The abundance of medicinal waters in Budapest is unparalleled. A capital city featuring the highest number of medical thermal springs in the world, Budapest was granted the title of « Spa City » in 1934. The Celts and the Romans used the hot springs on the Buda side, and the name of Aquincum may also refer to the springs. (The name may be a derivation from the Celtic word for ‘water’, or from the Latin aqua quinque, ‘five waters’.) There is probably no other capital city on the globe with swimming pools and bathing halls dating back to the Turkish occupation and still in use today, with thermal spas irradiating the rich colours and forms of Art Nouveau and featuring one of the largest spas in Europe. Natural springs and wells in the territory of Budapest (a total of 118 different sources) provide up to 30,000 cubic metres of 21-76o C thermal water every day: mostly dolomitic water ranging from lukewarm karst to thermal hot water. Romans used 14 thermal spas, and a British traveller reported 10 spas in Turkish times (1669). There are 24 medical spas, public baths, indoor and outdoor swimming pools in the capital today, ten with a special medical capacity and therapeutic value. The following provides a brief introduction to the most interesting ones: 

Gellért Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool: 
(XI. Szent Gellért tér 1.) 

The present building of the baths and hotel called Szt. Gellért Gyógyfürdő és Szálló was erected in 1918 and opened to the public on 26th September of that year. The wave pool was built in 1927, and the ‘champagne‘ bubble pool was constructed in 1934. The spa, well known throughout the world, is the most popular spa among foreign visitors. Nearly all medical services of a spa are available, with rheumatology, comprehensive physiotherapy unit (day hospital), physiotherapy sub unit and inhalatorium. Besides the ‘champagne‘ and wave pools, the sunbathing terraces for women only and for mixed naturists are popular. These are open from April to late September. Hotel guests regularly use the services of the spa. Come here for a night swim in the outdoor pools on Friday and Saturday nights before midnight. 

Király Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool: 
(II. Fő u. 82-86.)  

The history of the baths dates back to Ottoman rule in Buda. The Pasha of Buda, Arslan, is assumed to have started building the baths in 1565 so that, should there be a siege, there would be a baths in a protected area within the town walls. The present name was given by the König family who owned the building from 1796. The impressive baths is a rare survival of Turkish times in Hungary and today as a listed building it represents an early Ottoman baths palace in its original grandeur. It is supplied with thermal water piped from the Lukács Baths. 

Lukács Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool: 
(II. Frankel Leó út 25.) 

The present baths was built in 1894, and until the Széchenyi Baths was ready it was the biggest and most popular spa in Budapest. Besides the thermal baths the swimming pool is also a favourite meeting place for writers and artists. The 1800sq.m area around the spa is a popular place for relaxation with its century old trees. A drinking hall here offers curative waters. On the side wall of the spa plates of gratitude hang showing how many people from different countries of the world have visited the baths and recovered here. The comprehensive physiotherapy unit (day hospital) deserves special emphasis from among all the services of the spa.  

Rudas Baths and Swimming Pool: 
(I. Döbrentei tér 9.)    

The baths is believed to have been built in the 1550s and rebuilt by Pasha Sokol Mustafa in 1566. At that time it was called ‘Green Columned Baths‘. The centre of the present Rudas Baths, the Turkish bath, was formed during the Turkish occupation. It has an octagonal pool under a 10m-span dome supported by eight columns and surrounded by a barrel vaulted corridor. It exists today almost in its original form and is the core of the present baths. The swimming pool dates from 1896 and was the second indoor pool in Budapest. The thermal baths is popular with all ages, though is for men only. The swimming pool, which operates as a medicinal pool, is primarily visited by the elderly. However, children's groups also visit in large numbers. Several generations have learnt to swim here. There are also complex physiotherapic services (daily hospital) offered on the second floor of Rudas Gyógyfürdő.  

Széchenyi Baths and Swimming Pool: 
(XIV. Állatkerti krt. 11.) 

It is one of Europe's largest bath complexes. The atmosphere of Roman bathing culture may be felt in its light, spacious pool halls, while Greek bathing culture is reflected in the tub baths, but traces of Nordic traditions may also be found in the heat chambers, saunas and dipping pools. This first spa of Pest owes its existence to the well dug by Vilmos Zsigmondy in 1879. The present bath building was constructed in 1913. The swimming pool was built in 1927, but it was only open from May till September until the 1960's, when, in 1963, it was made suitable for winter swimming as well. Since then it has been open throughout the year. The two ‘public bath‘ units were established also in 1927, today housing the mixed baths and the complex physiotherapy units (day hospital). 


Except the CORINTHIA AQUINCUM , the best SPA hotels in Budapest are operated by the Hungarian group DANUBIUS. Our favourite remains the HOTEL GELLERT: a nostalgic grand-hotel, with an unmatchable Old Europe atmosphere and wonderful rooms with a breathtaking panorama on the river (always as for a "Danube View"). Its SPA complex remains under the administration of the City of Budapest, accessible by everybody. Which means that some travellers -like us- will love its bustling animation, with plenty of  youngsters all around mixed with poor pensioneers using the place like a club; others, looking for peace, modern and immaculate facilities will run away on the spot. Quite similar to the Gellert, but with a lavishly refurbished SPA complex (the most modern and largest in the country), we recommend the GRAND HOTEL MARGITSZIGET, sharing its facilities with the opposite and top comfortable THERMAL HOTEL MARGITSZIGET. 





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