A trip to Budapest will not be complete without a visit to at least one of its historic thermal baths. It’s said that the Romans settled in the area because of the abundance of thermal springs – I would too! The first Roman baths were constructed around the 2nd century AD but it wasn’t till the Turks occupied the city in the 16th century that the city’s most beautiful baths were built and the thermal bath culture blossomed. The Budapest thermal baths quickly became a place to relax and socialise but were also used for wellness purposes: the spring water contains medicinal qualities and locals also visited the baths for massage treatments.
I was going through a rather stressful period when I visited Budapest for the first time in the 1990’s. My busy banking job was taking its toll on me and I developed stomach ulcers which were excruciating at times. I’d read somewhere that the thermal springs in Budapest are known to alleviate all sorts of ailments so I visited several baths. I drank big gulps of water at the Lukács and Rudas baths and lo and behold, my ulcers miraculously disappeared after a few days. I’m not a doctor and I have no idea what medicinal qualities the water contains but it certainly helped me.
Thermal baths in Budapest to visit
I visited other baths on subsequent trips to Budapest such as the Gellért, Széchenyi and Király baths. Each has its own history, style, customs and architecture. Some baths are for mixed bathing (men, women and children) whilst some, like the Rudas bath has specific opening times for men, women and families. Here are my three favourite thermal baths in Budapest:
Built by the Turks in the 16th century, Rudas is one of the oldest baths in Budapest. I personally find it one of the most atmospheric. Sitting in the central bathing area is like taking a step back in time. A large dome with rays of light streaming through little holes is supported by eight columns and beautiful arches. The stunning dome covers the main pool which is octagonal in shape. In each corner of the hall are pools with different temperatures. There’s also a series of steam rooms which get hotter as you go further. The bath also offers a variety of spa and massage treatments.
The Széchenyi Bath is arguably one of the most beautiful and elaborate thermal bathing complexes in Budapest. Built in 1913, the complex resembles a palace and there are both indoor and outdoor pools. This is the bath that’s often featured in many photos and brochures – the famous scenes of elderly men playing chess in the water – and rightfully so. It certainly is an impressive sight. Both locals and tourists mingle in the many pools, each with a different temperature. There are separate areas for spa and medicinal treatments. Purchase skip-the-line tickets or fast-track access plus a VIP massage for Széchenyi Bath.
Read about things to do in Budapest.
If you love Art Nouveau architecture, you’ll love the Gellért Baths. The bath/hotel complex was built in 1918 and expanded in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Like its counterpart Széchenyi, the Gellért is an elaborate complex with indoor and outdoor pools (there’s even a wave pool!). The interior, with its gorgeous mosaics, marble columns and stained glass windows, is absolutely breathtaking. Purchase skip-the-line tickets or fast-track access with a private VIP massage at Gellért Bath.
There are often queues to enter the popular baths like Széchenyi and Gellért so if you wish to skip the queues, I recommend purchasing advance tickets. These are a bit more expensive than the tickets at the door but they’re worth every penny, especially on a busy day.
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[…] touted as one of the world’s most beautiful cafés) or soak in one of the city’s famous thermal baths! You’ll soon see why I always enjoy a visit to this city! Read more about things to do in […]
[…] that the city’s most beautiful baths were built and the thermal bath culture blossomed. The Budapest thermal baths quickly became a place to relax and socialise. Two baths built by the Turks still exist today: […]
[…] Read about the historic baths of Budapest. […]
[…] capabilities of water with a high mineral content since my first experience drinking it at a thermal bath in Budapest years ago; the water helped to alleviate a stomach ailment I was suffering from at the time. The […]
[…] reading this and going on the same cruise, note that you’re close to two of my favourite thermal baths in Budapest, the centuries-old Rudas and the Art Nouveau-styled Gellert. Furthermore, the lively Central Market […]
[…] most famous hotel/spas in Budapest, this Art Nouveau style hotel houses one of the most beautiful thermal baths in the […]
I’m always seeking out chlorine-free water and hot springs and swimming around in Art Nouveau surroundings would be the icing on the cake. It would be lovely to get into hot water in Budapest.
Great list! These places look amazing…that’s crazy (but good) that your ulcers disappeared.
I’d love to go to Széchenyi Bath. It looks so ‘grand’. That sunshine in the picture makes it complete:)
If I was visiting I would soak in a bath every single day I was there haha!
Sounds like some interesting baths! And they look huge! We haven’t visited Budapest or its baths. But in Baden-Baden, Germany, we bathed at the Friedrichsbad – where everyone, men and women, all bathe nude together. That was interesting :-). You may read our travel story on this, entitled “The Art of Bathing,” published in NUVO magazine, here: http://www.sandinmysuitcase.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/NUVO-Art-of-Bathing-in-Baden-Baden.pdf
It’s an amazing place. I spent two wonderful afternoons there last year. My favourite remains Rudas though – mysterious and very atmospheric.
Oh wow! We’re going to have to keep this in mind for our trip to Budapest. =) Thanks for the info.
I’d heard of the Széchenyi Bath but hadn’t seen it… till now. It’s massive and looks like a good time for everyone, young or old. Wow!
Yup, Japan has some amazing thermal spas (onsen) too. 🙂
Pretty cool list. I’ve always wanted to visit some of the thermal bath pools that you can find in Asia…sort of like the ones you hear about in Anima stories. 😀