Budapest baths

Budapest baths – places to heal, relax and have fun

Budapest is a city built on 123 thermal springs and people have been using the water for many, many centuries, at least since the 4th century BC, so it was not us, Hungarians who experienced its healing and relaxing powers.

Baths are one of the main attractions of Budapest so no trip to this city would be complete without a day at the famous baths.

What to bring to the baths

It would be wise to bring a few items when you visit any of the baths:

 

  • bathing suit
  • flip-flops (nonslip sole)
  • swim caps
  • towels
  • some snacks, and drinks
  • suncream (from spring to autumn)
Legs in a pool

Budapest baths - advices

  • go on weekdays, on the weekends the baths are full
  • wearing a swimming costume is obligatory in baths, the only exception is Rudas
  • try to not getting lost in the labyrinth of lockers – remind yourself that you are a wanderer, not lost
  • water temperatures are usually somewhere between 30-40 degrees Celsius (85 to 105 Fahrenheit). Use the cooling pools after thermal pools and saunas, but be careful. Do it gradually, slowly. I had the most severe headache in my life when I first tried to “jump” into a cooling pool after sauna. I saw that experienced Hungarians and Russians were doing the same without any problem. On the other hand I almost died at scene
  • bring sandals, towels (at least 3: one to put on the beds, one for your body and one for your head) and a swimming cap
  • remove your jewelry: the sulfur in the water can damage or discolor certain metals
  • entering the baths, you will get a little bracelet that gets you in and out between the pool areas and lockers. You will have to scan this bracelet to get through the entry turnstiles.

The difference between healing and thermal waters

Water can be considered “thermal” in Hungary if its temperature is more than 30 Celsius. Healing or medical water are mineral-rich waters with proven healing properties. Being hot is not a criteria for medical water.

There are 123 springs which produce about 70 million liters (that is about the amount of water in thirty 50-metre swimming pools) of thermal water every day.

Medicinal waters can be used three ways:

  • drinking (to cure stomach, liver, kidney or gall problems)
  • bathing (for rheumatism and muscle pains)
  • breathing (respiratory diseases)

About Budapest Baths

The mineral content is similar in the baths, but each has different amenities, architecture and crowds.

The first golden age of the baths dates back to the Roman legionaries, who used more than 15 baths in the area.

Later, when Buda became the royal capital, even King Matthias visited the bath houses, covered corridors were found running from the Buda Castle to Rác Thermal Baths.

The 145 years of Turkish occupation resulted in a flourishing bath culture (Rudas and Király baths).

With all these medical properties and abundance of baths I have to admit that the vast majority of Hungarians don’t go to the baths regularly. The majority of the visitors in the baths are tourists (especially in Széchenyi and Gellért).

Locals who go to baths are usually (elderly) patients looking to treat their illnesses like muscle pain, rheumatoid arthritis and other degenerative diseases of joints.  They usually get social security-supported medical treatments like medicinal water pools, mud-packs, underwater traction, medical massages, underwater group gymnastics.

Which baths to choose?

There are plenty of baths to choose from and each has it’s own distinct feeling:

Széchenyi Thermal Baths and Swimming Pools

Széchenyi spa columns

1146 Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 11

Opening hours: 06:00-22:00

http://www.szechenyibath.hu

Drinking fountain (Monday-Saturday): 09:00-17:00

Széchenyi Baths is the winner of the Hungarian Quality Product Award.

It is one of the largest spa complexes in Europe and was the first bath to be built in Pest.

Built in a modern renaissance style between 1909 and 1913.

As you walk towards it’s building it will feel like walking towards a palace. With all the details and columns, it has a palatial feeling inside, too.

The healing waters are sourced from 1246m deep, the second deepest well in Budapest.

Its temperature is 76 Celsius.

The model of this building can be seen at the “Mini Europe” exhibition in Brussels as part of Hungary’s contribution.

The entry ticket includes some wellness services (gyms, saunas, aerobic and group exercises in the pool) in additional to the traditional balneological services.

Chemical characteristics of the water:

Certified medicinal water that contains magnesium-hydrogen-carbonates, calcium, sulphates, fluoride.

It has 10 thermal pool, 1 cooling pool, 2 immersion pools inside and 1 swimming pool, 1 activity pool, 1 thermal pool outdoors.

The total water surface is 2712 square meters.

Széchenyi Baths

The large lap pool is in the centre of the outdoor area, with two smaller pools on both ends. One of these pools has a spiral part where water pushes you around like a lazy river. The pool on the other side is where people sit to play chess at the side. I’m sure you have already seen photos about it.

It worth staying in Széchenyi until dark as it has a different feeling at night as the steam rise off the hot pools, lit by the lights that make a halo around everything.

Inside there are many connected rooms with pools. Take your time to look around and try all.

Additional services for fee:

The medical treatments include: mud-packs, underwater traction, bathing in carbonated water, medical massage treatment, underwater jet massage, group exercises and complex balneological care.

