Romans first took advantage of the city’s thermal waters almost two millennia
ago. Now the choice of bathhouse is legion, whether you want to lie back and
admire the architecture or get in a few laps.
Best for treatments
Housed in a sprawling 19th century complex, Lukács Baths has eight pools, both indoor
and outdoor – water temperatures range from 22°C to 36°C. There’s also a
drinking cure hall and treatments on offer include a ‘medical healing massage’,
mud pack treatment and foot massage (II Frankel Leó út 25–29; 6am–8pm; from
A gigantic 1913 building in City Park houses Széchenyi Baths. The water is the
hottest in the city, reaching the surface at a scalding 76°C, and is high in
calcium, magnesium and hydrogen carbonate – good for joint pain, arthritis,
blood circulation and disorders of the nervous system. There are a dozen
thermal baths, salted tub-bath treatments and a great variety of massages (XIV
Állatkerti körút 11; 6am–10pm; from £9).
Among the most modern, but least atmospheric, of all the
baths, Danubius Health Spa
Margitsziget thermal spa is on leafy Margaret Island. There’s a salt cave
with rock salt from the Dead Sea for relaxing in, and a huge array of massages
such as Thai, dry brush, hot stone and an intriguing ‘wine cream massage’. A
daily ticket includes entry to the swimming pools, sauna and steam room and use
of the fitness machines (6.30am–9.30pm; from £14).
Soaking in the thermal waters of Gellért’s
Art Nouveau baths has been likened to bathing in a cathedral. The indoor
swimming pools are the most beautiful in Budapest, with the main pool having a
glass dome, Art Nouveau mosaics, stained-glass windows and many statues. There
are eight baths to choose from (XI Kelenhegyi út 2–4; 6am–8pm; from £12).
The four pools of Király,
with water temperatures of between 26°C and 40°C, are genuine Turkish baths
erected in 1565. The Turks built the complex away from the city’s springs to
ensure they could still use it if there was a siege – to this day it gets its
water from Lukács Bath. Typical Turkish elements include a wonderful skylit
octagonal dome roof and octagonal pool (II Fo utca 84; 9am–8pm; from £7).
Built in 1566, the recently renovated Rudas baths are the most Turkish of all in
Budapest, with an octagonal pool and domed cupola with coloured glass and
massive columns. It can get lively on mixed weekend nights, when bathing
costumes are necessary. The complex includes thermal baths, steam baths, tub
baths and night baths (Dobrentei tér 9; 6am–6pm Mon–Wed, 6am–8pm Thu–Sun; from
Best for fitness and
Dagály, a huge centre north of
Újlipótváros has 10 pools, including two thermal ones, a whirlpool with neck
showers, geysers, as well as a 50m lap pool. The surrounding park offers plenty
of grass and shade – and there are also beach volleyball and football pitches
(XIII Népfürdo utca 36; 6am–8pm; from £5.50).
The largest series of pools in the capital, Palatinus Beach on Margaret Island
has a dozen pools (three with thermal waters) and one extra-large swimming
pool, wave machines and water slides. There are also ping-pong tables, pool
tables, trampolines, a football pitch, beach volleyball pitch, and fast food,
such as hot dogs, available (9am–7pm Apr–Aug; from £5).
Named after its architect and Hungary’s first Olympic champ,
the Alfréd Hajós on Margaret Island is where swimming gets serious. Its two
indoor and three outdoor pools make up the National Sports Pool, where the
Olympic swimming and water-polo teams train, and you can get some laps in (00
36 1 340 4946; 6am–6pm outdoors May–Sep, indoors Oct–Apr; from £3.80).
BA, easyJet, Jet2, Ryanair and Whizz Air fly to Budapest from London
Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted, and Manchester (from £98 from London
Stansted; ryanair.com). The airport is 10 miles east of the city: you can get
bus 200E into the city, but the Airport
Shuttle Minibusz will take you straight to your hotel if you book in
advance (from £14 return), or taxis are
plentiful (approx £17). Budapest is easy to get around with its cheap and
efficient public transport: a 24- hour
travelcard is £4.80.
Where to stay
Bródy House, the erstwhile
residence of the prime minister when parliament sat next door at No 8 in
southern Pest, has been refurbished but not altered substantially. Its
guestrooms are dedicated to local artists and are filled with modern art (VIII
Bródy Sándor utca 10; from £60).
The Gerlóczy Rooms de Lux
has a number of original 1890s décor, including a winding wrought-iron
staircase and domed stained-glass skylight. The 15 attractive rooms feature
showers or clawfoot baths (V Gerlóczy utca 1; from £92).
The Zara Continental Hotel
has 272 beautifully furnished rooms, a wellness centre and a huge atrium lobby
retaining the original 19th-century look of the building (VII Dohány utca
42–44; suite from £150).
The article 'Mini guide to Budapest's spas' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.