For over a thousand years, kings and queens from every part of Europe and Asia have enjoyed—and fought for—Budapest’s natural hot springs. Seemingly every other conqueror of the city made his mark by building a bath (or “fürdo” in Hungarian) to call his own.
Each day, more than 350,000 cubic meters of hot water gushes to the surface of Buda and Pest. Thanks to government subsidies, admission fees to the city’s spectacular spas are surprisingly reasonable. The following list includes not necessarily the cheapest baths in town, but, from our own experience, the most picturesque and memorable.
As per local tradition, all baths offer multiple services at various prices. For the sake of clarity, we have listed only standard day-pass prices. Be sure to check bath schedules upon your arrival into Budapest, as most offer half-price days and “happy hours” and some designate entire days as male only or female only. Note that the Budapest Card offers 10 percent discounts to all baths listed below. Also, offering a refund for visits of less than two hours is a standard practice. So, be sure to store your receipt in a dry place before jumping into the deep end.
Location: Frankel Leo út 25-27., II. district, Buda, bus 6, 86
Tel: (+36 1) 326 1695
Open: Mon-Sun, 6:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m.
Cost: HUF 2,800 (about $15) on weekdays and HUF 2,900 on weekends
Opened in 1894, the Neo-Classical Lukacs Baths are located north of the castle in Buda, along the Danube. Visitors wade in the two outdoor swimming pools, get knocked around in the powerful Csaszar whirlpool and heat up in the jacuzzi. A marble tablet in the courtyard is etched with praises of visitors from all over the world.
Be sure to bring a swimming hat for the main pool, as they are required and rentals are pricey. A drinking hall, built in 1937, provides sulphurous water (thought to help digestion).
Location: Kelenhegyi út 4., XI. district, Buda, trams 47, 49, 18
Tel: (+36 1) 466 61 66
Open: Mon-Sun, 6:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
Cost: HUF 3,500 (about $18) on weekdays and HUF 3,600 on weekends
The baths within the Gellert Hotel complex are housed inside and outside of a spectacular building at the foot of Gellert Hill. Non-bathers stop by to meditate on the craftsmanship of the tile-and-glass ceiling.
This maze of single-sex thermal baths and plunge pools opened in 1927. The wave machine is always a crowd-pleaser, and massage and therapy services are available as well. (Don’t get the steam bath confused with the sauna!) There’s even a salon on-site.
Location: Állatkerti Körút 11., City Park, XIV. district, trolley bus 72
Tel: (+36 1) 363 3210
Open: Mon-Sun, 6:00 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: HUF 3,400 (about $17) weekdays and HUF 3,500 on weekends
The Szechenyi Bath, located in City Park near the Budapest Zoo, is one of the largest spa complexes in Europe. Built in 1913, the bright yellow Neo-Baroque building recalls the Habsburg era. Pools and services runneth over inside the Szechenyi complex, and water gushes out into multiple whirlpools from 1,250 meters below ground.
When we last visited, we enjoyed three of the 15 different pools and multiple sauna rooms. We also got a kick out of the power whirlpool, which spins visitors effortlessly around a spraying fountain. Massage treatments and aquatic aerobics classes are available. A bar serves light snacks and locals like to play games on floating chess boards.
Location: Döbrentei tér 9., Buda, Erzsébet Bridge, I. district, tram 18, bus 7, 7a
Tel: (+36 1) 356 1322
For men: Mon, Wed, Thur, Fri: 6:00 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat-Sun: 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
For women: Tue: 6:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
Both Sexes (bathing suit is compulsory): Fri: 10.00-4.00, Sat: 6.00-20.00, 22.00-4.00, Sun: 6.00-20.00
Cost: HUF 2,100 (about $11) weekdays and HUF 2,200 on weekends
For a traditional Turkish bath experience, head over to the Rudas Bath in Buda, along the Danube. Sokoli Mustafa Pasha rebuilt this bath in 1566 and the traditional architecture still shines. A marble staircase leads into a dome-topped, octagonal thermal pool. Shafts of sunlight shine through the stained-glass cupola to create a gorgeous spectrum of colors.
Smaller pools surround the main dome, and range in temperature from icy cold to red hot. No swimsuits are allowed at the traditional complex (open to men on most weekdays and to women on Tuesdays). Medicinal waters are available to drink for an extra fee and the second floor houses a physiotherapy department.
Location: Margitsziget, XIII. district, bus 26
Open: May to mid-Aug daily 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. Last entry at 6:00 p.m.
Cost: HUF 1,800 (about $10) to HUF 2,200 with locker (adults), HUF200 (children)
Guests love the family-friendly atmosphere at the Palatinus Strand waterpark on the gorgeous Margaret Island, in between Buda and Pest. The complex is full of thermal springs gestating into three of the park’s 11 pools. A wave pool and a water slide with multiple tubes are favorites with the young at heart. Ping pong tables, pool tables and trampolines add variety and multiple snack bars provide nourishment. The Palatinus Strand is surrounded by playgrounds and parkland.
For more information on the city’s bath scene, check out the Budapest Tourism Office’s article on the city’s baths, with videos and links to special events (including discos and bubble parties!).