Referred to as the capital of the Balaton, Keszthely is indeed a cultural center of the lake and a popular destination among tourists.
The sights of the city include many museums, beaches, places for sailing, restaurant, and notable historical and religious monuments which all add to the wonderful atmosphere of Keszthely.
Festetics Palace The palace, built in the 18th century, holds many exhibitions through which we can get a glimpse of the noblemen's life in the 18th-19th centuries. The Helikon library is the only intact aristocratic collection in Hungary.
Museums of Keszthely We can find many unique and interesting exhibitions in the city, ranging from an Renaissance panopticum presenting erotic waxworks, through the Balaton Museum where we can learn about the history of the lake, to the Marzipan Museum and the Kitsch and Nostalgia Museum.
Our Lady of Hungary Church The church standing on the main square and the connecting monastery were commissioned to be built by István Laczkfy in 1386. Its 60 meters tall steeple was added by Tasziló Festetics in 1878. In the 1970's, a large series of frescoes were discovered under the plaster and they were renovated.
City Beach Located near the city center, the beach has an area of 30 000 nm². There are many sports pitches here, and visitors can try the paddle boat, mini golf, the giant slide and there is also free parking and free wifi.
Little Saint Therese Carmelite Basilica The monumental Neo-Romanesque church was built at the end of the 1920's. The church received the rank of Basilica Minor in 1989.
Island Bath The bath, constructed in 1846, was the first bathhouse of the Balaton built on water. It was rebuilt in a modern style in the 1960's, but in the 2000's its original, 19th century outlook was reconstructed.
Helikon Park In the protected, 17 hectares large park we can many memorials and statues, have pleasant strolls among the trees. Still, the most well known part of the park is the columned, domed Helikon Memorial, a symbol of Keszthely.
Halászcsárda (Fisherman's Inn) The inn located next to Helikon Beach was built by the Festetics family in the 1930's. The specialties of the restaurant were the local fish dishes and music was provided by the famous gypsy violinist, János Tigris. Since 2012, the resaurant operates again in its full glory.
Helikon Beach The predecessor of the beach was opened in 1927, and the Helikon Beach started operating in the 1950's. At the beach, far away from the traffic, we can rent paddle boats or kayaks, play volleyball or football on the sandy field.
Pethő or Goldmark House Originally built in the 15th century, the building current outlook is due to a renovation in the 18th century by its then owner Kristóf Festetics. In the beginning of the 19th century, the Goldmark family lived here, and the famous composer, Károly Goldmark (Carl Goldmark) was born here.
Synagogue The synagogue is located in the garden of the Pethő – Goldmark House and it was built in the second half of the 18th century by Kristóf Festetics. In front of the entrance there is a black marble obelisk which stands as a memorial for those perished in Auschwitz.
Festetics Mausoleum Four members of the Festetics family rest in the cemetery at the southern side of Keszthely. Their monumental family museum was commissioned by Tasziló Festetics in 1925. The building was renovated in 2015 and even György IV Festetics was present at the opening ceremony.
Libás Beach The bath, constructed in 1846, was the first bathhouse of the Balaton built on water. It was rebuilt in a modern style in the 1960's, but in the 2000's its original, 19th century outlook was reconstructed.
Reformed Church The church was designed by Bálint Szeghalmy and dedicated in 1932. The Transylvanian style wooden steeple houses a bell named "Galley Slave" which was casted by László Szlezák.
Other sights: Székely gate, Hotel Hullám, Balaton Congress Centre and Theatre, Dongó House, Holy Family Church, Evangelic Church, Statue of György Festetics, Holy Trinity Statue, ruins of the St. Lawrence Chapel, Festetics Mausoleum, "Festetics Imre" Zoo.
Similarly to Hévíz, the city’s surroundings have been continuously inhabited since the Neolithic (8000 years ago). Many findings from the Copper Age and graves from the Bronze Age were found. The Celts appeared in the 4th century BC and they were followed by the Romans in 12 BC. A significant, forted Roman settlement was built south to Keszthely named Valcum. The two early Christian basilicas found here were used up until the Migration Period in the 7th century proven by the tombs found from this era. Some assume that the name of the city comes from the Latin castrum (fort). After the Romans, the tribes of the Migration Period have also left their traces, Hun and Avar graveyards were found here.
After the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin, the area became the king’s property. The first written mention is from 1247 as Kezthel. Later it had many owners until Charles I gave it to the Laczkfy family, though they could not own it for long as their lands were seized for charges of treason in 1397. The Gothic style Franciscan church was built in 1386 partly from the stones of the Roman fort. After the Ottomans were driven out, the church was rebuilt in Baroque style. The monastery standing next to it was built between 1723-1730, also in Baroque style.
Keszhely was already a market town in the 15th century. It had many owners until it became the property of the Pető family in the 1430’s. The Petős had many houses in the city before, one of which, the Goldmark house can be seen today.
The growth of the city was ended by the appearance of the Ottomans. At this time, the Franciscan church and the monastery was turned into a walled fort which was connected to the Balaton by a canal. Later this fort had a role in Rákóczi’s War of Independence. After the Treaty of Szatmár (1711) its walls were demolished, its trenches were filled up.
In 1739, the Festetics family acquired the city who built their Baroque Palace in 1745 and later expanded it with a chapel (1769-1770), a southern wing and a library (1792-1800). During the Festetics’s time, Keszthely became a prominent cultural center. In 1797, György Festetics founded Europe’s first agricultural higher educational institution, the Georgikon here. Today, the Copf style building is an agricultural museum. It was also him who organised the first Helikon Festival in 1817 with the participation of noblemen and women interested in literature. (Helicon is a mountain in Greece, according to the mythology it is the home of the muses; also a group of authors was called by this name.)
The next important step in the development of the city was the opening of the Balatonszentgyörgy–Keszthely railway in 1888.