Immerse in the spas of Budapest

Immerse in the spas of Budapest

by Jason Park
Stripes Europe

The history of hot springs in Budapest goes back to Roman times. Ever since the Romans colonized the area around the Danube River valley, where Budapest is located, inhabitants have used the thermal hot springs to relax and bathe in its healing properties. While the Roman baths aren’t functioning today, you can still see the ruins of these huge, ancient spas.

When the Turks occupied Budapest in the mid-16th century to 17th century, they brought their love for baths. They set up numerous baths, some of which have been renovated and can be visited today.

Since then, many more baths have been constructed. As the spa capital of the world, Budapest has almost 125 thermal baths and some of the largest in Europe, all offering various styles and amenities for travelers and locals alike. While it would be a pleasure to visit each bathhouse, there simply isn’t enough time, especially for tourists. To help you choose, here’s my top-three list of Budapest baths.

Rudas Baths

Built in the 1560s by the Ottomans, Rudas is one of the oldest Turkish bathhouses in Budapest. You feel like you are transported back to the 16th century after entering the traditional baths. The walls and the overall décor maintain a traditional Turkish look. There’s also a more modern bath on the rooftop of the wellness center, where you can see the skyline as well as the mountains. Grab a drink from the bar and enjoy the view from the upstairs bath for a relaxing evening.

There are six thermal baths and one swimming pool, where the temperature ranges from 16 to 42 degrees Celsius. The baths are filled with minerals that purportedly have healing and rejuvenating properties. A minor inconvenience for couples is that the baths aren’t always co-ed. Tuesdays are women-only days, and the rest of the weekdays are for men only. During the weekend, however, the baths are co-ed. The Rudas also offers the unique experience of nighttime bathing, which starts at 10 p.m. and ends at 4 a.m., on weekends only. 

There are three options for the baths: the wellness center, the thermal baths and the swimming pool. Visitors can choose between full day, morning hours, afternoon swimming and night swimming, each at different prices.

Szechenyi Baths

Probably the most-well known baths in Budapest, as well as the largest and most popular, the Szechenyi Baths has more than 18 pools, three outside and 15 inside. In 2016, the baths won Best International Medical Thermal Baths by the IMTJ Medical Travel Awards 2016.

Styled like a Baroque palace, the interior and exterior decorations are striking. The many baths are filled with people, especially mid-day. During the later hours, around 6 to 7 p.m., there are fewer people, and it’s quieter. Despite the crowds, the baths are pretty nice. Almost all the baths are warm, up to 38 degrees Celsius, and clean.

The swimming pools are the most impressive part of the baths. Three large pools compose much of the outdoor scenery. The décor and grandeur of the place is a sight to be behold.

The bathhouse’s prices aren’t too expensive. The basic weekday and weekend tickets with lockers are 14 and 14.50 euros, and for private cabins, 15 euros and 16 euros, respectively. The baths, like most in the city, also offer a wide variety of services such as aroma and body massages at varying prices. Unlike the Rudas Baths, the Szechenyi Baths are always co-ed.

Gellért Baths

Located at Hostel Gellért, the Gellért bathhouse is one of the most visually appealing in Budapest. Built over former Turkish baths in 1912, the Art Nouveau style of the baths offers a refreshing, unique spa compared to the many others in Budapest. 

The halls are paved with mosaics, and the stylistic columns add to the interior’s beauty. The central pool has a top opening, which lets sunshine through, and inward-facing balconies for people to enjoy the view. The decorative statues and stained-glass windows enhance the look of the baths. The baths are supplied with water from the hot springs directly below and are filled with natural minerals. 

The baths feature 13 pools, as well as saunas and plunge pools. The open-air swimming pool generates artificial waves every 30 minutes and is a fun experience. While the baths aren’t huge like the Szechenyi Baths, the complex is still quite large and significantly less busy. Those looking for a quieter and more relaxing experience should check out these baths.

Gellért is a bit pricier than most baths; basic weekday tickets and weekend tickets cost about 16 and 16.50 euros, both including lockers. For cabins, you'll pay 17 euros weekdays and 17.50 on weekends. Massage services and other amenities are also offered.

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