Budapest Baths are one of the top reasons Budapest is visited by hundreds of thousands of travelers. Szechenyi Baths alone is visited by over a million bathers per year, many of whom are from abroad: spa tourists, or visitors who want to feel what it is like to be in one of the baths of Budapest. Each bath in Budapest gives a special experience, unlike the others, so if you can, visit more than one of the Budapest Baths.
Budapest the City of Spas
Budapest has several nicknames, like the Paris of East or the Pearl of the Danube, and also the City of Spas. Indeed, there are so many natural warm spring waters under the city (imagine a cauldron topped with some layers) that Budapest has had several great thermal baths for many centuries. The Turkish baths along the river Danube are still functional and much favored. But more than a thousand years before the Turks, the Romans and even before them, the Celts have been enjoying the warm spring waters as baths, healing waters and drinks.
No wonder that by the 21st century, Budapest has reinvented itself as the city of medicinal waters and amazing thermal spas. The bathing culture of the Hungarians is very lively and health conscious: not only are water sports held in great respect, but the young and the old all enjoy the spa waters and the fun bath complexes. Aqua therapy is part of the regular medical practice, and doctors often prescribe water treatments in the healing spa waters for Hungarian patients. In the last few years, the bathing culture has been ingeniously fused with trance spa parties (sparties), so you can even be part of once in a lifetime cool bath parties.
Spa Baths in Hungary
Budapest is not the only settlement in Hungary with a powerful source of spa waters. There are many many baths in Hungary called Fürdő (Furdo): from BukkFurdo to Zsorifurdo. Heviz, the most important bath town in Hungary, literally translates as ‘hot water’ (hév-víz or Hévíz). According to estimates, there are approximately 1000 natural spring water sources in Hungary.
Many of the thermal baths in Budapest are century old, most importantly the Turkish baths, like the Kiraly Bath, Rudas Bath or Veli Bej Bath (the former Kaiser Bath or Császárfürdő). Interestingly enough, the most popular bath complex in Budapest, Szechenyi Baths and Pool, was only opened at the end of the 19th century (in a makeshift house, later on transformed into a beautiful palace). Another Budapest bath, which is architecturally equally stunning, or maybe more, is the Art Nouveau spa baths complex, the Gellert Baths at the foot of the Gellert Hill. Needless to say, the Turkish baths are unique with their original octagonal Turkish pools covered with mysterious domes with colorful glasses.
When in Budapest, go to the baths. Even if you are not a big fan of public bathing, it is well worth putting aside your reservations about baths. But if you are not a water person, you can still visit the baths for the building: e.g. Szechenyi Baths has short, 15 min guided tours on most days throughout the week. You can book a massage or just enjoy personal treatments, hydrotherapy, mud therapy, etc.
Which is the best baths in Budapest?
One of the most common questions we get from tourists is which is the best Budapest bath. Our answer is usually, it depends. It depends on what you like, how much time you have, if you are in Budapest with your partner, or with kids, if you are interested in a budget ticket, pampering spa services, luxurious massage or just a few hour fun time at a great bath. If you spend more than 3 days in Budapest, we strongly recommend trying more baths. Each has a distinct character and is worth a visit for its own merits, pools, architecture, history, style, programs. If you only have three days, you can try the most popular bath, the Szechenyi Baths and Pool in the City Park (mixed all week), or the Turkish Rudas Baths (mixed at weekends), or, if the beautiful Gellert Baths (mixed at weekends). Budget travelers may find the recently refurbished Veli Bej Baths a great option (also has a historical Turkish pool). The more ruinous Kiraly Bath may appeal to those who like odd, cool, historical – communist things (weird in a good sense, ‘quirky’ – as in cool special historical bath, with odd white clothed personnel from the communist times, outdated interior, cheap prices, completely local clientele). Lukacs Baths is probably the most visited by Hungarians, so if you are a tourist who wants to mingle with the locals and keenly seeks out non-touristy places, Lukacs is your best bet.
Relaxing and Exciting baths in Budapest
How can these baths be both relaxing and exciting? Well, most of the baths in Budapest, have several pools with various sizes, facilities, activities, temperature etc. so there is bound to be a pool, which you will like. During day time, the baths are mostly visited by those who want to feel the healing power of the water, use the jets in the pools to get some water massage, play chess with old pals, chat with friends, take their foreign friends to the baths to share the joys of bathing, enjoy a massage, giggle at the fish pedicure, revitalize in the saunas and steam rooms (plus the cold plunge pools), do laps in the swimming pool, have a few beers at the cafe, laugh at the whirlpools (Szechenyi Baths) and fun wave pools (Gellert Baths), and at night may go and enjoy the sparties (spa parties).
Most baths have various bath tickets. Full day tickets usually include the use of all bath pools and facilities, but not the personal care services (massage, manicure or hairdressing). If you are planning to spend a spa day or half a day in a Budapest bath, make sure that you book the spa services in advance (the pools and facilities do not need to be booked, but in the high season the baths get very full, so you can save yourself about 45 min by buying the tickets in advance at the more well known baths, especially the Szechenyi Baths)