Some of the services: “lavender dream” treatment, aroma massages, royal thermal massage, refreshing head massage, foot massage, Thai massage, pedicure, cosmetic services, solarium, drinking fountain, sale of medicinal water and mud, examination by rheumatological specialist.

Medical recommendations

  • degenerative diseases of the joints
  • chronic and semi-chronic articular inflammation
  • orthopaedic and accident after-treatments

Cures by drinking

  • chronic gastric catarrh, gastric ulcer, intestinal catarrh
  • hyperacidity
  • chronic inflammation of the pelvis of the kidney and the ureters
  • certain types of kidney stone diseases
  • chronic catarrh of the respiratory organs
  • prevention and treatment of the shortage of calcium in the osseous system
  • influencing the gouty disorders of the metablism
  • assisting bilitation in the case of certain diseases of the gall bladder and the biliary routes

There is also a “beer spa” where you sit in tubs for two and while you are soaking in thermal waters and beer ingredients, you also drink unlimited amount of beer.

Széchenyi also has pool parties on Saturday nights, called Sparties.

St. Gellért Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool

1118 Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4.

Opening hours: 06:00-20:00

http://www.gellertbath.hu

The Gellért Bath is part of the Gellért Hotel that opened in 1918.

The Gellért Bath was built between 1912 and 1918. Archdukes, presidents (Richard Nixon), maharajas, actors (Anthony Quinn) and even the Dalai Lama stayed here.

It is still one of the most popular and best-known baths, attracting visitors from around the globe.

The entrance of the Baths is not through the front hotel entrance, but through the building’s right side. You will see signs to help you.

Inside the building you will be greeted by statues, columns and stained glass.

After entering inside the baths section, first you walk through a long hallway. There are little circular windows along the wall, looking out onto a pool so you can see as people swim by. It feels like being underwater.  The windows are lit with colored lights.

As you arrive to the changing rooms, you feel certainly feel the organized chaos. There is a labyrinth of cabins (you can pay extra for these cabins where you can change and leave your stuff). If you do not pay for a cabin, you will get a locker in a common change room. These lockers are not big so you can’t put too many stuff in there.

A statue of Gellért Baths

Gellért Baths has different pools inside and outside.

The large outdoor pool is open when the weather is not too bad, and there is an another, smaller one that is usually open. Here you can mainly sit in the water.

If you stay after dark, you can see as the exterior of the building is nicely illuminated.

For swimming, there is a swimming pool inside (you have to wear your swimming cap!). This is the pool you usually see on photographs, surrounded by columns. It has those circular windows you saw walking along the hallway. You can duck down and have a peek outside. It is one of my childhood memories. 🙂

On the balcony – overlooking this pool – you can relax in lounge chairs.

You can also find here a small buffet there to buy some drinks or snacks.

There is a room decorated with tiles which has a pool on both side.

Almost the entire range of medical services are available in the spa.

Lava stone massage, spa pedicure, chocolate treatment, Cleopatra-spa, herbal spa.

There are also services that are free of charge like the steam chambers and sauna.

In 2007 the Bath was restored, now the original pyro-granite ornamentation around the pools made by the famous Zsolnay factory and the wooden structures of the changing rooms, the stained glass windows are just as beautiful as they were originally when the spa was first built.

Gellért Baths outdoors

Chemical characteristics of the water:

Certified medical water, containing natrium, calcium-magnesium-hydrogene-carbonates, sulphates-chlorides and fluoride-ions.

Pools of Gellért Bath

It has 4 thermal pools, 2 underwater traction pools, 2 immersion pools, a bubble bath and a sitting pool, while outdoors there is a wave pool and an activity pool.

The total water surface is 1317 square meters.

It has almost the same treatments and services as Széchyenyi spa.

Medical reccommendations:

  • degenerative diseases of the joints
  • certain diseases of the spine
  • chronic and semi-chronic inflammation of the joints
  • interverbral disc diseases
  • intercostal neuralgia
  • aortic stenosis
  • circulatory diseases
  • in the inhalatorium: asthmatic disorders and chronic bronchitis.

St. Lukács Thermal Baths and Swimming Pools

1023 Budapest, Frankel Leó u. 25-29.

Opening hours: 06:00-22:00 (Sauna opens at 2pm on Mondays, drinking fountain is opened Monday-Friday from 10am to 6pm)

http://en.lukacsfurdo.hu

people swimming in the pool of Lukacs Bath

During the Turkish occupation it was the favorite bath of Pasha Mustafa, the Turkish Grand Vizier. After Buda was recaptured from the Turks in 1686, it became the property of the Treasury.

Its water considered to be the medical most effective of all of the spas in Budapest. Visitors come from all parts of the world to find remedies to their diseases. After successful recovery, many of them placed marble plaques on the walls of the spa.

It has 3 thermal pools, an immersion pool, a Kneipp, a gymnastics and an underwater traction pool indoors and 2 swimming pools and an activity pool outdoors.

