A skincare expert's guide to the five best thermal bath experiences in Budapest

A skincare expert's guide to the five best thermal bath experiences in Budapest

Gloria - Mar 14,2024

Planning an overseas getaway? How about treating yourself to a relaxing trip with medical treatments and lush spa services in Budapest?

Hungary, nestled in the heart of Europe, boasts over 1,300 thermal springs, with Budapest alone having 123 fountains, earning it the title "City of Spas." The mineral-rich spring water, abundant in elements like zinc and magnesium, has been a go-to for skin treatments for over 2,000 years.

Margaret de Heinrich, co-founder of the esteemed Hungarian skincare line Omorovicza, shares her top picks for thermal baths in Budapest, from the breathtaking Széchenyi to the glamorous Gellért. With frescoes adorning every corner and waters so hot they'll leave you breathless, these baths offer a truly rejuvenating experience. No need for more words, let's peep these joints now!

1. Best all-around: Rudas Thermal Bath

Dating back to 1571, the Rudas Thermal Bath, nestled in Buda beneath the grandeur of Buda Castle, stands as one of Budapest's four 16th-Century Turkish baths. Adorned with Ottoman domes and an octagonal pool, it exudes authenticity. Picture yourself under those domed ceilings, surrounded by vibrant, colored glass – it's a bit like meditation. Emerging from this experience, you'll feel remarkably invigorated.

Heeding de Heinrich's advice to visit at 06:00 to beat the crowds, following the "go little and often" principle, a brief 20-minute dip is recommended. The minerals, not always bio-available, play a key role. The heat and duration of skin exposure in these thermal baths allow for mineral absorption, offering numerous benefits. As you step out, the water evaporates, drawing the minerals back to the skin's surface.

Rudas is also an excellent choice for a girl's night out, boasting a rooftop pool where you can indulge in some Champagne.

The services at Rudas Thermal Bath span massages, medical-grade pedicures, and clinical facilities like medical pools and tubs. Additionally, it's worth noting that Rudas provides Budapest's exclusive gender-separated bathing experience – men on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, women on Tuesdays, while weekends feature mixed bathing.

2. Best outdoor thermal pool: Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Hungary's outdoor thermal baths offer sheer delight – a gathering of joyful, lifestyley merfolk. According to de Heinrich, the best outdoor pool in Budapest is the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. Its exterior is particularly spectacular, especially in winter when the steam rises, revealing thermal baths of various temperatures. The hot spring temperatures range from a brisk 64F [18C] to a scalding 104F [40C].

Situated in Pest's lush City Park, the Széchenyi Thermal Bath is one of Europe's largest spa complexes, boasting a remarkable 18 thermal pools. Constructed in 1881 in the Neo Baroque style, its thermal water source was unveiled by the renowned Hungarian geothermal expert Vilmos Zsigmondy.

Apart from its grandeur, Széchenyi is renowned for its aesthetic and curative treatments. The baths offer sauna and thalassotherapy services. For a more indulgent experience, guests can unwind in the Dayspalm "exclusive relaxing area" while sipping cocktails. But for those seeking a livelier bath experience, Széchenyi hosts "Beerspa" bathing sessions and "Sparty" nights set to an electronic dance music soundtrack.

3. Bestinterior design: Gellért Thermal Bath

The opulent Gellért Thermal Bath and Hotel in Buda stands out as one of Budapest's most popular spas. Erected between 1912 and 1918 in the Secession Art Nouveau style, the Gellért captivates with its intricately tiled indoor and outdoor thermal pools, mosaic-covered arches, and majestic carved columns that are truly jaw-dropping. Once you manage to tear yourself away from marveling at the architecture, the spa entices with Finnish saunas and indulgent massage services. Guests can relish private bathing experiences alongside access to medical services and saunas.

4. Best for medicinal healing: Lukács Thermal Bath

Renowned for relaxation, Hungarian thermal spas are perhaps even more esteemed for their clinical treatments. Conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis, and rheumatism may prompt doctors to recommend visits to these therapeutic baths. Some even believe that spending more time in these healing waters might reduce the need for critical care hospital visits. Among Budapest's prominent medicinal thermal spa complexes is Lukács, featuring indoor and outdoor thermal baths, just a short stroll from Margaret Bridge in Buda, near Margaret Island.

Constructed in 1937, Lukács evolved into a water hospital in the 1970s to address various ailments. Interestingly, you can pay a small fee to drink the water at Lukács. Many thermal baths in Budapest provide drinking fountains and halls. The suggested daily dose is 300-500ml, believed to aid in alleviating stomach issues like gastritis, as well as kidney and respiratory disturbances. Medical treatment courses, lasting 15 days, are only accessible with a doctor's prescription.

5. Best undiscovered gem: Irgalmasok Veli Bej Bath (Császár Baths)

Indulging in baths ranks high among the most popular activities in Budapest, appealing to both locals and tourists. If you prefer a more serene experience away from bustling crowds, consider a visit to Veli Bej baths. This hidden gem, exuding beauty, is one of the oldest Turkish baths dating back to 1574.

Situated in north Buda in District II, the Ottoman empire-era Veli Bej, also known as the Császár Baths, stands adjacent to the Császár Hotel. Visitors can revel in the Ottoman-style domes and intricate tilework while enjoying the thermal pools, jacuzzi, Finnish and infrared saunas, and spa services. It's a tranquil retreat off the beaten path.