Budapest rests on top of a fault line, and its thermal baths are naturally fed by over a hundred hot springs. Some of the thermal baths built over these springs date back to the 16th century.
If you are going to Budapest, visiting a Thermal Spring is a must if you wish to fully experience the vibe of the city. Apart from having the most relaxing time of your life, of course.
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A Look Inside the Thermal Baths
The layout of most of Budapest’s baths is similar: a series of indoor thermal pools where temperatures range from warm to hot, steam rooms, saunas, ice-cold plunge pools and rooms for massage. Some have outdoor pools with fountains, sprays and whirlpools, and pools for swimming laps. However, each spa has its own atrractions, such as the Saturday night “sparties” at Széchenyi, the wine tub at Gellért, the drinking hall at Lukács and the rooftop hot tub at Rudas.
The Thermal Bath’s General Rules
A couple of things are necessary to have when visiting any of the thermal baths in Budapest, and those are:
- Swimwear (no one wants to see you swimming in your underwear)
- Towel (for obvious reasons)
- Flip-Flops (the floor can get really slippery inside)
Although most thermal baths rent or sell these accessories, it is best to bring your own if you can. Swimming caps must be worn by those swimming in the lap pools.
Upon entering, you get a watch-shaped electronic bracelet that serves as a key to a locker or cabin where you can leave your belongings. Staff will be around to assist you if needed. Most baths offer a full range of treatments including massages, so always specify at the entrance what services you need. Admission charges will vary accordingly.
Before plunging into the warm waters, always take a shower, and if you have long hair, you should tie it back. Be sure to keep the noise down inside the pools, as these are usually places where people go to relax and escape from the rest of the world. Signs specify the temperature of each pool, and sometimes advise on how much time to spend inside.
Yeah, these pools are not your common backyard ones! Remaining inside the pool for long periods of time can mess with the functioning of the internal organs and cause a bad case of dizziness and nausea, something that I myself experienced for being so stubborn.
Choosing a Thermal Bath
Széchenyi Baths – Széchenyi is the largest spa complex in Europe, and probably Budapest’s most popular baths. The outdoor section is stunning, but it gets quite busy. Iconic “sparties” take place here on some Saturday nights.
Gellért Baths – With stained-glass windows and colourful porcelain tiles adorning the walls, Gellért Baths is a masterpiece of art nouveau architecture. It’s certainly one of the most stunning historic spas in the Hungarian capital, making bathing feel like a royal ritual.
Rudas Baths – Rudas has been in operation since the Turkish conquest of Hungary in the 16th century. Its biggest attraction is a rooftop hot tub providing a pretty view of the Pest skyline. Rudas is the only bath that still holds same-sex days on weekdays.
Lukács Baths – Lukács is a real medical mecca proven by the marble memorial plaques installed in the bath’s park, giving thanks in various languages to the institution and its medical staff for healing. It’s also enormous, and houses a drinking hall offering the same water that supplies the baths – coming from a newer well – rich in calcium, hydrogen-carbonate, sulphate, chloride as well as sodium and fluoride ions.