Budapest Events Calendar 2012

Spruce up your Budapest holiday with some of the amazing and fun events taking place in Budapest – a few ideas have been gathered in Budapest Events Calendar 2012 by Top Budapest Travel Guide

Budapest Events Calendar - agenda view

Budapest Events Calendar – agenda view

Each day Budapest has something peculiar to offer, so enjoy Budapest nightlife, live music at bars, cool concerts, classical music events, contemporary dances, sports events like Budapest Formula 1 this summer, or the upcoming Hungary – Netherlands Qualifying Match in September 2012.

Pick a concert, a musical, an exhibition or a gastronomy festival with great wines and traditional Hungarian foods. Pick any genre and you will definitely find something which appeals to you.

Budapest Events Calendar is quite flexible, although it may take some time to download all the events (which is not even a comprehensive list of Budapest events!)

Budapest Events Calendar in agenda view – it is the default view. But you can also take a look at the upcoming events in a monthly overview, which is especially useful if you are planning your Budapest trip in advance. Mind you, many many events are not published until 2-3 weeks before they start (especially smaller concerts and parties).

Budapest Events Calendar in calendar view – if you click on the little calendar icon in the upper left hand corner, you can switch to calendar view in this neat little Budapest Events Calendar

Budapest Events Calendar - calendar view

Budapest Events Calendar – calendar view

Renovated Gellert Baths, Budapest

One of the most popular Budapest baths is Gellert Baths in Danubius Hotel Gellert, the renovation of which has been partially finished this April, according to index.hu, Hungarian news portal.

Reconstructed male thermal baths in the 1917 secessionist Gellert Baths photo by Istvan Huszti at index

1917 Art Nouveau Gellert Baths Budapest

The reconstructions works (1.5 billion HUF) are challenging as the art deco style of the baths built in 1917 need to be preserved.

During the renovation period, the separate male and female thermal bath units were functioning in a co-ed style, but in a couple of weeks, you will not need to wear swimming costumes, the old apron system will come back.

Gellert Baths is coed on weekends (all pools), but during the weekdays, from Monday to Sunday, the thermal pools are men only and women only, while the standard pools with cool waters are open for all.

If it sounds confusing, it is. Gellert Baths is a huge palace of baths, so if in doubt, just ask your question in the comments.

After the second world war, there was not enough money to reconstruct more expensive art deco elements, so several details were simply replaced by cheaper socialist style solutions. The 2007-2008 baths reconstructions have brought back the glory of the 1917 Art Nouveau Gellert Baths. Enjoy!

By the way, Hotel Gellert is one of the top Budapest spa hotels, not the most exclusive or luxurious, but it will do for those who choose good value for money.

Photo by Istvan Huszti from Index.hu (http://index.hu/gal/?dir=0804/kult/gellert/)

Budapest Restaurants recommended by Michelin

Unfortunately, Michelin is said to be very slow to react to changes at restaurants, especially in non-Western Europe. Several Budapest restaurantsare striving for the appreciation of this established gourmet institute but they need to be patient, similarly to other Central-European counterparts where Michelin stars have rarely been given (the first Michelin star went to Allegro Restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel of Prague).

Budapest Onyx Restaurant - Michelin 1 star

Budapest Onyx Restaurant – Michelin 1 star

See the Best Restaurants in Budapest.

So what are the best restaurants in Budapest that have been awarded with a Michelin star or other recommendation?

Budapest Restaurants with Michelin stars

Bib Gourmand restaurants in Budapest

Budapest restaurants recommended by Michelin guide

If you are wondering where you could have a nice coffee and cake, have a look at the Best cafe guide in Budapest.

Related:

Last updated June 2012

Please send your comments in

Deryne Bistro Budapest

Deryne Bistro (formerly known as Café Déryné ) is on the Buda side of Budapest, a few minutes from the Tunnel at the Chain Bridge. It is a nice place to have dinner with pleasant live music in the background – there are not many good restaurants with good music in Budapest, so Deryne Bistro might be a really good option.

Cafe Deryne Budapest, Hungary: Déryné Bistro on Krisztina Square

Cafe Deryne Budapest, Hungary: Déryné Bistro on Krisztina Square

It is an ideal place to sit in after or before a walk up/ down the Castle hill to the Royal Palace or if you decided to walk through the Tunnel on foot. Deryne Bistro  looks trendy and eclectic. If you have older editions of travel guides (e.g. a Lonely Planet before 2008), you will get the description of a totally different cafe, which was a homey downtrodden traditional cafe and confectioner’s. Deryne Bistro is a cafe-bistro, wine-cellar etc. fashionable, anything-but-traditional place. There is lots of live music – along the jazz and swing lines.

