The oldest town on the shores of Lake Balaton, and also the largest and most developed, is Keszthely. This town isn’t just about resorts and beach relaxation; it’s also home to one of Hungary’s most luxurious palaces and the world’s largest thermal lake, just seven kilometers from Keszthely. Ahead, awaits a comprehensive overview of this small Hungarian town.

Keszthely: General Information

Summarily and briefly, here are the crucial facts about the town:

  • The town was founded in the 13th century.
  • Today, Keszthely has a population of only 18,000 people. It’s a small town even by Hungarian standards.
  • However, Keszthely stands as the largest town on Lake Balaton’s shore and is the oldest and most developed. Around Lake Balaton, there are dozens of towns and resorts, but officially, Keszthely holds the status of the main resort and capital of Balaton.
Keszthely museums ticket
Moreover, Keszthely is a city of museums. There are about a dozen museums here, including even a Erotics Museum, but more on that later (with photos).

Interesting to note:

Unlike other Balaton resorts, which are around 50-70 years old, Keszthely boasts an old town and museums, making it appealing to architecture and history enthusiasts.

How to get to Keszthely from Budapest

I won’t delve into driving directions. You hop in, open a map app, and drive. The roads in the country are excellent, and there’s a high-speed highway from Budapest to Keszthely with a speed limit of 130 km/h. The distance from Budapest is 190 km.

In short, the main points for those traveling without a car:

  • You can take a bus or a train. In my opinion, the train is more convenient, comfortable, cheaper, and faster.
  • There are 5-6 daily buses from Budapest to Keszthely. Travel time is 3.5 hours. One bus runs directly to Keszthely without stops, taking 2.5 hours, departing from Budapest at 14:15. The ticket price for any bus is 9 euros
    • Schedules, prices, and ticket purchases can be found on the official carrier’s website: Volanbusz
  • Trains depart from 5 am hourly until night. Travel time is 2 hours and 40 minutes. Ticket prices range from 6 to 8 euros. You’ll arrive directly at Keszthely’s central train station.
Keszthely budapest train
There’s a train departure from Budapest to Keszthely every hour.

Getting from Budapest to Keszthely is no trouble at all, as there’s plenty of transportation available. When booking tickets online, remember to enter the city’s name as your destination – Keszthely.

Where to stay, the best restaurants

The city is small but elongated. Where to stay is up to you. You can book in the center in its historic part, closer to architectural landmarks and all amenities, or nearer to the beach and the lake. The distance between these locations is 2-3 km.

  • A service frequently offering discounts and excellent accommodation deals for tourists is Hotellook. It compares accommodation prices among dozens of providers

There’s no shortage of eateries here; you won’t go hungry. Keszthely streets are lined with numerous European cuisine restaurants. I’ll recommend the best (in my opinion) Hungarian cuisine restaurant in the city:

best restaurants in Keszthely
Our standard lunch for two at Jóbarát Vendéglő in Keszthely: two beers, goulash (soup), and paprikas.

What to see in Keszthely

I won’t list dozens of churches, cathedrals, or houses where a famous person once lived. I’ll only mention the most interesting sights in Keszthely, where you’d spend more than 5 minutes. I’ll provide coordinates, prices, and opening hours.

  • The city’s main attraction is the Festetics Palace. One of Hungary’s most beautiful palaces, built in the style of Schönbrunn.
    • Coordinates: 46.771025318237854, 17.241837134186557
    • Website:
    • Open from 10:00 to 17:00.
    • Ticket price: 8 euros (3200 forints). There’s a full ticket granting access to palace exhibitions for 5000 forints (15 euros).
    • The garden and exterior of the palace are open to all visitors for free. A ticket is only required for the palace’s interior and exhibitions.
    • I recommend allocating 2-3 hours for Festetics Palace. Even if you don’t plan to go inside, just strolling through the beautiful park, relaxing, and enjoying the views is worth it.
Festetics Palace in hungary review
Festetics Palace leaves a strong impression.

A review of Hungary’s best palaces, castles, and fortresses includes Festetics among them.

The main pedestrian street in Keszthely, the main square, the main Catholic church, and a secondary school housed in one of the historical and beautiful buildings. This is the city center, all located in one area.

Keszthely main street
The main pedestrian street. The photo was taken in November, and in the rain, yet in summer, it’s bustling. Additionally, all the museums I’ll discuss later are situated on this street.
  • Coordinates of the main square, where the pedestrian street starts: 46.76508748496541, 17.24300260347615
  • Tourists come here for evening walks. There are plenty of shops, souvenir stores, restaurants, museums, and simply beautiful architecture and lots of greenery.
Keszthely main square
Fo ter – or the main square of Keszthely. In the photo, the building in the center houses an ordinary secondary school, and behind it, you can see the main Catholic church.

Moreover, Keszthely is renowned in Hungary as the city of museums. I’ll summarize as all the museums are small-scale, without much grandeur. It’s up to you whether to visit or not. But here is where you can plan a day exploring museums.

