For those heading to Budapest, we have but one piece of advice: take a bath! It’s not an insult, (worry not; we’re sure your hygiene is impeccable) but when you’re visiting the ‘City of Baths,’ it would be a crime to miss out on Budapest’s historic, refreshing, and invigorating pools. The best thermal baths in Budapest range from local haunts like Király Bath and Lukács Bath, all the way up to the colossal Széchenyi Bath. Budapest’s natural thermal springs have been exploited since Roman times, when a sprawling bathing complex was a major landmark (these days, its ruins and stories can be found at the Aquincum Museum). When the Turks later arrived on the scene in the 16th century, they additionally brought their hamam-style spas to the city. And today, a trip to the baths is as popular a pursuit among Budapest denizens as ever. Begin, then, with these six thermal baths in Budapest. Indoors or out, they’ll be sure to leave you relaxed and stress-free – not to mention squeaky-clean.
Looking for a bath with a side of history? The elegant Király Bath is the oldest in the city – with origins dating back to the 16th century, it’s a vestige of Ottoman rule and was built inside the city walls in case of siege or attack. Though it was damaged in WWII, the thermal bath was quickly restored, and today is quite the looker: the octagonal pool beneath a light-punctured dome is the perfect place for a dip.
Challenging Király’s title is Rudas Bath, another 16th century thermal bath with Turkish origins. But where Király is local, even petite in scale, Rudas is grand: refurbished just last year, its six thermal pools, swimming pool, and five wellness water holes draw all manner of soakers. If you’re visiting in winter, save time for the rooftop pool, as nothing complements a dip quite like swirling snowflakes.
Half-bath, half water park, Széchenyi Bath isn’t just the biggest of the thermal baths in Budapest, but ranks among the largest in Europe. No wonder, considering there are a whopping 15 indoor pools and three sprawling outdoor pools to choose from. Plan to spend a day frolicking in the waters and getting rosy in the steam – and be prepared for some seriously wrinkly fingers and toes.
Not the type to be contented with a languid soak? Dagaly Bath enlivens the low-key bathing scene with a water cannon, wave pool, and a beach volleyball court that are more theme park than placid spa. For those after the supposed medicinal benefits of the water, though, a dunk in one of many mineral-rich tubs is also on the agenda, with a massage menu mixed in. Finish it off with a tubing session down the lazy river, naturally.
Lukács Bath clearly lies on some kind of thermal hot spot (quite literally): how else could we explain the fact that there have been spas on-site since the 12th century? Back then, the area hosted monastic baths; later, a spa hotel was established in the 19th century. Now, Lukács Bath is primarily a calming refuge for locals, though it’s been known to host some neon-lit bathing parties as well.
Also known as the Veli Bej Bath, the Császár Baths have ancient Ottoman origins – though the long-abandoned site was only recently reopened. Its recent relaunch means that, while the baths still have their classic Turkish domes in place, inside are plenty of features that can only be described as thoroughly modern: from an infrared sauna to leisure showers and sleek brass trim.