Since 1912, the most significant building in the town of Siófok has been the water tower that overlooks the city; however, its condition had visibly deteriorated over time due to decades of neglect. In 2012, however, a century after its completion, the newly-renovated Water Tower was reopened to the public and is today living a second life as an elegant, modern, unique place of entertainment.
The tower, at forty-five meters in height, is the tallest and most prominent building in Siófok. It was designed by Jenő Gergely and Árpád Gut of Budapest, who were known for their reinforced concrete designs. Planning began in 1911, and a year later the water tower was officially opened. After completion, the tower distributed Siófok’s drinking and fire water, though there was limited access during the First World War due to fighting.
The water used was accessed through drilled wells; however, after those dried up in 1929, the tower could no longer provide the denizens of the city with the water they required. As a result of, the town’s water system was rebuilt between 1929 and 1935 so that from the middle of the 30’s Siófok drew its water from Lake Balaton. Shortly thereafter, in the Second World War, the German military used the water tower as an artillery observation station. In fact, in 1944, the tower itself was struck by an anti-tank cannon shot. After the war, it was renovated in 1946 and returned to a usable condition. The water tower served its original purpose until 1973, when the 5000 cubic meter water reservoir in the neighboring town, Balatonkiliti- which is still used to the present day- was completed, making the water tower obsolete. Froom 1980 until its recent renovation, the Tower remained a mostly abandoned tourist attraction in the heart of the city, while the ground floor hosted Siófok’s Tourinform office.
Restoration commenced in 2010, and also included the main square at the foot of the tower. The tower was ready in 2012, on its 100th anniversary. Nowadays, it no longer stores water, instead it serves as a lookout tower and spot for many entertainment and relaxation opportunities that can be accessed by the panoramic elevator. A breathtaking experience is offered by the 360° plan, which includes the Szentkirályi Café and Oxygen Bar; the tower is also home to the Samsung Experience. In addition, there is a closed lookout area on the highest level which rotates, so you can view all that the panorama has to offer while sitting in one place. The renovation project cost 420 million forints (1.34 million euros), and Siófok received 300 million forints (954,000 euros) in support from the EU-financed New Széchenyi Plan. The rest of the funding for the project- the remaining 120 million forints (380,000 euros)- was provided by the local government. Though the original form of the building was preserved, renovations have transformed it into a modern, elegant tower both inside and out.
According to the homepage of the Siófok Water Tower, the Oxygen Bar offers an “amazing round panorama” where “guests can relax with delicious coffee specialties, refreshments and cakes.” The special feature of the bar is that it houses canisters of “95% oxygen” that can be inhaled by visitors. But how, exactly, does this work? Guests can sit, free of charge, at specially-designed tables where they can put on masks and immediately inhale “fresh” oxygen (while, normally, air has an oxygen content of roughly 21% oxygen, the air that the ‘Bar’ offers is nearly pure oxygen, which supposedly has a stimulating effect). Interestingly, the Siófok Water Tower’s Oxygen Bar is the first of its kind in Hungary.
This is also where one can find the aforementioned Samsung Experience Center, which rotates above the city and dazzles visitors with the latest technology, allowing one to enjoy a 360-degree panorama of breathtaking Lake Balaton or Somogy County, all while relaxing in a comfortable chair as touchscreens nearby provide detailed information about all of the sights below. The entrance fee to the Siófok Water Tower is 800 forint (2.50 euro), and the building is open all summer, from 9:00 to 24:00, while during the winter season it can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday.