Known as the "City of Baths," Budapest sits on a fault line, and its thermal baths are naturally fed by 120 hot springs. The city is home to an impressive selection of thermal baths, many of which date to the 16th century. We've rounded up the best of the bunch including a sprawling neo-Baroque palace, a rooftop pool overlooking the Danube, and an ancient Ottoman bathing house that's open until 4 a.m. every Friday and Saturday.
Before you dive in, here are a few things to keep in mind: bathers are expected to wear a swimsuit at all times in Budapest's baths, and swim caps are mandatory accessories when swimming in the lap pools. Finally, bring flip flops! They're useful when walking between the indoor and outdoor pools.
In Budapest's baths, don't stay in the hot thermal pools for longer than 20 minutes; don't swim in the thermal pools if you're under 14; and don't smoke. Smoking is not permitted in any of the thermal baths, including the open-air spots.
Housed in a neo-Baroque palace in Budapest's City Park, Széchenyi is Budapest's largest thermal bath complex. Built in 1913, this sprawling site is home to 15 indoor pools and three huge outdoor pools of varying temperatures. Consult a map to make the most of your time at the baths as the maze-like complex can be a little tricky to navigate.
Inside you'll find saunas, steam rooms, aqua fitness equipment, whirlpools and jets, and outside you can relax in pools heated to 33 C (91 F) and 38 C (100 F) or swim laps in the main pool. The thermal water is high in calcium, magnesium, and hydrogen carbonate and is said to ease joint pain and arthritis and improve blood circulation.
Széchenyi is open year-round, and locals play chess on floating boards at the edge of the pool come rain, shine or snow. "Sparties" (spa parties) featuring DJs, laser shows, and film screenings are held on most Saturday nights until 3 a.m. throughout the summer.
With its mosaic walls and floors, stained glass windows and Roman-style columns, Gellért Baths is Budapest's most beautiful bathing destination. Opened in 1918, this Art Nouveau complex features indoor and outdoor baths fed by thermal springs from the nearby Gellért Hill. The temperature of the pools ranges from 26 C (79 F) to 40 C (104 F), and you'll also find dry and steam saunas, treatment rooms for medicinal massages, a carbonic acid bathtub (for cardiovascular issues and high blood pressure), and small thermal baths that can be booked privately by couples. The modern outdoor pool features a wave machine, and there's a large terrace for soaking up the rays in the summer months.
This Turkish-style bathing complex dates to the 16th century when Budapest was under Ottoman rule. The central octagonal pool sits under an atmospheric dome and there's a modern rooftop pool overlooking the Danube upstairs. The baths are open until 4 a.m. every Friday and Saturday for night bathing and water temperatures range from 11 C (52 F) to 42 C (108 F). There's a dedicated physiotherapy section for all sorts of thermal treatments, and, in the main hall, you can drink healing waters from the Hungaria, Attila, and Juventus springs.
While the Lukács Baths opened in the 1880s, it's said that the site's thermal springs date back to the 12th century. The baths are popular with locals and those seeking treatment for various ailments. Facilities include an infrared sauna, a steam bath, a Himalayan salt wall (to ease respiratory problems), and a weight bath (to treat spinal injuries). You can book a number of massages, reflexology sessions and medicinal treatments. The venue hosts "Sparties" (spa parties) until 3 a.m. on most Saturday nights throughout the winter that feature DJs, laser shows and film screenings.
While it may not be as grand as some of Budapest's spas, the Király Baths is a good and affordable option if you're looking for a traditional thermal bathing experience away from the crowds.
The Turkish baths date to 1565, and the main pool sits under a classic Ottoman dome dotted with skylights. The site was damaged during World War II and renovated in 1950. It now features steam baths, saunas, underwater massage jets, and pools fed by thermal waters from the nearby Lukács Baths.
Built under Ottoman rule in the 16th century, this Turkish bathhouse was one of the most beautiful thermal centers of its time. You can still see some of the original stonework around its large octagonal thermal pool. There are smaller pools to relax in, all of varying temperatures, and there's a Jacuzzi, a hydrotherapy bathtub, and a wellness section for steam baths, saunas, and massage treatments. The building is home to both a hotel and a hospital for treatments based around water therapy.