by Hedvig Podonyi 2023. Jul 17.

Budapest and the Baths

Budapest is also unique as a home to many thermal springs, particularly in Buda, along the geological fault line along the Danube.

These have long been known and enjoyed by locals. As early as Roman times, many baths were established in this area, signified by the name of the ancient city of Aquincum. Remains of the settlement can be found in Óbuda, with ruins of an ancient roman bath on view at an underpass at Flórián Square in Óbuda.

From the 12th century, patient care regimens have used the medicinal springs around the locations of today’s Lukács and Gellért Thermal Baths. One of the most famous Hungarian kings who reigned in the 15th century, King Matthias, also enjoyed relaxing in the medicinal baths.

Aquincum, amphitheater. The photo was made after 1890 (source: Fortepan / Budapest City Archives / Photos of György Klösz)Aquincum, amphitheater. The photo was made after 1890 (source: Fortepan / Budapest City Archives / Photos of György Klösz)

The Turkish rule of Buda between 1541 and 1686 gave new impetus to the bathing culture in the city. Turkish baths were built to satisfy the needs of the conquerors, some of which survived as real curiosities (and can still be visited).

After the end of Turkish occupation, bath culture lost its prominence, although baths that offered therapeutic services were still open to the public. At the beginning of the 18th century, compelling studies led to a renewed interest in the potential uses of medicinal waters. In 1762, following a decree by Queen Maria Theresa, the mineral waters of Hungary were analysed and registered.

Csillaghegyi Bath, 1920 (source: Fortepan / Attila Jurányi)Csillaghegyi Bath, 1920 (source: Fortepan / Attila Jurányi)

Thanks to research conducted in the 19th century, and the advancement of drilling techniques, more and more baths appeared, which meant an increasing number of people discovered the healing properties of thermal waters and the potential in thermal baths. New, excellent thermal springs were discovered. Owing to this renewed interest, the Széchenyi Bath was opened in the summer of 1913, which happens to be in City Park on the Pest side of the river. Its magnificent building complex was built in neo-Renaissance and neoclassical style, designed by Győző Czigler, Ede Dvorák and Kálmán Gerster. The spa, affectionately called “Szecska” by locals, is a popular tourist attraction with three outdoor and 15 indoor pools and a complex range of medical services. The special atmosphere of the place, the many hours spent relaxing in the warm water and the view of regulars playing chess in the pools all make for cherished memories for many.

Széchenyi Bath, 1930 (source: Fortepan / Fortepan)Széchenyi Bath, 1930 (source: Fortepan / Fortepan)

The Gellért Spa, completed in 1918, was considered the most modern spa in Europe at the time, and can still be enjoyed today. The construction of the equally popular Lukács Bath began in 1857, and took its current form in 1921.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Budapest was considered the capital with the most thermal springs in the world. The International Spa Association was founded in the city in 1937 at the Gellért Spa and Hotel, which also hosted the first International Spa City Congress.

Today, there are 19 different registered thermal springs in Budapest, the composition of their waters indicated on signs at the facilities. Their effects are varied: they can be used to treat musculoskeletal, joint, nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular or gynaecological complaints through soaking, or by imbibing the water for digestive problems. Baths are also a great place to relax for guests, who can marvel at the captivating beauty of the historic buildings.



The Alrite speech recognation (speech-to-text) program helped to write the publication.

Photo: Széchenyi Bath, 1930 (source: Fortepan / Fortepan)


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