Bathing in Budapest: A Guide to Europe's Spa Capital

Aside from being so famously split by the Danube, Budapest is further divided by a fault line that runs along the river, feeding a system of over 120 natural hot springs. Locals have been using these waters since medieval times as a means of therapy, and still do today in the many thermal spas around town.

Each of these spas will vary in style and mood. Some feel solemn and no-frills while others are sprawling open-air affairs. Expect all of them to be at least a tad crowded. The entrance process alone can be a dizzying experience, not unlike a visit to the post office five days before Christmas.

Of course, the cost of admission will also vary by bath. There are many factors that may affect price such as day of the week and time of day. Prices are likely to be higher on weekends, and morning admission might differ from afternoons.

Tack on additional charges for booking an old-timey changing cabin over a locker, or if you think you’d like access to the lap pool and any sports facilities in addition to the baths. Then there’s often a lengthy menu of services to pore over, featuring everything from mud wraps to eucalyptus massages. These services are sure to cost less than they would back home, but they can add up over the course of a visit.

Rudas Baths

In the cliffs below Gellert Hill is Rudas Baths, built under Ottoman rule in 1550. A large octagonal steam pool is flanked by smaller hot pools, each varying in temperature and mineral content. Those suffering any joint or bone ailments should feel a little relief after a soak. The water is mineral rich and only slightly radioactive. Drinking the water is said to be just as beneficial, and the wellness spa at Rudas offers several varieties.

Here, weekday morning admission is your cheapest option, with entrance to the thermal baths going for 2,600 HUF (about $10), including a changing cabin. For those who prefer to do their bathing late into the night, tickets are available for 5,100 HUF (around $19) on Fridays and Saturdays from 10pm to 4am.

Gellert Baths

Located in the Hotel Gellert, the waters of this Art Nouveau bath complex have been used for their healing properties since the Middle Ages. The water composition is said to help treat against arthritis, bad circulation, spinal disorders, aortic stenosis, neuralgia, and other ailments. The facility includes 12 pools in total, 3 of them outdoor.

Of all the baths in Budapest, this is easily the most popular, at least among tourists. That popularity is certainly reflected in in the prices, with the most basic entrance at 5,600 HUF (about $21), making it the most expensive of the city’s baths.

Szechenyi Baths

Probably the 2nd most photogenic of the city’s baths after the Gellert, this yellow Neo-Baroque spa uses water from two thermal springs. Three large outdoor pools are located in the courtyard and open year-round, with additional pools indoors.

Baths are mixed gender and swimsuits are required. Rentals are available if you’ve left yours behind.

The cheapest entrance option is 4,900 HUF for mornings (6-8am) and afternoons (until 7pm) with locker rentals. A fast pass option is also available for those willing to pay extra to skip the line. Tickets can be booked in advance online at Szechenyispabaths.com.

Lukacs Baths

The springs below Lukacs Baths have been treating the sick since the 12th century. Today, Lukacs is a favored by locals as not only a cure-all, but also for late night partying, or spartying as it is known here. Complete with international DJs, lasers, and a lot of booze, surely some attendees find themselves in need of a good soak the morning after.

Admission during the day is 3700 HUF and includes a locker rental. Toss in sauna access for 4300 HUF. For the baller bather, a wine bath will set you back 18,000 HUF, or spring for a couples wine bath for 33,000 HUF.

Kiraly Baths

The oldest thermal bath in Budapest, Kiraly was built by the Ottoman Turks and has been around since the 16th century. And it looks it. Not much as changed here. The central pool is surrounded by stone archways and overhead, small skylights in the Ottoman dome let in what little light there is.

The oldest bath in town is also the cheapest. Morning admission is 2500 HUF which includes a locker. Baths are unisex so bring a suit.

Cheap Flights to Budapest

As is the case with so many European destinations, fares to Budapest have come down in recent years, thanks in part to low cost carriers like Norwegian. LOT Polish Airlines frequently includes Budapest in its sales. If neither of these airlines operates in your home city, try pricing out flights to European airports serviced by Wizz Air, a Hungarian low cost carrier.

Visit our Budapest (BUD) fare listings for a complete look at current finds from all over the U.S. and Canada.

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