Regarding Lake Balaton, there has been a North shore vs South shore conflict going on for the past decades, of course not so seriously, like the American East Coast - West Coast debate. The North shore with Tihany, Balatonfüred, the sudden and more intensely deepening shore, with lots of fishermen, near Veszprém, with the treasures of Balaton-highlands (Balaton Felvidék), it was always the world of people wanting to rest and enjoy a quiet get-together.

That is why Tihany is an ideal destination for couples, who’d like to relax, for friend groups and families with kids. 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

In this article series; the so-called Hungarian Sea is our topic, and its attractions. We are going to introduce you Tihany - the most visited city of Lake Balaton.

Tihany attractions list

  • Tihany Abbey
  • Lavender house and lavender field
  • Inner Lake
  • Aranyház Geyser Cone
  • Hermit’s Caves
  • Hungarian Kings Wax Museum & Pirate Museum
  • Tihany country houses
  • Mill Museum
  • Kövesd Church ruins
  • Tihany Doll Museum

Tihany map

Lake Balaton

The peninsula, due to its unique location, stands out from the locations offered by the Hungarian lake, however, the competition has become quite significant: think about Keszthely, Heviz (Hévíz), Balatonszemes, the renewed Siofok (Siófok), and Balatonfüred with its brilliant coastal promenade. In spite of that, Tihany has somehow kept its special beauty and elevated feeling.

Lake Balaton map - with the Tihany peninsula
Lake Balaton map - with the Tihany peninsula | Source: Balaton térkép

Its location to Budapest surely contributes to this. The centre of the peninsula is located 135 kilometres from Budapest, which is about one and a half hours by car. There’s a motorway until Balatonakarattya, then the constantly renewed road on the north shore of Lake Balaton leads to the site.

  • Budapest distance by car: between 1,5 - 2 hours / approx. 135 km
Tihany map, Lake Balaton, Hungary
Tihany map, Lake Balaton, Hungary

Tihany with train

It is a bit harder to get there by train – regarding this unfortunately the North shore of the Balaton has some catching up to do.  The Blue Wave railway was especially made for the approach of the Hungarian sea. It completes the 90 minute car ride in 2 hours and 45 minutes. If you don’t plan on cycling around Lake Balaton – which is a good idea by the way -, I’d rather vote on the car.

Tihany accommodation

Since the Hungarian tourism bloomed due to the pandemic, every place was fully booked in the 2020 summer season, at least around Balaton. I advise you to book accommodation well in advance for next year, even half a year earlier.

You can find plenty of choices on the booking.com website. I attached an interactive map to help you with that.

Booking.com

Tihany ferry

It is worth taking a ferry ride to the opposite shore either on the way there, or back. There may be a bigger line waiting for the ferry in the summer, especially from the South shore to the North, so prepare for possible waiting time.


#1 The Tihany Abbey

Tihany Bencés Apátság

The Tihany Abbey, located on the top of the hill, with its two white towers is the symbol of the peninsula. To describe the building they use the following expressions:

  • Cloister: Cloister is an expression that spread in the middle ages. Its Hungarian form is “klastrom”, which indicates a building, where monks live together.
  • Monastery: The monastery – which many people confuse with cloister – is a common living space of the monks that is built with church.
  • Abbey: The abbot is a male head of the Christian monastery, the abbey is a monastery under the rule of an abbot.

According to the above written, the Tihany building complex is a monastery and an abbey all in one. It was established by Andrew I. in 1055. The charter, although primarily written in Latin, contains the earliest extant text written in Hungarian.

Just like most of the Balaton region, Tihany was also affected by the arrival of Turkish forces. In the XVI-XVII. century they made it into a border castle, they moved the monks of the Benedict order away, and the soldiers moved in in their place. If you walk by the lookout tower, you will easily see, why. This height had a strategic significance, since due to the beautiful circular panorama, you can see the whole Balaton region.

