Visiting the spas are a cultural pastime and a popular tourist activity in the capital city of Budapest. The question isn’t whether or not you should visit, but rather which one(s) you should visit and what are you hoping to get out of the experience. Here we’ll provide some facts and tips regarding what you should you should know before visiting a Budapest spa.
What You Should Know
1) The Tradition Goes Back Hundreds of Years
Way back as early as the 2nd century, the thermal waters of Budapest were enjoyed by the Romans, though the bath culture didn’t really take off until the 16th century when the Turkish occupied Hungary. Some of the original Turkish baths still remain (Király, Rudas, and Veli Bej), whereas others were built more recently in the early 20th century (Lukács, Gellért, and Széchenyi). Nowadays, tourists and locals alike enjoy the 15 public thermal spas in Budapest. There are also private baths in some of the luxury hotels around the city.
The warm and mineral-filled waters of the thermal baths are great for the body and soul. Many visitors soak in the baths to simply melt away stress, while others find that the waters relieve pain, discomfort, and irritation related to muscular, arthritic, and skin conditions.
2) It’s More Than Just a Bath. Get Pampered & Party!
It helps to know what you are looking for in a Budapest spa. Do you just want to relax, get pampered, or party?! (Or maybe a little bit of each.) In addition to the natural healing powers of the water, most of the spas in Budapest offer a wide array of pampering services from massages to pedicures to aromatherapy. Book your services in advance to ensure that you don’t miss out. I desperately needed a pedicure at the time of our visit to Lukács, but they had no more appointments available that day by the time we arrived.
If you’re into the partying scene, the spas are the perfect place to visit at night for a wet ‘n’ wild time! We’re usually in bed before the these parties start, so you’ll have to check them out for yourself if you want to see what all the hoopla is about! Széchenyi is the largest spa in Budapest and home to crazy summer night parties. Lukács is the place to go from October to December to experience the spa nightlife.
3) The Pool Sizes and Water Temps Vary…Drastically!
Most of the spas have multiple thermal pools with varying temperatures to choose from. You’re guaranteed to find a water temp that suits your level of comfort. We visited two spas in Budapest and enjoyed moving between the different pools. When one thermal pool got too hot, we’d move to a cooler one.When we were ready to cool down, we’d visit the freezing cold immersion pool or the larger outdoor pool. A visit to the steam room was usually thrown in there as well. Our skin never felt so good!
Sure, the baths are about relaxation. They’re also places to have fun! It’s hard to find a Budapest spa that doesn’t offer something extra. Outdoor swimming pools provide a nice big space to swim laps, relax under the massaging waterfalls, or enjoy a little splashing around! We felt like kids again jumping in the outdoor wavepool at Gellért Bath.
4) Males & Females Cannot Always Bathe Together & Swimsuits May Be Optional
This is really only the case at one of the 15 public spas- Rudas Bath, but it’s definitely good to know in advance. Rudas is a men-only facility on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, while women have run of the bath on Tuesdays. During the weekends, the bath is co-ed. During the gender specific days, swimwear is optional, though many guests will wear a swimming apron to cover their nether-regions.
Some of the baths have co-ed lockers rooms, but with private changing stalls and cabins.
5) The Architecture and Décor is Reason Enough to Visit
Though we only visited two of the spas during our visit, we were in awe of the ancient, though sometimes modern, architecture of the facilities. Roman columns, stained glass windows, elaborate paintings, and tile mosaics were the traditional decor that left us feeling somewhat royal as we relaxed in each Budapest spa!
Practical Tips for Visiting a Budapest Spa
- Most spas open at the crack of dawn (6 am). Some remain open until the wee hours of the night, and even into the morning on weekends. (Check the opening hours for each Budapest spa you plan to visit, as they all differ.
- Arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
- You’ll get a plastic wristband when you purchase your ticket. It allows you to get through the turnstile at the entrance to the spa. It also allows you access to a personal locker where you can store your belongings.
- Swimcaps are often required for swimming in the larger pools. Bring your own or purchase a temporary inexpensive cap at the spa.
- Taking a shower before going into the bath is required.
- Széchenyi, Lukács, Gellért, and Rudas are all wheelchair accessible.
- Some of Budapest’s Most Popular Spas (including links to their websites)
- Széchenyi Medical Thermal Bath– One of the largest bathing complexes in all of Europe and certainly the most popular in Budapest. Purchase tickets online to avoid having to wait in line. Contains 18 different pools (thermal pools, steam baths, plunge pools, fitness pool, etc.). Home to HUGE Saturday night parties in the summer months. Underwent major renovations in 2013. Open air pools offer inviting warm water even in the winter months.
- Gellért Thermal Bath– A popular bath for tourists, tastefully decorated in beautiful Art Nouveau style. Contains 13 different pools, including an outdoor wave pool. You can also purchase tickets online for Gellért to skip the queue! Now offering a private, romantic spa experience which includes a private bath, chilled champagne and fruit.
- Lukács Thermal Bath– Free entry with the Budapest Card. Underwent major renovations in 2012. One of the other late-night party bath houses, hosting parties October-December.
- Rudas Thermal Bath– The only remaining spa with gender-specific days (Men- M, W, Th, Fri / Women- Tues / Co-Ed – Weekends).
- Király Thermal Bath– The oldest thermal bath house in Budapest. Includes 4 thermal pools, a steam bath, and a sauna.