Thermal baths in Budapest are one of the city’s most alluring draws.
There is no other capital in the world as rich in thermal water as Budapest! The Romans who lived in the area two thousand years ago knew of the medicinal properties of thermal springs , and used them not only for bathing but also for floor heating in buildings. In the late Middle Ages, with the appearance of the plague, most of Europe believed that bathing is unhealthy and rarely cleaned themselves. Can you imagine the smells?! No wonder perfumes were invented that time!
About five centuries ago the Ottoman Empire occupied most of the Hungarian Kingdom and brought back thermal bath culture in Budapest. Thermal baths in Budapest had a real revival in the twentieth century and nowadays they are more popular than ever!
Hungarian doctors still recommend thermal water treatments to many of their patients – you can sit in it or you can even drink it, depending on your symptoms. Of course we don’t just go when we have a health problem, prevention is important after all, and a relaxing day in the spa is always a good idea.
No wonder that enjoying thermal baths in Budapest is on most visitor’s to do list as well. Combine a few baths with a stay in one of the best boutique hotels in Budapest and you can build an incredible rest and relaxation city break!
With that in mind here are some of the best thermal baths in Budapest for you to pick from during your next visit.
Essential Tips and Info About Visiting a Thermal Bath in Budapest
Before we dive in, here are a few essential tips.
- Most thermal baths are co-ed nowadays, and wearing a bathing suit is mandatory, even in the sauna.
- Usually in the swimming pools you need to wear a swim cap as well, but not in the thermal pools.
- Bring flip-flops to be safe on the slippery floor.
- You can rent towels, but it is always best to bring your own if you can – we would recommend one for the sauna and one to dry yourself in the end.
- Usually you can choose between a private cabin or a locker to leave your stuff – the cabin being a bit more expensive.
- Needless to say, do not bring any valuables with you.
- You will see a lot of men wearing speedos, but don’t worry, you can wear your usual swim trunks.
- Hygiene is generally good in the baths, but you should know that the thermal pools do not use the usual filtering systems because it would weaken the medicinal effects of the water. That is why it is very important to take a shower before entering the pools!
- The pool temperatures range from 16 °C (60 °F) to 42 °C (107 °F), it is recommended to spend only a short time (5-10 minutes) in the hottest pools and then switch to a cooler one, maybe even jump into a freezing cold one for a minute to boost your circulation.
- It is not recommended to use the thermal pools for people with certain conditions (heart disease, fever, cancer, infectious diseases, etc.), for small kids, and for pregnant women. If you are not sure whether the thermal water is good for you consult your doctor first.
Best Thermal Baths in Budapest – Széchenyi Thermal Baths – The Opulent
The largest medicinal bath house of Europe is in the heart of City Park (‘Városliget’), and it is the perfect place to relax after a long walk in the city, or ice skating in winter on the nearby ice rink.
The architecture is quite eclectic: outside it looks like a baroque palace, but inside many details were created in Art Nouveau style. Our favourite is the main entrance hall with the colorful, mythology-inspired mosaics and the fountain picturing a centaur.
This is the most famous thermal bath of Budapest not only because of its size, but also because of the iconic picture on Lonely Planet’s cover about the cute old men playing chess in the water. It is a common scene which you can see for yourself when you visit!
The place inspired movies as well: Madonna shot some scenes here for her famous musical, Evita.
And why is it the younger generation’s beloved destination as well? A ‘SPArty’ is organised on many Saturdays, and it is one of the most unique parties in the world: everything is like at a club, except that you are in swimwear and in hot water! A totally unique and awesome way to get your groove on while chilling in one of Budapest’s best thermal spas.
Gellért Thermal Baths – The Art Nouveau
When I meet an architecture-lover my number one recommendation is the Gellért Baths. This gorgeous building was one of the last Art Nouveau pieces of Budapest – WWI stopped most of the fancy constructions back then.
The hotel part is a bit dusty, but the baths still show us the luxury of the early 20th century, the turquoise Zsolnay ceramics, the detailed mosaics, the stained glass windows; every corner is full of creativity.
There is a small indoor swimming pool (a swim cap is a must in this one!) with glass ceiling, many thermal pools of different temperatures, sauna, steam room, and the outdoor area is also really pretty with one thermal pool and one wave pool – the latter only works in summer.
One more reason to visit: you can be in the same pool where Ryan Gosling had a photo-shoot for GQ! They say the magic water gave him all that sexy charm. Let us know if you think this is true after you visit what is one of Budapest’s coolest thermal baths.
Palatinus Thermal Baths – The One On the Island
The ‘Pala’, as locals call it, is located in the heart of the Margaret Island, the green refuge of Budapest. For a long time it was only available in summer with open-air pools, but recently they opened an indoor section as well, and it is still not as crowded as some of the town baths.
In summer besides the thermal pools you can also enjoy a cool wave pool and one with tall slides, so it is more fun with kids than the usual medicinal baths.
We also recommend this if you are interested in the architecture of the 1930’s with a strong modern influence.
For more info about Palatinus Thermal Baths click here.
Lukács Thermal Baths – The Locals’ Favorite
The hot spring of the Lukács Thermal Bath has been used at least since the 12th century for curing diseases, and nowadays they recommend its water for example for post-accident rehabilitation.
Although it is also a historical bath it is not as luxurious-looking as some of the more famous ones, maybe that is why still more locals come here than tourists. The complex got renovated beautifully in the past few years, and it got a brand new leisure pool in one of the courtyards. It has a really special atmosphere at night when the water is lit with colorful lights. We also love the outdoor swimming pools when we feel less lazy.
At the drinking hall you can even taste the water – be prepared for a strong mineral flavor! The water might not be the greatest thing you ever tasted but it is undoubtedly filled with all sorts of essential minerals! Give it a try.
Rudas Thermal Baths – The Turkish
This is the place to go to if you want to experience the oldest and newest spa culture at once. Closer to the Elisabeth bridge you will find a Turkish bath that is almost five centuries old and has a really mysterious atmosphere. In the middle of the complex you can swim in the century-old indoor swimming pool, and in the other end of the building you can spoil yourself in the modern spa section – that includes a rooftop pool as well with gorgeous view over the city and the Danube!
The Turkish section is only coed on the weekend – Tuesday is for the ladies and the other weekdays are for the gents. The weekends are for everyone though, and you can even enjoy the night time here on Friday and Saturday – romance is in the air!
And there you have it travelers, these were some of the best thermal baths in Budapest. If you read this before visiting one of the above please let us know what you thought of your experience! And if you think we missed something, let us know in the comments below.
As always, safe and happy travels!
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About the Author
Judit is the founder of Budapest 101, a boutique tour company that offers unique private tours in the capital and the countryside of Hungary. She’s always on the hunt for new cafés and restaurants, she’s passionate about wine culture, her favourite architectural style is Hungarian Art Nouveau, and she’s absolutely in love with her city. Her favourite thing when travelling? Leaving the guide book sights behind and discover hidden gems and everyday life. So here’s her guide to her favourite off the beaten path places in Budapest that will help you do the same!