Monday, 9 December 2013

Bathing in Budapest

Making the Most of Budapest's Ancient & Therapeutic Thermal Waters... and Hundreds of Other Low-Budget Attractions!

Historic 'Buda' with its much-adored medieval churches, bath houses and funicular railway - and Neo-classical 'Pest' with its flurry of shops and cafĂ© culture - both make up the exciting city of Budapest. The wide and graceful Danube river glides through the elegant city separating these two halves which are linked by a series of stunning bridges.

Budapest baths - lit up at night
Lukacsz Baths - Outdoors at Night
Of all the wonderful things to do and see in Budapest, the thermal baths are possibly the most famous. The city enjoys a wide range of thermal springs throughout Buda and Pest, and therefore a wide range of bath houses and spas - a handful of which are over 400 years old and built by the Turks - founders of bathing culture in Budapest, who harnessed the area's therapeutic natural hot springs.

The Rudas baths along the river on the Buda side are a genuine example of these traditional Turkish baths, and they have a fine example of an original hexagonal pool. Here, the tradition of single-sex bathing remains on weekdays.

For luxury traditional Neo-classical bathing head to the famous Gellert Spas at the Gellert Hotel. With its colourful mosaics, stunning glass windows in the foyer, and many pools of various temperatures, it is a truly exquisite experience and very popular with locals coming to relax or chew over the day's events. There are a range of treatment areas, and seriously hot saunas and steam rooms hidden amongst an extensive range of beautifully adorned rooms and galleries. There is also a sun terrace with an outdoor pool, open in the summer until October.

Gellert - Ceiling in the Foyer
Gellert - One of the Thermal Pools

Gellert - Main Plunge Pool

Lukacsz Baths consist of a wide variety of indoor and outdoor pools of various temperatures, all open year-round, along with saunas, steam rooms and treatment rooms all spread around the building on various levels. the warmest outdoor pool is lit up spectacularly at night with colour-changing lights around the water. The moving rapids propel guests gently but forcibly around the edge of the pool and the many jets and massage bubbles in the centre jiggle everyone happily to relaxation and wellbeing, even if the mineral-rich spring water doesn't.

Lukacsz Baths also often host evening Spa Party events (or Sparties) even in winter! Expect all the makings of a party, but in a spa.

At the saunas, steam rooms and plunge-pools around the city you'll find not just pampered damsels, but the manliest of men, burning away in the serious chambers and plunging straightaway into ice-cold water without a second thought. With this in mind, as well as the highly beneficial naturally mineral-rich water, expect to return home with the happiest skin you've had in years. 

Practicalities and General Budapest Info:

  • Most spas lend towels for a fee, although you will save money if you take your own. Many baths charge a deposit of around 30-40 euros.
  • Bath houses are open until 7pm and some until 9pm.
  • Some baths are single-sex, but not usually at weekends. Check directly with the spa or bath house if you are uncertain. In single-sex baths many people bathe without a bathing suit.
  • It is polite and good-practice to shower before entering the baths
  • All pools have the water temperature displayed.
  • Children under around 14 years are usually not allowed, check with individual spas and bath houses.

Budapest is a very cheap city to enjoy by most European standards. Train travel is especially good value, as are opera tickets which are heavily subsidised by the state. It is even possible to have a seat with obscured vision for less than £10! The building is absolutely stunning inside, with many detailed frescoes, glass chandeliers, marble staircases and gilt galleries.

The 'city centre' of Budapest (for shopping and eating out) is on the Pest side of the river, and the main shopping street - Vaci Utca.- offers immense choice for bars and shops.

The historic centre is on the Buda side of the river. Castle Hill and the Mathias church are great attractions for history and beautiful views of the enormous Parliament building on the other side of the river, and the rest of Pest.

Text and Images Copyright © Lise Griffiths, 2013
All Rights Reserved

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