Tihany is located on the North coast of Lake Balaton, the Hungarian sea (the biggest lake in the country). It's the most beautiful of the lake, the centre of summer vacations. While Siofok in the South part is ideal for younger people looking for beaches and fun, Tihany is more suitable for families, couples, and tourists.
One usually visits the Tihany peninsula to relax, eat, and buy great handmade souvenirs.
Where is Tihany located?
Tihanz is located on the only peninsula of Lake Balaton (a 1.5-hour drive from Budapest, the capital city). Due to its unique location, it was always a unique destination in inbound tourism. There’s a motorway until Balatonakarattya, and then the constantly renewed road on the north shore of Lake Balaton leads to the city.
- Budapest distance: 1,5 hours / 140 km
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 peninsula's symbol. 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 a cloister – is a common living space of the monks that are built with the 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, the Tihany building complex is a monastery and an abbey. Andrew I. established it in 1055. Although primarily written in Latin, the charter 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, moved the monks of the Benedict order away, and the soldiers moved in their place. If you walk by the lookout tower, you will easily see why. This height had a strategic significance since you can see the Balaton region due to the beautiful circular panorama.
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 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 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's eyes could also be satisfied.
- Address: Tihany, Andrew I. square 1, 8237
#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 games. At the same time, there is 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 organized 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
Every year around mid-June, the Tihany Lavender Festival is held, which is maybe the biggest and most important celebration of Tihany.
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 in the country but 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 a celebration, it is worth visiting Tihany during the festival if you like lavender. Not only does the city turn 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; 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, and foods await you at the location.
- 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
#3 The Inner Lake
Despite the not-so-creative name, the location is beautiful. The peninsula hides such funny treasures: a lake on the outside, a lake on the inside. With its constantly re-established fish stocks, the inland lake is a classic yet 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 well-known actors and musicians visit during the summer.
Around the lake, horses, Hungarian Grey cattle, and an authentic shadoof await the kids. Despite the significant lake area, few people know about it; therefore, it lacks tourist crowds. If you are tired of the busy city, you can take a calming walk here.
- Open: 0-24, every day
- Entry: free
- Address: Inner Lake, Tihany
#4 Golden House Geyser Cone
I will invite you to hike if you are ever around Inner Lake. One of the destinations of the 9-10 kilometres long Tihany round tours 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 was 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 recognize the biggest geyser rock, Aranyház, by its yellowy lichen.
Outer Lake, Tihany
After continuing the road, you will see the Outer Lake, a swampy area with rich flora and beautiful birds. Like the Inner Lake, its water is a caldera, indicating a past volcanic presence. It’s crazy; think about it, there were huge volcanoes in this peaceful scenery once upon a time.
- The Aranyház Geyser Cone is open all year round, there’s no entrance fee.
- Open: 0-24, every day
- Entry: free
- Address: Tihany, Aranyház Geyser Cone
#5 Hermit’s Caves
The Tihany hermit’s caves were inhabited from the middle of the XI. century until the XIV. century. Of the original 10 caves, there are only 3 remaining and the traces of 2 others.
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 ’90s, the preservation works finally started; however, these unique historical monuments were destroyed due to previous landslides.
- The hermit’s caves are free to visit all year long, there’s no entry.
- Open: 0-24, every day
- Entry: free
- Address: Tihany, 8237, Hermit’s Caves
#6 Tihany country houses
If you want to immerse yourself more in the local lifestyle, you will find two country houses, between St. Batthyany and Pisky Promenade, staged specifically for this cause. The two buildings, “Farmer” House and “Fisherman” House were renovated in 2018, so they await visitors in full glory.
The names are quite telling, for in the first house you can find out about a life of a contemporary farmer, while the second one is equipped with the tools used by local fishermen, showcasing past items.
- Entry: free
- Address: 8237 Tihany, Pisky Promenade 12.
#8 Mill Museum
And if you continue on this line, I would like to look at still working, hundreds of years old mill, heading towards Örvényes, 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 once belonged to the Benedict Abbey located in the centre of the peninsula, they renovated it in XVIII. century, then the state-owned it.
Today it functions as a museum, demonstrating how the hundreds of small mills worked, which used the water streams of rivers flowing on the North shore for the past centuries.
- Open: Tuesday - Sunday, 09:00 - 16:00
- Closed: Mondays
- Address: Örvényes, Szent Imre St. 3, 8242
#9 Kövesdi Church Ruins
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, it was not by chance that our ancestors built their church here. The previous building was a Roman altar, which they “overwrite” like this.
- Open: every day, 0-24
- Prices: free to visit
- Address: Kövesdi church ruins, Aszófő, Romkápolna St., 8241
#10 Tihany Doll Museum
The museum was established by the Filotas married couple (Sybille and Tivadar) in 1994, which consists only of their 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 from 09:00 - 17:00. The entry for adults is 800 forint, while the discounted tickets are 600 HUF.
- Season: May - September
- Open: (every day) 09:00 - 17:00
- Adult entry: 800 HUF
- Address: Tihany, Visszhang St. 4, 8237
#11 Marzipan House - Museum and Sweets shop
The Marzipan House and museum are in a nicely renovated monument house 200 meters from the Tihany Abbey. You can see unique, handmade figures, and tale scenes made from marzipan.
The sweets shop offers yummy Szamos marzipans and handmade, unique chocolates for the little ones and elders.
- 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)
- Address: Tihany, Batthyány u. 17.
- Website: none
Balaton is often criticized – especially the North shore – that one settlement is like the other. Although I can’t entirely refute this, there surely are beautiful exceptions on every corner of the lake.
Regarding uniqueness, Tihany takes the crown. It is a Balaton city, an Austrian village, a great hiking spot with beautiful panoramic views, a boating lake, and a fishing paradise.
Tihany offers great activities for families as well. 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 shoot 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 come back here!