After the war the monks could move back to the building complex, however they remodelled it multiple times during the next decades, until it reached its final form, the one you see today, in 1754. The monks had to leave the monastery once more in 1950, which was functioning as a poorhouse and museum before. They received it officially in 1994 from the Hungarian State. However, the museum hasn’t gotten lost, to this day it is the home of countless of exhibitions and concerts. At this point I can’t leave it out: beware, Pagan Madonna is only the product of imagination! You won’t find the famous statue in the building.

The abbey is just as eye-catching on the inside, however you will find the real miracle outside. In the summer the clear sky, the sailboats gliding on the unique blue water of Lake Balaton with the surrounding hills and mountains offer an amazing view. They enhanced this view with binoculars, so the curious children eyes can also be satisfied.

  • Address: Tihany, Andrew I. square 1, 8237
Tihany Bencés Apátság, Tihany Abbey map
Tihany Bencés Apátság, Tihany Abbey map

#2 Lavender House and lavender field

They created the Lavender House on the shore of the Tihany Inner Lake in 2000, which, contrary to its name, is not only about lavender, it showcases the characteristics, past and present of the Balaton Highlands National Park and the broader region.

I can state without exaggeration, that this is a true family activity, since they await the small ones with countless of games, while there are plenty of historical and biological knowledge waiting to be discovered by the parents. If you are curious about the formation of Lake Balaton, the bubbling volcanoes, the mysteries of wildlife, and of course lavender itself, definitely don’t miss it! Moreover, you can join organised walks to see the outer locations. On the shore of the Inner Lake you can do some ground squirrel watching, but the kids probably don’t see huge Hungarian Grey cattle either.

Tihany Lavender Festival

From mid-June

Every year around mid-June the Tihany Lavender Festival is held, which is maybe the biggest and most important celebration of Tihany.

At this point I definitely want to mention, that the city is not a paradise for parking (although, they tried to improve on the capacity in the last 5 years), however it is worth arriving early during the time of the festival if you don’t want to park too far.

During the festival – which is timed according to the blooming of lavender – it is a tradition to scythe or to pick it with hand. The Tihany lavender field is not the biggest of its kind in the country, but it is the most well-known due to its connection to the city. If you are not allergic to lavender, it can be fun for the family to pick some lavender for a few minutes. 🐝

And if it’s celebration: if you like lavender, it is really worth visiting Tihany during the festival. Not only does the city turn into purple, but the characteristic, calming smell of lavender is everywhere. The shops strongly use the symbolic flower as decoration during the rest of the year too, however you can witness a true flood of lavender products during the festival. You can get anything made from lavender: cosmetics, toiletries, lavender pillow (which is surprisingly comfortable), lavender sweets, coffees, foods await you on the location.

Approaching

  • Address of Lavender House: Tihany, Major St. 67, 8237
  • Address of Lavender Field: Tihany, Levendula St. 36, 8237
  • Distance between them: 30 minutes on foot and 5 minutes by car / 2,4 km
Lavender field, Tihany map, Lake Balaton
Lavender field, Tihany map, Lake Balaton

#3 The Inner Lake

Fishing lake

Despite the not so creative name, the location is beautiful. The peninsula hides such funny treasures: lake on the outside, lake on the inside. The inland lake with its constantly re-established fish stocks is practically a classic, yet very natural fishing lake. It is an excellent area for long walks, due to its diverse fauna. The Bujtor István Open-air Stage is located on the pier, where countless of well-known actors and musicians visit during the summer.

Around the lake horses, Hungarian Grey cattle, and an authentic shadoof awaits the kids.  Despite the significant area of the lake, only a few people know about it, therefore it lacks the tourist crowds. If you are tired of the busy city, you can take a calming walk here.

Opening hours and prices

  • Open: 0-24, every day
  • Entry: free

Availability

  • Address: Inner Lake, Tihany
The Inner Lake, Tihany attractions
The Inner Lake, Tihany attractions

#4 Golden House Geyser Cone

Aranyház Gejzírkúp

If you are ever around the Inner Lake, I’d invite you to hike. One of the destinations of the 9-10 kilometres long Tihany round tour’s is the geyser cone area evoking the period of the formation of Lake Balaton and the Tihany Peninsula. The geyser field was formed 3 million years ago, when the volcanoes that defined the area stopped functioning and water between the rock layers released to the surface. Traces of this are shown by these solidified rocks resembling chimneys.

