Relax in Budapest's thermal baths
The Hungarian capital, Budapest, is renowned for its spas, where locals and tourists enjoy thermal baths built over hot springs. We have gathered the best tips for a relaxing spa vacation.
If you're looking for an alternative to a traditional city break in the heart of Central Europe, you should definitely add Budapest to your bucket list. Finnair flies direct to Budapest daily and the flight time from Helsinki is only about 2 hours and 20 minutes.
In addition to the enchanting city and stunning sights such as Fisherman's Bastion, St. Stephen's Basilica, and the Danube, visitors to Budapest should try out the local spas. The warm, almost 40–degree mineral-rich water of Budapest's spa pools comes from natural hot springs.
Soak your muscles in mineral water
Budapest's largest and most famous spa is the Széchenyi Baths, located in the Pest district near Heroes' Square, which was completed in 1913. It has three large outdoor pools, where you can, among other things, play chess and get carried away by a small countercurrent.
It’s also a popular location for Instagram-worthy travel selfies. The indoor area of the spa includes 13 pools with slightly different temperatures, as well as various saunas such as salt and steam saunas. It is also possible to book spa treatments for an additional fee.
The beautiful, art deco-style Gellért Spa, located in the Buda area, opened already in 1918. There are indoor and outdoor pools, and one of them even has a wave machine. You can also enjoy relaxing massages and spa services. If you are on vacation with your partner, you can book a one-and-a-half-hour spa experience for two in one of the private rooms.
The Turkish Rudas Bath, which has been in use since the 1500s, and the Lukács Bath, built in the 1800s, are both known for their health benefits. The water flowing into their pools is particularly rich in sulfur and nutrients. You can also buy spring water to drink from Lukács Bath.
The mineral content of spa waters varies depending on the location. It is believed that all bathing is perfect for relieving muscle aches and stiffness and improving blood circulation and metabolism. Bathing in hot springs is also believed to be beneficial for skin health.
Bring your own towel and sandals – or a hat
Admission fees for the most famous spas are about 20–25 EUR. There is an additional fee if you forget your towel and sandals at the hotel. Some spas offer rentals, but not all. A towel purchased from a spa shop can cost around 20 EUR and flip-flop sandals usually have a price tag of 10–20 EUR.
Remember to bring a swim cap or a hair tie if you have long hair, as you’re not allowed to enter the pools with your hair flying around.
If you visit outdoor pools in places like Széchenyi Baths during winter, it's a good idea to bring a beanie. On the other hand, on a warm summer day, a sun hat is an excellent choice if you feel like lounging by the outdoor pool.
You can leave your belongings in the changing room lockers and wear a wristband with the key around your arm.
Check the age limits and opening hours
There are separate changing rooms and shower facilities for men and women, but the pool areas are shared. Swimsuits are mandatory. In general, the baths are only intended for those over 14 years. For example, at Széchenyi Baths, children under 14 can only stay in the outdoor pools, but their ticket costs the same as an adult's. Bathing is not recommended for babies and toddlers, but if you really want to take your small child swimming, remember to use swim diapers.
The pools are regularly maintained, and they can be out of order during maintenance. The baths update the situation reasonably well on their websites and social media, so it may be wise to check online before deciding which day to use for relaxation in warm waters. On weekends, the baths also fill up with locals, so it is advisable to visit on a weekday, if possible.
Respect the silence
In the baths, people relax quietly. Even friends and couples who enjoy bathing together keep their voices down. Loud laughter or conversation is not appreciated, and Hungarians do not hesitate to show their displeasure by giving an icy glare. Fortunately, tourists' mistakes are generally treated with an understanding smile.
An exception to the rule, however, is Széchenyi Baths, which often organises adult pool parties on Saturday nights. The spa turns into a huge party with electronic dance music and colourful neon lights.