It was a beautiful summer day and we were in Hungary for three weeks to explore the best of the countryside. Just a short drive away from the famous Lake Balaton, we found ourselves in front of the grand and exquisite Festetics Palace, one of the most beautiful palaces in Hungary.
Excitedly we entered. Our footsteps echoed in the expansive halls as we walked along the corridors of this most famous aristocratic residence in Hungary. It’s a sprawling and beautifully maintained manor that showcases the best of the Baroque architecture style, from the dramatic high ceilings to the grand oak staircase. Several hallways were adorned with colorful paintings and portraits of family members.
ABOUT THE FESTETICS FAMILY OF HUNGARY
The Festetics were a very interesting family. Christopher Festetics, the head of the family, bought the Keszthely estate and chose it as the center of his estates. After the palace was built in 1745, he brought a surgeon and craftsmen to the town. Then he also built a pharmacy and a hospital.
Later on, Paul Festetics III, Christopher’s son, would establish the first primary and secondary schools in the city, even while he was actively involved in his political activities as the Queen’s advisor and the Vice-President of the Hungarian
Chamber. Meanwhile, George I would follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps by contributing to the city’s development. He organized the Helikon Festivities in 1817 and was responsible for adding the beautiful library wing in the Festetics Palace, where thousands of books can be found today. A later descendant, Ada Festetics, became the most trusted lady in waiting to the Austrian Empress Elisabeth, who was also Empress of Hungary, and who was known as Sisi. Countess Ada Festetics was one of the few Hungarians inside the inner sanctums of the royal palace in Vienna.
As for the Festetics wealth, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that the Festetics basically built the city of Keszthely from the ground up.
WHERE TO GO IN KESZTHELY
The crown jewel of the Festetics Palace is of course its beautiful interiors. These give you an idea of how Hungarian aristocrats once lived. The library of the palace is especially famous for being one of the best in its time. It was an excellent and also exquisite storehouse of knowledge.
The gardens of Festetics Palace were just as grand. The flowerbeds were bursting with color and fragrance when we visited, and the trees provided a cool canopy to walk under. It was a serene and happy kind of afternoon.
The pretty town of Keszthely straddles the best of both worlds when it comes to location. It’s removed from the crowded tourist destinations by the shores of Lake Balaton and yet accessible to Lake Heviz, which is known for its healing waters. Its relaxed and quiet ambiance allowed us to slow down and enjoy ourselves at a more leisurely pace. Amidst this, the Festetics Palace is literally the jewel in the crown.