award in London in 1988. The local wine route association was named after the wine as well.
The Castle Theatre with its impressive building is also worth a visit.
In addition to its sights, a sports ground opened in 2006 with various sport facilities.
Programmes in the village include the international Free Arts Camp in summer, Village Day, the wine competition on St. Urban's Day in May, the Wine Festival held on the first weekend of July, and Vintage Days in September.
The ruins of Tátika Castle are seated on a 413m high hilltop in the Keszthely Hills. The castle was built by Zlandus, Bishop of Veszprém between 1246 and 1257. He then consigned the castle to the Bishopric of Veszprém. Tátika Castle was robbed and demolished by the Turkish army in 1589. Its fate was finally sealed when in 1713 General Mercy of the Austrian Empire set it ablaze.
The castle of Tátika is surrounded by an ancient beech forest covering an area of 74 hectares, and has been protected since 1953. On the western edge of Kovácsi Hill, a 1-kilometer-long corridor is carved in the basalt rock, where 5-15m high columns, caves, hollows and other interesting morphological formations can be explored (Hermit Cave).
Rezi – Rezi Castle
The ruins of the castle stand on a 418 m-high dolomite rock near the village of Rezi. The first mention of it was made in a document dating from 1378 (Castrum Rezi), when the castle belonged to István Lackfi, who also owned Keszthely after being awarded it from King Louis the Great. Initially, a square motte must have been built in the northern part; later the castle was extended towards the south.
From the end of the 14th century, the castle was again part of the royal domain before it became property of the Gersei Pethő family during the mid-15th century. Around 1555, the castle was fortified due to the Turkish threat, but only ruins of the castle remained by the end of the 16th. In 1741, the castle became part of the Festetics family domain and remained so until 1945. Today, there are only a few parts of walls and a part of the pediment for hikers to discover.