Guide to Spas & Baths
Budapest is often dubbed as the city of healing waters because the number of spas and thermal baths the city offers. The land where the Hungarian capital lies abounds in natural springs and wells that contain several beneficial minerals.
They supply the warm, healing waters for the nearly 50 Budapest spas, baths and public pools. That’s why the water in them is perfect for therapeutic as well as recreation purposes.
The baths originate from two time periods:
- the Turkish Baths (Király, Rudas and Veli Bej) date back to the 16th century when Hungary was under Ottoman occupation,
- the Gellért, Széchenyi and Lukács Baths were built in the beginning of the 20th century.
No visit to Budapest is complete with a thermal bath experience, so pick one, buy a ticket, and don’t forget to pack your swimsuit.
Ottoman Baths from the 16th Century, and Spas form the First Part of the 20th Century
Learn about the thermal baths built at the beginning of the 20th century: the Gellért, Széchenyi and Lukács Baths offer healing waters, relaxation and grand architecture.
Guide to the best outdoor baths and pools where you can refresh yourself on a hot summer day. The Széchenyi and Gellért have open-air pools but there are other baths-beaches that operate during the summer season: Palatinus, Római, Paskál, Csillaghegyi, and Pünkösdfürdő Baths.
Tickets to Budapest Spas
Buy your ticket to the two most popular spas of the city, the Gellért, and the Széchenyi Bath online.
It’s convenient and secure: no need to queue just show your ticket to the staff at the separate Welcome desk.
If you have arthritis and aching joints, it would be a direct sin not to have a dip in Budapest’s medicinal waters.
You’ll feel as if the steamy hot water is melting your tired muscles, driving away fatigue and depression.
If this hot indulgence not enough for you, masseurs can take your body in their expert hands. A variety of refreshing massages as well as longer, luxurious massages are offered for a complete revitalization of your body.
The new private bath in the Gellért is a great place to enjoy some romantic time with your love one.
Most spas are worth a visit because of their history and architecture, as well. Affordable entrance fees make them even more attractive, though the elegant and touristy Gellért Bath is a bit on the pricey side.
Baths usually have two main pools and several smaller ones in which water temperature varies. Other amenities besides the steamy hot water, include various types of massages, saunas, mud-packs and other curative treatments.TIP: Enjoy a fantastic spa party in the Széchenyi Bath in the summer season or in the Lukács from October to December.
News About the Thermal Baths:
As of 1st January 2013 the Gellért Bath is a fully co-ed bath, welcoming both women and men every day.
2. The Rudas Bath and Lukács Bath underwent a major renovation last year welcoming guests with renewed building and services in 2013. The baths are now accessible with wheelchair.
In case of the Lukács, the facade was refurbished and the majority of the interior was altered to be able to offer new services:
- Sauna world (salt sauna, aroma steam cabin, infra sauna, Finnish sauna, naturist sauna, igloo, tepidarium, heated roman seats):
- Himalaya salt wall
- Private bathing
- Turkish hammam
The Rudas Turkish Bath was also renewed in autumn 2012 with the building restored to its late 19th century state.
History of Budapest Spas
The city’s baths have a long history. The first settlers in the area, the Celtic tribes had already discovered and used the healing waters. They named the place Ak-ink, meaning abundant water.
The Romans occupied the settlement and called their province Aquincum, referring again to the abundance of water in the area. They had developed bathing culture at home that they wanted to enjoy in Aquincum as well. They built the first baths here, the excavations in Óbuda discovered 14 of them from this era.
After the Romans the Hungarians used the baths for centuries.
Spa and bath culture was developed significantly during the Turkish rule in the 16th-17th centuries.
Their 150-year reign left some beneficial heritage besides the raids and devastation. Some of these Ottoman baths are still in use today, you can enjoy their great architecture, coloured glass windows and domed pools.
After the Turkish occupation baths became less popular.
The turn of the 19th-20th centuries saw another flourishing in bath culture. New thermal springs were discovered and the science of the healing waters, balneology, demonstrated the beneficial effects of these waters.
Everybody, from the aristocrats to shop assistants, were enjoying the baths. They were also places for informal meetings, and chats, just like today.
If you want to hear the freshest gossip in town, mingle with bathing Budapesti people, but I guess you need to pick up some Hungarian.
Etiquette in Baths
Your first visit to a spa might be a bit complicated if you don’t speak any Hungarian at all. Apart from the Gellért Bath, instructions, price lists in most baths are posted only in Hungarian. I summarize in short what etiquette to follow in the baths.TIP:if you can’t memorize the followings just follow what the local regulars do!
Make sure your devote at least two hours in the bath to fully exploit the relaxing benefits of the healing water, saunas, steam rooms and massages!
Note that the cashiers close an hour before closing time.
Entry System in the Baths
You get a proxy watch (plastic armband) when you buy your ticket. This will let you through the turnstile at the entrance as well as locks and opens the locker or cabin you choose to use to keep your belongings in it.
Choose which services or treatments you want to try from the list at the entrance, and pay for them at the cashier. You’ll get a separate ticket for each thing.
I usually go for some kind of massage besides bathing. If you prefer to have only a hot bath, ask for a standard ticket (use of sauna is included).
The Turkish baths were men-only for decades, today they either have separate days for men and women, or mixed days when both men and women can bath (see the opening hours given at each bath).
On single-sex days, the attendant will give you a tiny cloth that you’re supposed to tie around your waist. The cloth for women looks like an apron (kötény in Hungarian) to cover the breasts.
You might feel awkward or embarrassed in it but bear in mind that other bathers wear it too, so you won’t stand out from the crowd. On mixed days you have to wear a bathing suit.
At the Gellért, Széchenyi and Lukács you can choose between a cabin (kabin) or locker (szekrény) to change. If you prefer privacy choose and pay for a ticket with cabin when you buy your ticket.
Time to have a dip in the pools!
The baths usually have a main pool, surrounded by smaller ones with varying water temperatures from hot to cold.
Taking a shower before going into the bath is compulsory. Afterwards, start with the main pool then one of the hotter ones. If you feel almost cooked take a deep breath and plunge into the cold pool for a few seconds.
Head for the steam rooms (hamam) and/or the saunas that also offer a choice of different temperatures (from hot to very hot).
Finally relax in the warm pool. A thorough massage makes the whole ritual complete.
Afterwards have a nap in the rest room to regain strength to change back into your clothes. You’ll need it believe me! The hot soaking, the steam and the scorching heat of the sauna will drive away stress, slackens your body and leave you without strength.