Where: Budapest, capital city of Hungary
What: Famed for its numerous hot bubbling spas as well as elegant Turkish and Roman influenced indoor bathing houses
Recommended: A Turkish style bath eu naturele in the Medieval Kiraly baths
Soaking up the atmosphere at one of Budapest’s thermal baths is a great way of experiencing a much-loved Hungarian institution. The pleasures and healing properties of Hungary’s many hot-springs were known to the Romans but it was the Turks in the 16th century that brought them to life, building ornate bath-houses that you can still visit today. The Spas are favoured meeting places for locals but the waters are also reputed to have curative properties. People come here to socialise as well as revitalise aching limbs and treat an endless list of ailments and medical disorders.
If you want to do something typically Hungarian – take a bath. You will be spoilt for choice in Budapest, but one (or more) of the following will make for a satisfying dip:
Gellertfurdo (Budapest XI. Gellert ter.)
Budapest’s most famous Spa is located in the Gellert Hotel (using the side-entrance on Kelenhegyi ut.). An art nouveau temple houses the bath – complete with columns, tiled arcades, mosaics, and a domed roof. Several smaller rooms lead off from the main bath house with steam rooms, massage halls, a swimming pool, and rooms treating specific ailments – including dentistry.
You can be pampered and pummeled daily between 6am and 8pm (closes at 1pm weekends).
Kiralyfurdo (Budapest II. Fo utca 82-86)
The Kiraly baths offer traditional steam treatment and are among Budapest’s oldest Ottoman buildings. Built in 1565-70 by the Pasha of Buda, these medieval steam houses offer a traditional middle eastern experience that is popular with the regulars. Don’t expect people to be wearing anything either; like most spas you get a loincloth to cover your modesty, but normally bathers don’t bother. Kiraly has saunas, steam baths, pools and masseurs. Kiraly’s picturesque main pool – with stain glass dome – is the most popular.
The baths are open between 6:30am and 6pm Mon-Sat (closes at midday Sunday). The baths have alternate times for men and women – check before you go.
Szechenyifurdo (Budapest XIV. Allatkerti korut 11)
These baths are some of the biggest open air spas anywhere in Europe and are right in the middle of the park. The water is so warm here that you can pretty much bathe anytime of the year, although only the real hardcore bathers make it from the changing rooms in mid-winter. It is common to see people floating about with a game of chess in progress using corkboards in the water.
The baths are open 7am-7pm Mon-Sat.The baths are directly ouside the Szechenyifurdo (metro#1) station.
Other bath houses in Budapest include: The Csaszarfurdo, Lukacsfurdo, Margaret Island Thermal Baths, Racfurdo and the oldest bath in Budapest – the Rudasfurdo – built in 1556 (men only). Hot springs are plentiful all over Hungary – anywhere with furdo or fured in its name indicates a town with a Spa.
By Dan Porter