Budapest, Hungary is situated directly above 125 thermal springs and people have journeyed to this exquisite city since before Roman times to soak in the medicinal waters. There are so many wonderful things to do and see in Budapest, but spending sometimes in their famous bathhouses has to be at the top of your to-do list.
Locals religiously visit their favorite ‘hot’ spot to relax, soak and socialize. They refer to the ritual as ‘taking the waters’. Some of the today’s bathhouses are built-in opulent structures that were designed during the Ottoman Empire and some are in disrepair, but all are very popular. The City of Spas is world renown as a place to go if you want to experience first class thermal baths.
During a cold February business trip to Budapest, when I couldn’t convince any of my co-workers to accompany me to the thermal baths, I decided to go alone. I jumped on a trolley, crossed the Danube River over the Liberty Bridge and arrived at one of the most famous and popular bathhouses named Hotel Gellert. Boy, was I glad I took that trolley car.
The Danubius Hotel Gellert and Spa is an elegant property built in the early 1900s in an Art Nouveau style. The spa has 10 pools with varying degrees of heat, size, and grandeur. It has beautiful stain-glass windows and mosaic tiled floors but its maze-like interior is extremely confusing. Once you pay the entrance fee you will be issued a plastic wristband for entry and access to your changing cabin and locker and be sure to ask for a map of the property.
I enjoyed wandering around the complex and trying all of the pools and steam rooms. I put my sore joints under giant faucets that shot out hot mineral water and immediately my shoulders and joints felt better. I can’t overemphasize how healthy these medicinal waters make you feel. Immediately after leaving I felt lighter and healthier with a kick in my step. While I was solo among at least 200 other people, never once did I feel uncomfortable being alone. This was the best spa I have ever been to.
About a year later our family visited Budapest during the hot and steamy month of July and the awesome thermal baths were just as popular as in the winter months.
After a much dreamed about repeat visit to the Gellerts Spa, we tried the Szechenyi Baths which has the hottest thermal waters in Europe. This Neo-Baroque Palace was magnificent and the pools are routinely one of the most photographed locations in Budapest. It has both numerous indoor and an enormous outdoor pool and was filled with people from all over Eastern Europe. You won’t hear anyone speaking English here but laughter is a universal language and everyone was laughing and having a ball. I saw some people drinking some of the mineral water from a dispenser so we had a small taste and it was horrid. After paying the entry fee we were sent downstairs to the locker area. After much trial and error, we finally figured out how to operate the lockers, changed into our swimsuits and were ready to get outside
The massive outside thermal pool has a unique circular shape with built in circular walls which people just walk around while soaking. This movement causes a current so you are pushed around the edges of the underwater walls and constantly moving. Definitely a new experience for me and so much fun. Everywhere you look people are smiling and enjoying this distinctive water experience. I have to wonder why this circular water maze pool which is so much fun hasn’t caught on in the USA even though it has been in existence for over 100 years. Inside the opulent palace, there are many other pools to bath in at different temperatures and depths. This place was my daughter’s favorite spot in Hungary.
Gellerts and Szechenyi thermal bath houses are perfect places for an excursion while in Budapest for families and singles. It cost about $20.00 for entrance to each bathhouse and bathing caps are mandatory. Bring 2 towels for when you are in the sauna and steams and a dry one for when you change into your street and clothes. Public transportation stops at both bathhouses and if you have some extra time while at Szechenyi, the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Gardens are about 1/8th of a mile away.
We love Budapest and your family will too.