By Katalin Válóczi
A lover of architecture who loves to feel her worries float away in the city’s spas
13 February 2020
Edited by Holly Jenson
Taking a dip in our thermal baths is one of the best things to do in Budapest. Revived in the early 20th century, Hungary has been the country of spas for hundreds of years, and visiting them is a truly local experience. The baths provide refuge from the busy city center as well as an opportunity to relax, but with so many to choose from, which are the best thermal baths in Budapest? I have lived in this city for 12 years and regularly go to the baths for some me-time, I’ve been to hot springs all over the place and rounded up the Budapest thermal baths that should be at the top of your list.
The best way to kick-start your trip is with a visit to Széchényi Baths; these are some of the most well-known in the world it doesn’t take long to understand why. With 15 indoor baths and 3 grand pools, Szechenyi Baths have been a go-to destination for visitors and residents for many years. Locals are often prescribed aqua treatment by their doctors for things like joint pain, and arthritis and Szechenyi’s Medicinal Bath is the biggest in Europe! There are so many extras at Szechenyi Baths that keep people coming back time and time again. With 10 saunas, massage therapy and facial treatments available, this is a great place to come to treat yourself and really let loose. One of the best things about Szechenyi Baths is the location. Sitting in the centre of City Park (and close to my house!), there is so much to lose yourself in during your day at the baths. Before you relax, head to the lake in front of Vajdahunyad Castle for some stunning views and perfect holiday pictures. If you visit Budapest thermal baths in winter you can go ice skating as the lake freezes over and becomes the best rink in town! And what better way is there to end your day than by sinking into the warm pool surrounded by beautiful Bohemian architecture? There are so many reasons why Szechenyi Baths are some of the best thermal baths in Budapest.
Although you may have heard of Kiraly Baths and Lukacs Baths, the ones at Palatinus are so much better. The first centre to have open-air baths in Budapest, today Palatinus boasts 10 outdoor pools open in the spring and summer season and an indoor wellness centre available year-round. Despite its beautiful fountain pool where everyone can relax under the jets, Palatinus is known for its extras. With a huge wave pool and water slides available, these are the best thermal baths in Budapest for a family day out. You can let the kids tire themselves out on the slides and in the wave pool (and maybe even learn to surf yourself!) before heading back to the fountain pool for some well-earned rest. I really like these baths as there is always a lovely fun atmosphere. Palatinus Baths also have a great location being in the centre of Margaret Island. Visiting this place is one of the greatest things to do in Budapest as you can enjoy the greenery within the city centre. Spend your morning exploring the woodland trails, the transport museum and the historic water tower and then make your way to the baths for a relaxing afternoon. There is also a lovely musical fountain you can enjoy while you wait which has a show every hour, it really is a spectacle.
Rudas Baths are the best thermal baths in Budapest in my opinion, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me. Originally a Turkish bath, Rudas is almost 500 years old and has some stunning architecture throughout that you can admire for hours on end; I think it really sums up Budapest as a city. The best part of Rudas Baths is the rooftop pool featuring an unbeatable panorama of the city. You can float in the centre of the maze surrounded by the bright arches and a beautiful skyline; you won’t find this anywhere else. To top it all off, you can bathe here until 4 am! Is there a better way to end your day? One unique thing about Rudas baths is their certified medicinal water. Doctors throughout Budapest will prescribe a time for patients to soak in the water, so this is the best place to soothe your aches and pains! One thing you will need to check before you go is which days you can enter. Rudas Baths are some of the few in the city which has different days assigned to different genders. At the moment, the baths allow group use on Saturdays and Sundays and are open for women only on Tuesdays and men on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Be sure to check before you go to avoid disappointment, everyone needs to witness the sunset from the rooftop pool!
Photo credit: en.paskalfurdo.hu
Paskál Baths are also really close to me and definitely one of the hidden gems of Budapest. Renovated in 2017, these are the newest state of the art thermal baths and offer a great alternative to the popular favourites. There is a special pool outside for children where they can splash around to their hearts’ content and three other ‘relax’ pools where you can let your hair down in peace. There is also a 33-metre swimming pool where you can do your laps before sinking into the ‘leisure’ pool. Being a 5-minute walk from City Park, Paskal is a great place to come if you don’t fancy the busyness of Szechenyi but still want an out-of-this-world bathing experience. Like a lot of the other places, what makes Paskal some of the best thermal baths in Budapest are the unique extras they have on offer. One of my favourite things about Paskal Baths is their saunas. The geothermal sauna is just what you need after a good soak and the panorama sauna has amazing views of the city as you relax; there really is no topping this one. As well as a steam chamber, there are lots of massages available including aromatherapy, head and leg massage and thermal massage; you can feel your worries melt away in this place.
Gellért Baths are some of the most famous in Budapest but never as busy as Szeyenchi which gives them a chilled out and relaxed atmosphere. Opened in 1918, Gellert Baths have some of the most beautiful architecture in the whole of Budapest; the long rows of columns and ornate designs give you the feeling that you are royalty and that these are your personal chambers. Gellert Baths also have a number of medicinal water treatments available to soothe any aches or pains you may have in the luxury of a high-end spa, you can spend all day here exploring the different pools. No matter what the Budapest weather brings, the indoor nature of Gellert Baths allows you to relax and unwind in every season. This is the perfect place for couples; you have access to Thai massage, a couple’s massage and you can even rent out your own private thermal bath with sparkling wine on arrival! Nothing says romance like a shared soak in the spa capital of the world. Located next to the freedom bridge, you could easily spend a day relaxing here before heading to the ruin bars for a casual drink. Gellert truly is some of the best thermal baths in Budapest and ideal for anyone looking for a calm retreat.