All Keszthely museums are situated in the very heart of the town, within 50 meters of each other. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Official website of these museums:
  • Entrance to each museum costs around 4 euros (1500 forints).
  • However, you can purchase a combined ticket for all museums for 5000 forints, approximately 13 euros. You can buy this ticket at any museum’s ticket office listed below, where you’ll begin your museum exploration.
  • There’s a slightly cheaper package: visit 3 or 4 museums of your choice from the list. But the price difference between this and the combined ticket is 2 euros.
  • The museums are open from 10 am to 4 pm, and in summer, until 6 pm.
Erotikus Panoptikum hungary
Remember that promise of a photo from the Erotics Museum? Promise kept. This is one of the more decent ones. It consists of several rooms with about a dozen wax figures, all in line with the theme, featuring a lot of, well, intimate body parts.

Here’s a list and coordinates of accessible museums (all situated on the main pedestrian street):

Shell Museum Keszthely
The Hungarian Parliament building made of sea shells. Even a photo doesn’t quite convey the scale and size of this exhibit. It’s pretty awesome.

Good to know:

All museums are quite small, I’d say they’re simply someone’s personal collections. Literally 1-2 rooms in each with a few hundred exhibits: toys in the Toy Museum, dolls in the Doll Museum, items from the past in the Nostalgia Museum, and so on. Plan around 20 minutes for each museum. That should be sufficient. You’ve probably seen much of this before. The only exhibit that’ll amaze you is the Hungarian Parliament made of shells. You’ve never seen anything like it; it’s a must-visit for everyone.

Keszthely’s Attractions Beyond the City

If you’re tired of relaxing in Keszthely, just 7 km from the city lies the country’s largest thermal resort and, simultaneously, the world’s largest thermal lake – Heviz. Here, hot water is available year-round. There’s a comprehensive review of the Hungarian resort, Heviz.

And in the vicinity of the city, there are:

Balaton-Kis island
An observation tower on Kányavári Island. There are many of these. The island is great, peaceful, and not overcrowded.
Zalakaros thermal baths
And these are the thermal pools in the aqua park in Zalakaros. On top in the photo are the open thermal baths, water temperature +37°C. Below are medicine baths inside the building, water temperature +40°C. They operate all year round.

Beaches on Lake Balaton in Keszthely

Remember, Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe and the main beach resort in the country. Keszthely is situated right on the western shore of Balaton. Here’s what you need to know about the beaches in Keszthely:

  • Most of Balaton’s beaches are grassy.
  • There are hardly any sandy beaches, mostly just a thin strip of yellow sand.
  • The lake is quite shallow, making it ideal for children.
  • The city beaches are all free of charge.
  • There are paid beaches, known as Beach Clubs. The cost for a whole day is 2-3 euros, and these areas have toilets, power outlets, changing cabins, and there’s even a microwave to heat food. Sunbeds usually require an additional fee.
  • An important point: Balaton, in general, has a muddy bottom, so you can’t just wade into the water anywhere along the shore. In any case, it’s better to head to an equipped beach. I usually go to the main free city beach; it’s clean, the grass is trimmed, and there’s plenty of shade. All Balaton beaches generally look the same.
Beaches Balaton Keszthely
This is how most beaches look not only in Keszthely but around the entire Balaton. Neat lawns and equipped stairways into the water. In these places, the bottom is cleaned, and there’s little to no mud. By the way, dogs are not allowed on these beaches. You wouldn’t want to lie on the grass or walk barefoot where dogs relieve themselves, would you?

Here are the three main beaches in Keszthely:

Keszthely map
Keszthely map, with green areas along Balaton marking beach zones and parks. There are more than enough of them here.


You’ll definitely find a beach for yourself here. The map above highlights all the beach areas along the Balaton shore in Keszthely. Even in summer, when the city is packed with tourists, there’s always a secluded spot available. Only on the main city beach in the center, it might be a bit crowded.
  • Most travel packages to Hungary are sold precisely in Heviz and Keszthely. These are the hubs of package tourism. Everything about travel packages to Hungary, about tours and treatments.

In conclusion, Keszthely is one of the best places to relax on Balaton. There are plenty of advantages: there’s a historical part and a beautiful center, the world’s largest thermal lake nearby, which you can visit for a day, and a bunch of attractions in the surrounding area, including the famous wine region on Lake Balaton. And of course, beach relaxation is a given here.

IMPORTANT: Below are useful links that will help organize your trip to Hungary and Budapest:

  • Flight: Aviasales – compares prices for flights among 30+ airlines flying to Budapest.
  • Tours and excursions:
    • Viator and GetYourGuide – the best services for finding tours in Budapest and Hungary with the largest database of activities in Hungary. They offer river cruises on the Danube, tickets to baths, and 1000+ tours (available in different languages).
  • Accommodation, apartments, hotels, hostels:
    • Hotellook compares the prices among dozens of other booking services and offer the best price
    • Booking – the most popular booking platform
    • Agoda – even more accommodation options in Hungary
  • Car rental: DiscoverCars – the leading and largest car rental service in Hungary.
  • Travel Insurance: EKTA.
  • eSIMAiralo virtual SIM card in Hungary.
  • Taxi and airport transfers: Intui.Travel