Going to Lake Balaton for a weekend sounds fun, doesn’t it? If you want to do something beyond having parties and sunbathing, I can recommend a classy place to go to. Festetics Palace in Keszthely is a masterpiece of castle architecture in Hungary, and also one of the most popular attractions at Lake Balaton. The city of Keszthely is an hour drive from the Hungarian Ibiza, Siófok, but Rezi’s dinosaur park and Tagore Promenade of Balatonfüred are not far either. Exploring every part of Festetics Palace takes a whole day because there are so many things to see in at and out of it. The Castle Museum features original rooms decorated with authentical furniture, originating from the 18th century. In the modern museum building, besides Hungary's richest hunting exhibition, we can admire the largest model railway baseboard in Central Europe. Many values can be seen in the most breathtaking castle in the region of Balaton, which is not only an imposing monument but also a cultural sanctuary.
The Festetics Family, who had a Croatian origin, moved to Hungary in the 17th century, and there the beginnings started. In 1739, Kristóf Festetics bought the estate and had a palace built, called Festetics Palace. A little curiosity - the current palace's eastern wing was built during this first construction period. The original Baroque, one-storied, U-shaped mansion had quite little side wings, yet, according to the inventory of the age, it had 34 rooms altogether. A few decades later, in 1804, Kristóf’s grandson continued the building operations: the large library, the former archives underneath it, and the chapel are all relating to his name.
The park of Festetics Palace has been declared a nature reserve. The castle grounds feature a palm house, a carriage exhibition, and there is a new building to provide a home to the hunting exhibition and the historical model railway exhibition.
This very collection is Hungary's one and only aristocratic library that remained fully unspoiled. It includes a book collection of the Festetics Family that had been piled up for two centuries. The library keeps more than 500 years of knowledge and art on its shelves, not only Hungarian written materials and cultural treasures, but also pieces in almost all major European languages.
The hunting exhibition is a rare collection of more than 200 species, shot on five different continents. Most of the animals' trophies can be visited by walking in their "natural habitat". It is due to the fact that the Festetics Family has a very rich history in hunting. Their trophy collection disappeared from the castle during World War II, so unfortunately, it was impossible to represent them. However, with recalling aristocratic hunts in a way the exhibition does, the visitor can get a complete picture of their former lifestyle. The permanent Hunting Museum was opened in 2008 with trophies that constantly provide experts with a remarkable spectacle, and give all visitors experience and knowledge.
One of the largest historical model railway exhibitions in Europe can be seen on the rooftop of the Hunting Museum. The total length of the baseboard is more than 2.7 kilometers, and it is based on real-life routes and aerial photographs.
In the Palace, there are countless cultural programs that are organized from time to time all year round. Therefore, it's beyond dispute that Festetics Palace, on the one hand, is the most imposing monument in the Balaton area, and on the other hand, it's a cultural sanctuary. Besides, the city of Keszthely itself has a lot to offer. At the end of the day, you can watch the most beautiful sunset on the beach, while you are eating delicious ice cream or having a great meal at one of the dozens of nice restaurants.
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