Cafe Deryne basic info:

Address: 3 Krisztina Square, 1013 Budapest (District I)
Phone: 00-36-1-225-1407
Coffee: Santo Domingo

Deryne  Bistro has free wifi and plugs under each seat, which is still a rarity. The interior is a mixture of a cigar bar, a café and a plasma TV lounge, “the lounge area resembling something out of an Abercrombie & Fitch store (leather armchairs, dark wood, an open fireplace) ” (food police blog on Café Déryné).

No doubt, Deryne Bistro has many elements mixed and “the choice of piano bar, café, bistro, wine cellar, white table-cloth restaurant and lounge all under one roof may sound like overkill, but the ultimate effect is that it is hard to imagine Déryné empty at any time of day or night.” (Adrian from Chew), adding that “the real charm of the place is that it creates the cultured atmosphere of a cosmopolitan restaurant without the stuffiness of a super-fashionable bar or downtown tourist trap.”

As for the prices: “reasonably priced – we came away spending Ft 3,000 a head on soups, entrées and lemonade/beer (no wine).” Express lunch (portions are on the smallish side) is available between 11:30 and 15:00 and comes at about 1800 HUF. However, reading through the reviews and comments, the atmosphere and the location got more points than the kitchen and the service.

See its location on the Budapest tourist map (check the Cup icon in the middle):


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photo from Chew.hu

Read more about the Best Restaurants in Budapest, or the Best Cafes in Budapest.

Cafe Gerbeaud: the Must See Cafe and Restaurant in Budapest

Café Gerbeaud is a few minutes walk from the Gresham Palace at the Chain Bridge: it is one of the most elegant historical cafes in Budapest (on Vorosmarty ter on the yellow metro line). The café was founded by Henrik Kugler in 1858 in Viennese style during the high times of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and expanded by its later owner, Emil Gerbeaud. Sumptuous interior with graceful chandeliers, marble-topped tables, lavish fine wood paneling, gold-plasters and statuettes, etc. The cafe can take up about 330 people inside and another 300 outside on the terrace, if weather allows. As Frommer’s Travel Guide writes: “Whether you sit inside amid the splendor of the late-19th-century furnishings, or outside on one of Pest’s liveliest pedestrian-only squares, you will surely enjoy the fine pastries that made the name Gerbeaud famous; we especially recommend their moist plum pies (szilvás lepény)

Café Gerbeaud in Budapest

It is also a restaurant and a bar. Great place to ‘people watch’. By the way, the name ‘gerbeaud’ or zserbó in Hungarian is used for a type of layer cake (with fruit spread, loads of nuts, chocolate, etc.).

Address: Vörösmarty tér 7. Budapest 1051
Phone: 00-36-1-419-9020
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9am-9pm

Take a virtual tour here. A good photo of the facade and part of the square (Vörösmarty) where the Gerbeaud is located. See its location on the Budapest tourist map (check the Cup icon in the middle and click on icons to get further info). Read more about the Best Restaurants in Budapest or the Best Cafes in Budapest.


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History of Cafe Gerbeaud

The café was founded by Henrik Kugler a world traveler confectioner, who has been working all over Europe gathering experience of the coffee house and confectionery lore. Although the original coffee house was established in 1858, it was not the same building what you see today as it stood on another square (József Nádor tér). Cafe Gerbeaud moved to Vorosmarty square in 1870, and soon became a prestige place where ‘to be seen’ meant a difference.

Owing to Kugler’s rich European confectionery studies, the cafe was the best in Budapest in the 19th century: not surprisingly selling all kinds of exquisite products from China to Russia, as well as house made specialties like Kugler’s frothy coffee with chocolate, Kugler’s special liqueurs and Kugler’s bon-bons. Cafe Gerbeaud also boasted about the title “the best ice-creams in Pest” at that time.

The musician and composer Franz Liszt, and the ‘wise of Hungary’ Ferenc Deák politician were among the patrons of the café. In 1881, Kugler’s was called “the meeting point of six elegant worlds.”

Henrik Kugler met Emil Gerbeaud in Paris in 1882. He invited him a year later to Budapest in order to make him his business partner, and he became the cafe’s later owner. Emil Gerbeaud did not change the name of the cafe to his own name, but decided to use the well-known name of his predecessor, Henrik Kugler for several decades. He expanded the cafe, so today it can house about 330 people and the terrace can host an additional 300 guests. Soon he was making the take-away services of the cafe flourish with good tastes: good pastries and beautifully decorated artistic paper boxes of his own design. Gerbeaud was presented with numerous awards at various fairs and exhibitions. At the 1898 World Fair in Brussels and the 1900 Paris Exposition, he was invited to be a member of the jury, and was awarded the French Legion of Honour.