Unfortunately you won’t see active geysers, but you can recognise the biggest geyser rock, Aranyház by the yellowy lichen on it.

Outer Lake, Tihany

After continuing the road you will see the Outer Lake, which is a swampy area with rich flora and beautiful birds. Just like the Inner Lake, its water is caldera, which indicates a past volcanic presence. It’s crazy, think about it, there were huge volcanoes in this peaceful scenery once upon a time.

Opening hours and prices

The Aranyház Geyser Cone is open all year round, there’s no entrance fee.

  • Open: 0-24, every day
  • Entry: free

Availability

  • Address: Tihany, Aranyház Geyser Cone
Golden House Geyser Cone, Tihany attractions map
Golden House Geyser Cone, Tihany attractions map
Outer Lake (Külső tó), Tihany attractions
Outer Lake (Külső tó), Tihany attractions

#5 Hermit’s Caves

Barátlakások

The Tihany hermit’s caves was inhabited from the middle of the XI. century until the XIV. century. From the original 10 caves, there’s only 3 remaining, and the traces of 2 others.

Hermit's caves, Tihany attractions

The hermit caves were used by Basilian monks, who were brought to the country by Andrew I. during his reign. The caves are the only remaining hermitage in Central Europe.

In the 90’s the preservation works finally started, however these unique historical monuments were basically destroyed due to the previous landslides.

Opening hours and prices

The hermit’s caves are free to visit all year long, there’s no entry.

  • Open: 0-24, every day
  • Entry: free

Availability

  • Address: Tihany, 8237, Hermit’s Caves
Hermit's caves (Barátlakások), Tihany attractions

#6 Wax Museum of Hungarian Kings, Pirate Museum, Indian Museum

Three exhibitions for the price of one

The three exhibitions for the price of one in the city centre is not just a kind gesture, but a well thought out maneuver, since while a fewer families would visit the Wax museum of Hungarian Kings, the kids surely don’t want to miss the Pirate Museum. Therefore, everyone finds something that suits them.

The Wax museum of Hungarian Kings is a so called Hungarian Madame Tussaud’s, only instead of Robbie Williams and Harry Potter, you can see Charles IV. and Sigismund of Luxembourg. While in 2020 the here exhibited puppets are rather cute than authentic, the stories behind the reign of kings appears nicely.

Well, the Pirate Museum is another pair of shoes! Although it doesn’t expose a before never heard Tihany pirate gang, it does present the famous, infamous pirates very well. Contemporary tools, weapons, and the difficulties of the sea life come to life in the Balaton museum, which, for example is a great preparation before watching Pirate of the Caribbean’s at night with the kids.

The Indian Museum presents the indigenous people of the Amazon basin, the Shuar Indians. It’s a good question, why exactly in Tihany they opened an exhibition like this, but it surely adds diversity to the village feeling of the city centre. 🤔

Opening hours and prices

  • Season: all year long
  • Open: every day 10:00 – 17:00

Availability

  • Address: Tihany, Kossuth Lajos St.. 35, 8237
  • Website
Wax and Pirate museum, Tihany attractions map
Wax and Pirate museum, Tihany map 

#7 Tihany country houses

Tihanyi tájházak

If you would like to immerse yourself more in the local lifestyle, you will find two country houses, between St. Batthyany and Pisky Promenade, which were staged specifically for this cause. The two buildings, “Farmer” House and “Fisherman” House, were renovated in 2018, so they awaits visitors in their full glory.

The names are quite telling, for in the first house you can find out about a life of a contemporary farmer, while in the second one is equipped with the tools used by local fishermen, of course showcasing items from the past.

