Posted in Italy on 02. Dec, 2010
What makes Budapest Europe’s best destination for thermal baths? How about the astounding 350,000 cubic metres of hot water that gushes to the surface every single day. Lucky us. And as this has been going on for centuries,the world’s grandest thermal spas have been built for centuries, giving you the unique opportunity to luxuriate as you experience the the city’s rich history. When was the last time you sit in hot water in a museum? And with high government subsidies given to the baths, you can enjoy them for a fraction of the cost that you’d find in other cities. Here are five of the best.
What makes the Gellért Baths so convenient is that they’re actually located within the opulent Danubius Hotel Gellért complex. This magnificent bath occupied both the outside and inside of a spectacular building right at the foot of Gellert Hill. The ornate tile-and-glass ceiling even attracts those who plan to stay dry. Though the popular wave machine is new, the single-sex thermal baths and plunge pools have been around since 1927. There are also many relaxing massage and therapy services, as well as a salon .
Though the present Lukács Thermal Bath dates to the year 1894, people have been bathing in this spot since at least the 12th century, when it was a monastery bath. A drinking cure hall was added in 1937 and a daytime hospital in 1979, and a major recent refurbishment and modernization has restored the baths to their former glory while bringing them into the 21st century. So go back and forth between two outdoor swimming pools. Brave the powerful Csaszar whirlpool. Melt away in the Jacuzzi. Don’t miss the marble tablet in the courtyard, which is etched with praise from many happy customers. The 1937 drinking hall offers sulphurous water that’s meant to aid in digestion. Set right on the beautiful Danube, just north of Buda’s iconic castle, the Lukács also surrounds you with other Budapest landmarks, and only 150 metres away is the magnificent Budapest Csaszar Hotel.
One of the continent’s largest spa complexes, the Szechenyi Baths are beautifully set in City Park near the Budapest Zoo. The distinctive bright yellow Baroque building dates back to 1913, making it a vintage treasure from the era of the Hapsburg. While you’re trying to choose between the 15 different pools, you can relax with a game of chess on a floating board or enjoy a drink or a snack at the bar. The water gushing into the many whirlpools comes from 1,250 meters below ground, and massage water aerobics and massage treatments are also offered. Don’t leave without trying the power whirlpool, where you get spun around a fountain. Massage treatments and aquatic aerobics classes are also available. Ibis Budapest Heroes Square provides easy access to the baths and wonderful views of City Park.
If the age of the Hapsburgs isn’t far back enough for you, then how about the age of the Ottomans? The Turkish Bath at the centre of the Rudas Baths actually dates back to the 16th century when the Ottoman Turkish ruled the city. Leaning back in the soothing water of the unique 1566 octogonal pool and gazing up at the 10 metre dome is a once-in-a-lifetime experiene.. The therapeutic swimming pool and sauna, was built in 1896, and water from the Hungária, Attila and Juventus Springs can be enjoyed in the drinking hall. It’s difficult to ascend the grand marble staircase without being impressed, and it’s difficult to gaze at the spectra of colors from the sunlight coming through the stained-glass cupola and have your breath taken away. There are also many smaller pools around the main dome, ranging in temperature. Just be sure to remember that the complex is not co-ed. It’s only open to men on most days, with women only on Tuesdays. The Best Western Hotel Orion is located several blocks north.
If you’d like your thermal bath with a little amusement park thrown in, then head to the family-friendly Palatinus Strand Waterpark. Even if you don’t go for the waters, the Palatinus Strand’s wonderful location on Margaret Island, halfway between Buda and Pest, is totally worth seeing. If you’ve come to get wet, then you can choose from 11 pools, a wave pool and a water slide. While the Palatinus Strand is surrounded by whimsical playgrounds, the grand Music Fountain and Water Tower are protected UNESCO sites. The Palatinus Water Park is also the largest open-air swimming complex in Budapest, and the Alfréd Hajós Sports Pool was three-time home to the European LC Championships. If you decide you just don’t want to leave the island, that’s no problem. You can stay at the aptly-named fin de siècle Grand Hotel Margitsziget or the more modern Thermal Hotel Margitsziget.