Chemical characteristics of the water:

Certified medicinal waters, containing calcium-magnesium-hydrogene-carbonates, chloride and sulphate alcalia and a considerable amount of fluoride ions.

Services available free of charge:

Finnish sauna, steam chamber, hot air chamber, ice machine, Himalaya salt wall, 2000m2 sunbathing terrace, subbed, aquafitness, outdoors fitness equipment.

Services available for additional fee:

Aroma massages, powder massage, refreshing massage, Turkish massages, sauna world, salt chamber, private bathing, examination by rheumatological specialist.

Medical recommendations:

  • degenerative diseases of the joints
  • deformation of the spine
  • chronic and semi-chronic inflammation of the joints
  • interverbral disc diseases
  • intercostal neuralgia
  • low calcium concentration in the bones
  • post-traumatic treatment

Rudas Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool

Rudas Baths

1013 Budapest, Döbrentei tér 9.

http://en.rudasfurdo.hu/prices

Opining hours:

Swimming pool: 06:00-22:00

Wellness – sauna world: 08:00-22:00

Steam bath: 06:00-20:00

Female day: Tuesday

Male days: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

Co-ed: Saturday and Sunday

Night bathing (co-ed): Friday and Saturday 22:00-04:00

Rudas is not far from Gellért Baths, on the Buda side as well.

The central part of the spa was built during the Turkish occupation in the 16th century so it is almost 500 years old.

The Rudas is separated into three parts, the old Turkish part is one of these.

The Wellness baths part has a contemporary feeling. This area is quite small, but has pools with warm, really hot and cold waters. There is also a lapping pool.

There are also fun looking water fountains with ram head design you can drink from.

On the roof there is a circular pool which looks like a crown. From here you get a stunning view of the city, the Danube and the bridges.

Rooftop pool of Rudas Baths

You can sit here for hours to feel the combination of the hot water and the fresh air.

Originally the thermal bath was only open to men, but after the reconstruction in 2005, women are also allowed to use it on Tuesdays and at the weekends.

Before you visit, make sure you check and see when certain areas are restricted.

Its water surface is only 504 m2, but there are 5 thermal pools, and immersion pools and a swimming pools indoors.

Rudas offers night bathing on Friday and Saturday nights, but these are not sparties.

Rooftop pool-Rudas-at night

Drinking fountain

The three different kind of healing water of the drinking hall is recommended for circulatory disorders, hypertension, neurotic disorders and rheumatic diseases. Beside these the radioactive “Juventus” water alleviates the symptoms of menopause and premature aging of the body.

Király Thermal Baths

Király baths

1024 Budapest, Fő u. 84.

Opening hours: 09:00-21:00

http://en.kiralyfurdo.hu

The construction of the spa was started by the Turkish Pasha of Buda, Arslan in 1565.

Its thermal water is obtained from the source of the Lukács Spa, it has never had its own thermal supply.

Veli Bej Spa

veli bej bath Budapest

Built in the 16th century, this is one of the oldest Turkish baths in Budapest. Several extensions were added to the building through the years.

It has 4 smaller domes that surround the central cupola.

The water comes from the wells of Lukács Baths and Margaret Island. It contains calcium, magnesium, hydrogen-carbonate, sulfate and sodium, with a significant content of fluoride ions.

Medical recommendations

  • Degenerative disorders of the spinal columns and joints,
  • chronic arthritis,
  • neuralgia
  • post-injury healing
  • spinal problems
  • calcium deficiency in bones

Palatinus Baths

People sitting at the pools of Palatinus Budapest

1007 Budapest, Margaret Island

www.palatinusstrand.hu

Opening hours: 08:00-20:00

Total water surface: 8089m2

Fountains at palatinus baths

The water is provided by the springs of Margaret Island itself.

Thermal water with calcium, magnesium, hydrogen-carbonate also containing sodium, silicon dioxide, carbon dioxide and a low concentration of salt.

It has a water slide park, volleyball court, football fields, table tennis, outdoor PE equipment.

During the summer of 2017 the bath was completed with four covered pools, so it is open during all year long. Besides the summer season a covered thermal pool, a children’s pool, two immersion pools and an outside thermal pool and an outside swimming pool are available.

Which one of the baths would I recommend?

The indoor baths at Gellért are the best.

Rudas has the best view – of course.

The outdoor baths at Széchenyi are the best.

If you only have time for one, I would recommend Széchenyi.

Finally words about Budapest Baths

I can not stress enough: bring your flip flops, bathing suit, bathing cap and towels!

Check opening hours and restrictions. The outdoor and indoor parts might open and close in different times.

If you can, go early or late to avoid the crowds.

Be sure to give enough time to explore different parts of the baths and to relax.

I would say at least three hours is needed in any of the baths, but you will want to stay longer once you taste the feeling.

Tips for using Budapest Baths

I highly recommend trying at least one of the baths while you are in Budapest as it is a perfect way to relax your body and soul after a long day of wandering.

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