The Best Baths of Budapest
While Budapest is justly famous for many things, from its mouth-watering food to its breath-taking views to its unrivalled night life, one of its most interesting and unique features of the city is undoubtedly its culture of thermal baths.
Believed to have been introduced by the Turks following their conquest of Hungary in the 1500s, thermal baths have become a deeply ingrained part of Hungarian culture over the past half millenia. While many swear by the medicinal powers of the spring water found at the country’s many such spas, others simply go to soak, socialize, and enjoy swimming, saunas, and hot baths in a relaxing, refined setting. Today, we are going to take a look at a few of the most famous baths of the Hungarian capital, ones that attract both locals and tourists alike.
Unquestionably the most famous of Budapest’s baths, the Széchenyi Thermal Bath is located in the City Park, and as such is the only bath on this list that can be found on the Pest side of the city. It is named after Count István Széchenyi, one of the most important political and cultural figures of 19th century Hungarian history, whose notable accomplishments include, among many others, advocating for reform, founding the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and successfully pushing for the construction of the Chain Bridge, which was the first permanent bridge to span the Danube. And while the Széchenyi Bath was built long after the “greatest Hungarian” had passed away, it is still fitting that it bears his name, since it is certainly the ‘greatest’ bath in the city in terms of size and reputation.
Of all Budapest’s spas and bathhouses, the Széchenyi is unquestionably the most famous. This is where numerous movies, commercials, and travel shows have been filmed; essentially, if you’ve ever seen a video of any sort that features Budapest, chances are the Széchenyi Bath will be included. In addition, the city’s most famous baths are also known around the world for its famous (or perhaps infamous) spa parties, or “sparties.” During most Saturday nights from May to October, the usually quiet, reserved spa of saunas and old men playing chess gives way to partying and revelry that lasts all night long.
Located on the Buda side of the city’s Liberty Bridge, The Gellért Bath looks something straight out of the set of The Great Gatsby. Constructed in the beginning of the twentieth century in an art nouveau style, this bath is arguably the fanciest in Budapest.
While nowhere near as large or as famous as the Széchenyi, this bath, located in and behind the Gellért Hotel, have an opulent charm all their own. For if you grow tired of the steam baths and hot pools adorned with fountains and statues too numerous and varied to count, you can always make your way over to the spa side of the facility. There, you can treat yourself to various types of massages, aromatherapy, pedicures, and private bathing. This is truly a bath fit for a king!
Built over 450 years ago during the Turkish occupation of Hungary, the Rudas Bath is located on the Buda side of the city. Reopened in 2006 following an intensive renovation, the Rudas features an Ottoman style octagonal pool, which is covered by a large dome. Today, the bath complex also a “drinking hall” where one can sample the curative mineral waters from three springs located at the Rudas. However, there are some strikingly modern features as well, such as the spa’s rooftop pool, which provides beautiful views of the Danube and the Pest side of the city.
One particularly interesting feature of the Rudas is that, during the week, the steam baths are single-sex; Tuesdays for women, the rest of the week days for men. This is due to the fact that, on these days, guests to the baths are traditionally au natural. But if nudity isn’t your thing, don’t worry, because on weekends the baths are open to both men and women, and bathing suits are mandatory.
Located in Buda, just north of the Margaret Bridge, the spot on which the Lukács stands has been home to baths for the better part of the last millennium. Heated by natural hot springs, the first baths were built here by the medieval Knights Hospitaller in the 1100s; they have served the residents of Buda ever since. The Lukács has four thermal pools, whose mineral-filled waters are said to help with symptoms of health issues ranging from chronic arthritis to neuralgia to spinal deformity.
And if you are just ready for a nap after a long afternoon of bathing at one of Budapest's baths, we recommend Fraser Residence Budapest located right in the city center, in the Corvin Quarter.