The Healing Baths of Budapest

Read my full guide to the 5 Best Ancient Baths in Budapest here. 

I spent my Easter Sunday in Budapest, indulging in these ancient rituals. Instead of churches, I sat in bathhouses, engaged in another form of religion. For five days, my to-do list read simply: Soak. Just sit and let winter’s sludge slide off you, like melting snow slinking off a sun-drenched roof. It worked, I think. I felt a little cleaner, lighter, and warmer having sat with people from all over the world, searching for healing.

The Baths I Visited

Széchenyi

The largest bathhouse in Europe is a spa-goers paradise. Built in 1913, Széchenyi is an expansive complex of neo-Baroque design consisting of 12 thermal baths, steam chambers, and an outdoor swimming pool surrounded by a fortress of primrose yellow buildings. Grecian statues double as fountains and gladly dump water for aptly-placed neck massages. With so many choices, you’ll be tempted to try every single bath and you should, as they all have something slightly different to offer. After a long flight or train journey, there is perhaps no better introduction to Budapest, than a dip in the steamy outdoor pools of Széchenyi.

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The outdoor thermal pool at Széchenyi.

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The outside of Széchenyi.

Gellért

Gellért is the most opulent, best known, and most expensive bath in Budapest. This bathhouse is just shy of 100 years old and still retains a beautiful, Art Nouveau-style façade that is reminiscent of its glory days. Gellért Bath has indoor thermal pools, swimming pools, an outdoor pool, saunas, a range of medicinal treatments, and even a dentist’s office. Go here to feel like royalty and to soak with class. Located on the Buda side of Budapest, Gellért is just across the street from Gellért Hill Cave, a chapel housed in a network of caves, and the Citadella, an old, Hapsburg fortress which offers stunning views of the city.

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Indoor pool at Gellért Bath.

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Outdoor view of Gellért, while climbing the Citadella.

Rudas 

Built during the Turkish occupation of Hungary in the 16th century, Rudas is the oldest of Budapest’s bathhouses and has been preserved in the traditional Turkish style. Rudas is smaller, steamier, and more intimate than the other two baths I’ve mentioned. All of the five thermal baths are located in one geometrically-minded room: 4 in each corner and the biggest in the center. For the optimal experience, visit Rudas around sunset and don’t forget to look up while soaking in the center bath. You’ll find the ceiling is a patchwork of small, jewel-like windows, and at sunset the light streams through them perfectly, creating an almost holy, kaleidoscopic vision.

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Rudas Baths.

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View of Rudas Baths across the Danube.


Around Budapest

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Regulars playing chess in the pool Széchenyi.

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Regulars playing chess in the pool at Széchenyi.

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Swimming pool at Széchenyi.

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Whirpool goers at Széchenyi.

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The outdoor pools of Széchenyi.

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The outdoor pools of Széchenyi.

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The outdoor pools of Széchenyi.

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Indoor thermal pools at Széchenyi.

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Indoor thermal pools at Széchenyi.

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The ceiling of Széchenyi.

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The ceiling of Széchenyi.

The outside of Széchenyi.

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A break in between baths to visit Vajdahunyad Castle.

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Jáki kápolna: The castle chapel.

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Jáki kápolna: The castle chapel.

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A break in between baths to visit Vajdahunyad Castle.

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A break in between baths to visit Vajdahunyad Castle.

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A break in between baths to visit Vajdahunyad Castle.

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A break in between baths to visit Vajdahunyad Castle.

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Walking around in Budapest.

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Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square), featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, important national leaders, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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View of Pest from Buda.

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Indoor pool at Gellért.

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Hot pool, old man. Gellért.

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Selfies at Gellért.

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Ceiling at Gellért.

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Façade of Gellért.

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Pre-storm glimpses of Pest from Buda.

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View up the Danube, while climbing the Citadella.

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View up the Danube, while climbing the Citadella.

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Stormy skies over Pest.

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A storm rolls in over the Danube.

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Cross and thorns with Pest in the background.

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Liberty Bridge.

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Outdoor view of Gellért.

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Cross bearers descending from Gellért Hill Cave Chapel.

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View of Gellért from across the river, Buda side.

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Walking along Váci Utca at night, Budapest.

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Surprise street performance in Vörösmarty tér (square).

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Color baubles at a market in Vörösmarty tér (square).

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Medieval.

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An island in the middle of a capital city.

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Old ruins on Margaret Island.

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Grave on Margaret Island.

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Here lies Saint Margaret.

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Here lies Saint Margaret.

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Margaret Island, Budapest.

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Springtime in Budapest.

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Springtime in Budapest.

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Springtime in Budapest.

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Margaret Island

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Margaret Island

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View of Parliament across the Danube.

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$5 Opera in Budapest.

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$5 Opera in Budapest.

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$5 Opera in Budapest.

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Wandering in Budapest

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Central Market Budapest.

2 thoughts on “The Healing Baths of Budapest

  1. Madeleine says:

    Those pictures are stunning.
    didn’t think it was possible to get me more excited about my trip there but you’ve successfully accomplished that!

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