Over time, the interior decoration of the café underwent improvements: Henrik Darilek made new designs emphasizing fine woods, marble and bronze features in the 1910s. He used the examples of the French and Austrian royal palaces: for instance, the ceilings were decorated with rococo plaster work in Louis XIV style, the chandeliers and wall lamps were created in Maria Theresa Style. In addition, Cafe Gerbeaud got secessionist style tables to be sent from the Paris World Fair. Emil Gerbeaud survives the awful years of the First World War, sees the deterioration of his beautiful coffee house, then dies on November 8, 1919.

The nice history of the cafe suddenly stops: world wars and communist rules mean severe obstacles. Gerbeaud’s name is not welcome by the western-hating communists, so the cafe is renamed after the Hungarian poet Mihály Vorosmarty (yes, like the square). From 1950 to 1984, Café Gerbeaud is known as Cafe Vörösmarty. With the loosening ties of the goulash communism, the cafe gets back its name in March 1984, and about ten years later the cafe is bought by the German businessman Erwin Müller. The new owner makes sure that the café regains its old glory: the rich plaster work, the brocade wall coverings, etc. of the cafe were renovated in 1997.

(sources: the official website of Cafe Gerbeaud, and Budapest Lexikon)

St Gellert Statue and Waterfall in Budapest (Szent Gellért szobor)

St Gerhard Statue (Szent Gellért szobor) shows St Gerhard, an Italian missionary and Benedictine abbot, later Hungarian bishop, who converted many a Hungarians to Christianity in the 11th century, and privately tutored the son of the first Hungarian king, St Emeric. However, after 8 years of education and conscientious preparation for the monarch’s role, Emeric (Prince Imre) was killed – by a boar while hunting.

Pagans did not like the efficiency of St Gerhard, so they put him in a spiked barrel and hurled it down Gellért Hill in 1046 (the hill, Gellérthegy, also bears his name). Historians point out that Hungary’s conversion to Christianity, which meant giving up the nomadic pagan life style in 896, was crucial to make Hungary a state and remain a constant player in the political field of the Carpathian-basin and Europe.

Tips:
It’s a nice walk up to the statue of the martyr and the waterfall: cool shadows, green in the gray, nice spot to have some tranquil moments, when it’s not busy.
It’s also ideal for taking photos of the Pest side of Budapest with the Parliament, the Gresham Palace, etc.
Take something to quench your thirst.
Mosquito repellent is not a bad idea in summer time.

The bronze statue of Szent Gellért made in 1904 by Gyula Jankovits was originally planned to be 3 meters/ 9.8 ft high, but to make it stand out more of the hill its size was increased to 7 meters/ 23 ft. The main figure is the bishop raising a cross towards the sky, and there’s a pagan soldier as a complementary figure, the latter is not really easy to take it out in this photo, I know. The waterfall is oftentimes interpreted as the symbol of Hungary’s baptism. St Gerhard statue is one of the ten statues presented by Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Budapest (it alone cost 100,000 crowns in 1904 – yes, at that time the currency was not forints but crowns).

The statue is overlooking the sleek modern bridge, Erzsébet Híd, and is very close to some of the spa baths in Budapest (the statue is in the middle of the map indicated with a yellow balloon icon – click the View larger map blue link under the map to enlarge, double click to zoom in, etc.):


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Turkish Baths in Budapest: Kiraly, Rac, Rudas Furdo

Turkish Baths in Budapest are inviting you to soak in the steaming water, relax and marvel at the mysteriously lit domes with half closed eyes. Just recall that engulfing feeling when you dissolve in your home tub after a tiring day.

Now multiply it with the strange radiation of medieval centuries and a sense of freedom holidays give you (plus the bigger bath and extras, of course). If you like relaxing in water, Budapest, the City of Spas is a must have on your travel list. Just remember, Turkish baths in Hungary are quite different from Turkish baths in Turkey: no people with buckets of water and bubble baths sitting on marble slabs, no harsh rubbing massages. Instead, the focus is on the water, and smoother massages.

Currently the only Turkish bath in Budapest that is also part of a spa hotel is Rac Bath, which still has not opened its gates, although the bath complex and the luxury hotel is ready to be used, completely finished, but losing millions each month due to legal issues. Until they sort out the legal mess, here is a list of Budapest spa hotels.