Opening hours and prices

  • Entry: free

Availability

  • Address: 8237 Tihany, Pisky Promenade 12.
  • Website
Tihany Farmhouses (Tihanyi Tájházak) map
Tihany Farmhouses (Tihanyi Tájházak) map

#8 Mill Museum

Malommúzeum

And if you continuing on this line, would like to take a look at still working, hundreds of years old mill, head towards Örvényes, which is a few kilometres away from Tihany Peninsula to the West.

Many think that the Örvényes mill museum is the most beautiful, exciting industrial historical memory of the Balaton Highlands, the original was built in 1055. The mill was once belonged to the Benedict Abbey located in the centre of the peninsula, they renovated it in the XVIII. century, then the state owned it.

Today it functions as a museum, and it demonstrates how the hundreds of small mills worked, which used the water streams of rivers flowing on the North shore for the past centuries.

Opening hours and prices

  • Open: Tuesday - Sunday, 09:00 - 16:00
  • Closed: Mondays

Approach

  • Address: Örvényes, Szent Imre St. 3, 8242
Tihany attractions: Mill Museum (Malommúzeum) map
Tihany attractions: Mill Museum (Malommúzeum) map

#9 Kövesdi Church Ruins

Kövesdi Templomrom

We are in Aszófő, at the “leg” of the peninsula, where the Kövesdi church ruins is located. The slightly hidden historical location takes us back to the XI. century, in the 1200s.

Only the base and the two characteristic walls remained of roman style church. With a little imagination the ruins are just enough to turn back time. During the exploration of the area, turned out that it is not by chance that our ancestors built their church here. The previous building was a Roman altar, which they “overwrite” like this.

Opening hours and prices

  • Open: every day, 0-24
  • Prices: free to visit

Approach

  • Address: Kövesdi church ruins, Aszófő, Romkápolna St., 8241
Tihany attractions: Kovesd Church ruin
Tihany attractions: Kovesd Church ruin

#10 Tihany Doll Museum

The museum was established by the Filotas married couple (Sybille and Tivadar) in 1994, which consists only of their own private collection. The collecting of the dolls took 40 years. There are unique porcelain and plastic dolls too, with clothes, accessories and supplies belonging to them.

Opening hours and prices

The museum is open from May until September every day 09:00 - 17:00. The entry for adults is 800 forint, while the discounted tickets are 600 forint.

  • Season: May - September
  • Open: (every day) 09:00 - 17:00
  • Adult entry: 800 forint
  • Children entry: 600 forint

Approach

  • Address: Tihany, Visszhang St. 4, 8237
  • Website
Tihany attractions - Doll Museum
Tihany attractions - Doll Museum

#11 Marzipan House - Museum and Sweets shop

The Marzipan House and museum is in a nicely renovated monument house 200 metres away from the Tihany Abbey. You can see unique, handmade figures, tale scenes made from marzipan.

The sweets shop offers yummy Szamos marzipans and handmade, unique chocolates for both the little ones and elders too.

Opening hours and prices

  • Season: all year round
  • Summer opening hours: every day, 10:00 - 18:00
  • Average opening hours: every day, 10:00 - 16:00
  • Entry: 200 ft - 500 ft (can be used to purchase in the shop)

Approach

  • Address: Tihany, Batthyány u. 17.
  • Website: none
Tihany attractions - Marzipan museum map
Tihany attractions - Marzipan museum map

Tihany, goodbye from a bird’s eye view

Balaton is often criticised – especially the North shore – that one settlement is just like the other. Although I can’t entirely refute this, there surely are beautiful exceptions on every corner of the lake.

Regarding uniqueness, Tihany absolutely takes the crown. It is a Balaton city, an Austrian village, a great hiking spot, with beautiful panoramic views, boating lake, and a fishing paradise.

Tihany offers great activities for families as well. Fortunately there’s way more to Lake Balaton, than just swimming: a good boat ride, exploring the historical and geographical values of the area while hiking – these are all Tihany’s treasures. On top of that, the area is very photographic, you can shot beautiful panoramic pictures, and there’s an awesome selfie opportunity next to the abbey.

Don’t miss out on the ferry on the way back, since the receding peninsula and the attractions of Tihany are then really placed in context. You will definitely come back here!