Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is renowned for its thermal baths. This splendid city, which used to be a playground for the Ottomans and the Hapsburgs, has seen its fair share of triumphs and defeats. Even though the history of Budapest is a long and complicated one, the citizens of this European capital, and tourists alike, can soak their stress away in traditional Turkish baths.
Ornate public bathhouses, with indoor and outdoor pools, are dotted all over the city. Aficionados of sweltering steam rooms, and thermal pools full of minerals like calcium, hydrogen-carbonate, magnesium, sodium, sulfate and fluoride ions can sigh with relief after arriving in Budapest. Co-ed and segregated (by sex) bathing options are available, which could make your bathing experience extremely sociable, or a simple paradise without any distractions or chit chat to get in the way of your bathing bliss. Here are some of the best thermal bathhouses and spas Budapest has to offer.
Gellért Thermal Bath
The Gellért Thermal Bath is an extremely popular bathhouse with visitors to Budapest. Back in the day, the spring water emanating from this spot put a smile on many a Turk’s face. You’ll find indoor and outdoor pools here, as well as a ton of mosaics and fancy décor to inspire you. With two effervescent bathing areas, three outdoor pools and eight thermal baths, there’s plenty of water here to help you get your “soak on.” Mud treatments and medical healing massages are just some of the other treats available as well. You could easily spend the better part of day here enjoying the good life.
The Király Baths date back to the 16th century. Wherever the Ottoman Turks conquered and occupied for an extended period of time, their wonder bathhouse culture followed. Although the Király Baths could probably use a bit of renovation, the bathing experience here definitely lands on the “authentic” side of things. Locals and students tend to make use of this place due to the low prices. Take note of the octagonal pool with the moody dome looming overhead. With a little imagination, you can picture the Turks of old lingering in these piped-in thermal waters, discussing politics and the gossip of the day.
If you really want to escape the tourist crowds and hang out with locals, the Lukács Baths are for you. While you won’t be treated to opulence or screaming children here, you will get to spend time in one heck of a cool bathing facility. Hungarians, not foreigners, dominate the scene, thanks to the reasonable prices and the healing drinking water and drinking fountain on hand.
If you show up on a Saturday night, the vibe will be very different, as the Lukács Baths have become something of a “hot spot” (pun intended) for the spa and thermal bath party scene. Sometimes people need a strong drink, and someone to chat with, along with their thermal soak.
For a more “commercial” spa experience, you might want to think about heading over to Margaret Island, where you’ll be able to experience the Palatinus Lido. This massive bathing complex, next to the Danube River, occupies a good deal of acreage. Jacuzzis are on offer for folks who like water jets shooting into their spines. Water coming from springs located on the island fills the thermal baths. In addition to a hot soak, you’ll find plenty of large outdoor baths, as well as a wave pool for the children and adults to frolic in.
The Széchenyi Thermal Bath
For a truly mind-blowing thermal bathing destination, you can’t go wrong with Budapest’s Széchenyi Thermal Bath. Billed as the largest medicinal bath in this part of the world, the Széchenyi Thermal Bath (located in City Park) serves up a ton of bathing possibilities. The “artesian baths” could very well make make you feel like a king, if you consider the surrounding sculptures and palatial-like buildings, not to mention the immense size of the facility. Chessboards in the baths, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, underwater back massaging jets plus boiling steam rooms should offer enough space for the most intrepid of bathing experts to explore. It wouldn’t be hard to spend an entire day here — and turn into a wrinkly prune in the process.
The Rudas Baths are very old. This Turkish bathing locale was built in the 1500s. When you first visit, if you sense you’ve seen this place before, you might be right. Arnold Schwarzenegger got into a choreographed “naked” fight here in his film Red Heat. This bathhouse isn’t for playing and roaming about. Rather, the Rudas Baths are for taking in a traditional Hungarian and Turkish atmosphere, while soaking in thermal water. It’s a gorgeous facility steeped in history, which makes it a great place to relax, and let your troubles evaporate away.