If you are looking to experience the Balaton region from the viewpoint of a 13th century king, you are welcome to visit the former residence of King Béla IV. Appreciate the most beautiful view on Balaton Lake the king had from his bedroom window, and imagine how he could strategically plan his attack when he saw the enemy on the horizon from the top of his defense walls. Travel back in time and feel what it must have been like to be the king or queen of Hungary by exploring the Szigliget Castle.
Situated on the northwest side of Lake Balaton, close to the wine region Badacsony, you find the Szigliget Castle on top of a mountain, right outside the town Szigliget. This monument, also referred to as Balaton Castle, is the only castle around Lake Balaton that is open for visitors. The castle was built in the 13th century, when King Béla IV made a smart move to approve the building of this particular fortress made of stone which would protect the Hungarians against the bloody attacks from the Turkish. Back then, the mountain was surrounded by a swamp, and stood on the top of a volcanic peak.
The construction itself was built by the Benedictines of Pannonhalma between 1260 and 1262, stated by the king that “barbarians and tartar tyrants destroyed our country it is hereby decreed; let fortresses be built and castles erected in all estates of our crown where our people may hide in times of persecutions (…) Therefore an island in Lake Balaton where a mountain convenient for erecting a fortress abundantly and effectively suitable for these purposes be given to the church of St. Martin of Pannonhalma”.
The castle changed hands multiple times, standing mighty and strong against countless of attacks, but over the centuries it slowly lost its power to remain, and was finally destroyed by the Habsburgs. It was only in the 20th century that the locals started to collect the stones from the castle walls and took the tiresome effort to restore the castle to its former glory.
The current state of the castle allows us to enter all corners, we can see the old baroque kitchen, private rooms of the estate, the castle chapel and the weapon exhibition in the old village. The castle also has a small playground, and at the foot of the castle you can find a coffeehouse called Várkávézó. You can buy small handcrafted souvenirs and when I visited, in the middle of August, also a gastronomic festival was held there.
If you are looking for a historically fascinating place with a breathtaking view, you will find everything you are looking for in Szigliget Castle. A visit is ideal when you are already in the area, for example staying at the lake side for a holiday or while enjoying the wine region of Badacsony, and you would like to dip into some culture on the way. I combined the trip with an adventurous trip to the Lake Caves of Tapolca, about which you will be able to read more in another blogpost. The best way is to reach the castle by car, and the approximate time to spend walking around the castle itself is about 1 to 2 hours. The castle is open for visitors everyday throughout the whole year, a ticket costs 1000ft for adults, 500ft for children (5-18yrs), and dogs are welcomed to enter.