The Rudas Thermal Baths
The best way to enjoy Budapest is to make sure you visit one of its incredible historic baths.
Built on a vast network of underground thermal springs, Budapest has been soothing aching limbs for centuries, with an eclectic array of therapeutic facilities for the seasoned wellness traveller.
In fact, Budapest has a culture of therapeutic bathing unlike anywhere else. From the grand surrounds of the Szechenyi Thermal Complex to the bygone opulence of Gellert Spa Hotel and Ottoman era ambiance of Rudas and Kiraly Baths, there is a pool for every occasion from an early morning dip to ease stiff joints to a late night soaking in the heart of the city.
We ventured to Budapest to discover the best wellness experience. Whilst opinions will of course differ, we found the experience at Rudas Baths to be top-notch and truly unique
Centuries of Soaking
Rudas is unlike anything else you will ever experience.
The centre operates as a full blown wellness centre, with a vast array of therapies on offer, plus cafe, swimming pool, and night time bathing on weekends, which allows you to stay submerged in warm mineral waters until 4 in the morning!
Rudas Bath (Rudas fürdő ) comprises both thermal and medicinal baths. The centre is used as much for physical therapy and rehabilitation as it is for relaxation. First built in 1550 by the Ottomans, it still retains many of the key elements of a Turkish bath, including a domed hamam and octagonal pool.
What makes this place special? The octagonal bathing chamber was built by Ottoman pasha Sokollu Mustafa has an ambience only centuries of use can provide.
The Turkish section also features a large silent room for relaxing, private changing cabins and numerous treatment rooms for massage should you choose, even an authentic Turkish body scrub and soap massage.
During the day, filtered light drops in through coloured porticos in the domed roof. A large octagonal pool fills the main space, and is a great place to share conversation. If you are lucky to enough to visit when it is cold outside then the entire chamber fills with clouds of steam – adding an air of intrigue and mystery to the multicultural atmosphere.
Note the ironwork bars that support each of the arches as evidence of its 16th century heritage. Besides a central pool fed by thermal springs at around 38 degrees there are 4 smaller pools surrounding it to plunge in and out of at different temperatures and a killer wet sauna turned up to fever pitch. Plus three dry sauna rooms which get progressively hotter the further in you go.
The hot rooms are surely designed to test your resilience. There is a cold plunge pool to jump into if you’re in the mood from a cardiovascular shock, and warm mineral water piped into the drinking tap, allowing you to sample the sulphurous elixir for which the baths are also well known. Here you can quite literally drink from the fountain of youth.
Men Only Days – Another Dimension
On weekdays, except Tuesday and Friday after 1pm, only men are allowed in the Turkish section, though the rest of the centre is open.
If you arrive on a men only day, tradition says you should drape your manhood in a thin piece of see-through white cloth. A “koteny” apron is provided once you enter the changing area and leaves nothing to the imagination.
But once you get past any initial hesitation about walking around the complex with your buttocks on display there is something eminently sensible about having the freedom to jump in and out of the water without wearing heavy shorts or suffocating spandex.
The baths are very popular with the locals, who seem to keenly swap gossip with eachother or read newspapers whilst tourists scurry from one pool to the next.
These men-only days are a unique mix of water-world fantasy meets king penguin colony. Expect some preening, lots of talk and endless shuffling from one spot to the next in pursuit of the optimal bathing position.
The other highlight is the hot tub perched atop the building, offering sweeping views of the Danube and city. On weekends a young, cool crowd takes over the baths. On weekends the Turkish baths are co-ed and the outdoor pool and wellness centre are open to 4am making this a uniquely relaxing place to get to know your friends better.
Excellent Body Therapy For Every Need
Take advantage of one of the excellent and highly professional wellness treatments on offer from the wellness centre. You can either have a massage or scrub in the Turkish section, or try something equally unusual in the wellness centre. Tempting as it sounded we opted not to have the Hungarian Wine Massage, and instead settled on a really professional and high quality deep tissue treatment. Totally recommended.
Decided to Go? Here Are The Details
Rudas Thermal Complex is a short walk from the City Center and Jewish Quarter, on the Buda side of the Danube. If coming from Pest, cross at Erzsebet (Elizabeth) bridge and you will see the complex on your left.
You can walk along the river front, but on the Pest side there are major busy roads which are not pleasant to walk along.
You will need a swim costume for the mixed use facilities, but not required in Turkish baths for men/women only days
Also bring something for your feet, or hire them at reception
Massages are booked on arrival at reception. You will be given a “watch” that allows you to gain entrance to changing area. Once through the gate grab a koteny/apron and hold your watch to the machine on wall which allocates cabins. This will give you umber for your private lockable change room.
Shower of course before entering the pools then give your self plenty of time to relax and unwind.
Number of pools: 11 indoor, with 1 outdoor.
Turkish Baths: M,W, Th and F is men only.
Tuesday is women only at the Turkish pools.
The wellness section, pool and outdoor hot tub are mixed every day.
Weekday Admission HUF 4000 (approx €12) Turkish Bath only or if you want to explore the whole complex you can buy this ticket that lets you visit inside and out HUF 5,500 (approx €18)
Stars-Travel Rating – 10/10 ….. really unique and really relaxing
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I’m a professional astrologer, coach, and Ayurvedic consultant, originally from Australia but now travelling the world. At Stars Like You, the focus is on happiness. We publish great astrology articles, as well as well-researched pieces on nutrition, wellness and Ayurveda drawn from years of clinical experience.