Budapest is known as the City of Spas for a reason. Bubbling underneath the streets of the city is a network of natural thermal springs, bringing rich mineral waters to spas across Budapest. With a host of benefits for mind, body and soul, a dip in one of the best thermal baths in Budapest is a must for visitors. We sat down with Gabriella Szajcz, spa manager at Corinthia Hotel Budapest, to find out what makes Hungarian spas and their hot waters so special.
Hungary is home to more thermal spas than anywhere else in Europe. How did the Hungarian bath develop?
Hungary is a land of more than 1,000 thermal springs. The first baths were built by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago on the lands of Pannónia Aquincum (now northern Budapest). The second significant period of our thermal history dates back to 16th century, when Turkish people brought their own bath culture to Budapest during the occupation. They also brought their striking architecture – a few of these beautiful Turkish baths are still in use today.
Since 1934, Budapest has held the title City of Spas. With more than 100 thermal springs that feed more than 50 bathhouses and thermal spas with 70 million litres of thermal water each day, Budapest is unique among the world’s other capital cities.
Thermal baths are filled with mineral waters. What makes these waters so special?
Mineral waters contain various beneficial ingredients such as sulphate, calcium, magnesium, hydro-carbonate and sodium, to name just a few. Depending on its makeup, thermal water has many different impacts. It can relieve stress, maintain a healthy heart, reduce high blood pressure, improve skin tone and treat calcium deficiencies. It’s also perfect for rehabilitation after injuries and can help prevent issues like degenerative joint diseases.
Thermal and mineral waters contain dissolved minerals so they are suitable for bathing and, occasionally, drinking. However, the temperature of these waters is between 21 and 78 degrees Celsius, so it’s important to keep to the recommended bathing time in the water.
Please tell us about the best thermal baths in Budapest.
Széchenyi Bath is one of the most popular, and largest, spa complexes in Europe. The beautiful, historical bath was built between 1909 and 1913 as the first thermal bath in Pest. Guests can enjoy 18 indoor and outdoor thermal water pools, plus a steam room, saunas, Jacuzzis and medical services such as balneotherapy and mud therapy.
Gellért Bath at the foot of Gellért Hill is also an excellent choice. It has separate thermal water for ladies and men, and additional rheumatology, physiotherapy and inhalatorium services. Finally, if you’d would like to enjoy a traditional Turkish ambiance, you can visit one of city’s three Ottoman-style baths: Király Bath, Rudas Bath or Veli Bej Bath.
What part do thermal baths play in modern Hungarian culture?
People like to visit public baths and spend a few hours with their family or friends. Although we can find many elderly people visiting for their different health concerns, Hungarian baths have started appealing more to young people, too, who like to organise parties during spring and summer.