Budapest is the only capital city in the world with over 118 natural springs full of mineral rich hot water. No wonder the city is sometimes referred to as “the city of baths”. Bathing has been part of the culture in Budapest since the Celtic times in the 4th century BC, then continued by Romans in the 1st century AD, then further deepened by the Turks in the 16th century.
Upon visiting Budapest you’ll probably experience a great hype around thermal baths and spas. This guide here is to help you choose the one that suits you the most if you don’t have time for all of them, find your type of place for a relaxing dip.
Source: Flickr – Sergey Melkonov
Gellért Fürdő is one of Hungary’s oldest thermal baths, located in a historical monument and linked to a huge landmark hotel. On the Buda side, this beauty sits next to Gellért hegy, a hill named after a saint who died as a martyr long ago.
The bath is breathtaking, once you arrive at the actual swimming pools. The thermal water is lovely hot and the air is so hot and humid it’s an instant cure to any sore throat. The architecture is also breathtaking, both inside and outdoors, where you’ll find the huge pool with artificial waves plus further small ones with hot water.
The bath has two parts divided by sex, to allow naked bathing for those who prefer to do so. However, there are parts available for both sexes if you prefer to be with your partner of the other sex.
Although the bath is sometimes crowded and the entry is not cheap by local standards, it is definitely worth a visit.
The One with the Chess Tables
Source: Flickr – dadiolli
Széchenyi Fürdő, or Szecska by its local nickname is situated in one of Budapest’s nicest parks called Városliget. A huge yellow building with two hot pools and a swimming pool outdoors and a couple of inside pools and a sauna. If you’ve ever seen an image video of Budapest, this spa was featured for sure with old people playing chess while soaking.
Entry is expensive by local standards, but very inclusive: the ticket includes entry to the gym and even classes. The place is huge with countless smaller pools inside, some of them hotter than the others. Easy to get lost and to spend a day here. To find your locker, keep your eyes open or ask for help especially if you rent a small changing room of your own.
The outdoors spa is a great experience in the winter when you’re sitting in the warm water while it’s snowing. Since it opens quite early, it’s a great way to start your day in Budapest or to arrive to after a party night. It is great to arrive shortly before sunset and leave in daylight. This way you can check the place out in sunlight and in romantic lighting.
Young people may also find the Sparties an exciting means of visiting the place, check out their website for the dates.
Rudas Gyógyfürdő is also located on the Buda side, on the bank near Erzsébet bridge. It has been recently renovated and a totally new part was added: it is now a spectacular sight from Pest when crossing the Danube by bike or bus. It features an awesome Turkish pool, steam room, and now a wellness area, a warm-water swimming pool and a restaurant. Combining the dip with a meal would get you a discount, too.
Craving a nice sight? Check out the rooftop terrace where you’ll find a spectacular view of the city and the river Danube. From a pool. Awesome.
The ultimate part here is the night bath on Fridays and Saturdays, perfect after a party or just to relax after a day of walking your legs off with your beloved one.
The Most Turkish
To travel back in time to the 17th century check out this exciting venue. Király Fürdő is also in Buda, in a building you wouldn’t tell is a spa inside upon entering. Except if you go around and find the perfect little Turkish gem on the side of one of the main roads of Buda–but that’s normal for this city.
Anyway, this is a place to go not only for the Turkish hot bath but also a pleasant wellness experience with a lovely jacuzzi, great sauna and nice new changing rooms. Like in most baths, massage is also available here.
In the summer the unique experience of inner city sunbathing in the garden and cold water plunge pool would await for you outside in the garden, the price includes entry to the gym.
Dandár Fürdő is the bastard child of Budapest’s spa culture. Located in the 9th district on the Pest side it’s mainly visited by locals. It could be a cost-effective alternative to the bigger baths on the Buda side, although without the Turkish or the historical thrill.
Inside it’s nice and clean and outside in the garden there’s a new pool. Moreover, its water is just as great therapeutic medical thermal water as that of Gellért, only for around half the price.
In Budapest’s 14th district called Zugló this modern bath with a huge outdoors area is the real big hit for the summer. Especially with kids, Paskál Gyógyfürdő will be your favourite. Taking a cab is a good thought, this one is about 7 kilometres from the city centre.
There are several pools inside and outside too, with modern cafés that offer a rare selection of amenities such as lactose-free milk or alcohol-free beer, and a new pool area for children.
Also mainly visited by locals, this thermal bath is also not an architectural wonder but serves its cause well. In the summer, there’s enough shade under the grand trees for everybody and the entry fee is quite affordable.