Turkish Baths in Budapest Kiraly Rudas Rac Csaszar Furdo

Most tourists will know the non-Turkish Szechenyi Baths and Gellert Baths, the two most popular & family-friendly spa baths in Budapest. In Szechenyi bath you don’t need to check if the bath is for men or for women only. But if you want to make your spa experience culturally spicy, and architecturally unique, try one of the few Turkish baths in Budapest, which were built in the 16th-17th century – and are still functioning.

Budapest Turkish Baths

In Budapest, you will find the following Turkish baths:

  • Rudas Furdo/ Rudas Bath built in 1550. Turkish name: Jesil direkli iligesi
  • Kiraly Furdo/ Kiraly Baths) built in 1565. Turkish name: Horoz kapi iligesi
  • Rác Furdo/ Rac Bath built in the 16th century on the previously flourishing bath used by Hungarian kings (King Matthias accessed the bath from his palace through a direct corridor). It is to re-open in about 2009 (coming complete with a luxurious hotel & a deep garage, plus expanded with an elevator to the Citadel). Turkish name: Debagghane/ Kücük iligesi
  • Csaszar Furdo/ Emperor Spa Bath, now known as Veli Bej Bath after its Turkish equivalent built in the 16th century. It’s the odd one out as the bath is closed for the general public (is owned by the Order of Hospitallers). The spa bath is originally from the Roman times. It was one of the most lavishly built baths, directly connected with corridors to the monastery of dervishes. Turkish name: Veli bej iliges

Not all existing baths were used by the Ottoman Turks as Turkish baths: most notably, Lukács Spa Bath was used “to produce gunpowder and for grinding wheat.” Although Lukács bath was founded in the 12th century by the Knights of St. John.

See Budapest Spa Baths (including the Turkish baths) in the Budapest Tourist Map (blue wave sign):


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But let’s have a look at the history of Turkish baths in Budapest, Hungary.

Why are there Turkish Baths in Hungary at all?

No, not out of free will or economic consideration, nor out of fad like in Victorian England. The truth is that Hungary did not want to have Turkish baths at all – especially not in the 16th century, when the ‘Muslim Turkish meant a great threat to the Christian Europe’. But as the Hungarian armies led by King Louis II were defeated by the Turks led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in a very decisive battle at Mohács in 1526, the Ottoman Turkish took over (the remainder of) Hungary. (I mean remainder as the previous Hungarian Kingdom was divided into 3 big chunks, one for the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy, one for Sultan Suleiman and one for the autonomous princes of Transylvania).

During the 150 years of Ottoman Turkish rule (from 1526 to 1699), more and more Turkish people (janissary, dervish, pasha, etc.) settled down in Hungary, so more and more Turkish baths were needed as part of the everyday social and religious life. Some of the Turkish baths were built on former baths built by the Romans (mixing the steam-based Turkish with the water-based Roman style), while others were made from scratch. The Turks have built at least 40 spa baths (or hamam) on the medicinal water springs they have found in Hungary. In his Seyahatname (Book of Travels), Evliya Çelebi Turkish traveler mentions 70 baths of 42 places, but as far as we know today, his work is to taken with a pinch of salt.

Building Turkish Baths was an excellent financial investment for the Turkish aristocracy as there was a steadily growing market demand for hygienic Turkish baths in the 1550’s. In addition, building a bath was a good deed that increased the believer’s chances to get a good final judgment. Over time, not only Turkish but many other (Christian and Jewish) residents frequented these baths. Hungarian historians don’t fail to point out that Hungary benefited from the Turkish occupation through taking over its widespread bathing culture, and in fact learning everyday hygienics, which was not very well observed in Europe in the middle ages. But it’s equally important to point out that it was not the Ottoman Turks who brought baths as a novelty in the conquered Hungarian kingdom: the first findings of baths go back to the Celtics, then to the Roman Emperor Claudius (relief saying “aquae calidae superiores et inferiores” i.e. “better and worse warm waters”), then to the 12th century, etc.

According to Katalin Kéri Dr., “men, women and children filled the baths of the Islamic empire in those centuries when in the medieval Europe little care was paid to personal hygiene.” Ritual bathing, at least once a week, also meant that the world made by Allah is taken care of, including your own body, beauty and health. Beauty and health reflected the creator’s perfection. And as everything is related, the Ottoman Turkish placed special emphasis on the individual responsibility for preserving one’s own health. The number of baths was an indicator of the richness of a city. But these numbers were many times exaggerated (e.g. Baghdad in the 9-10th century was said to have had between 60,000 and 200,000 Turkish baths…).

The most entrepreneurial Turkish bath-builder was the Bosnian Sokollu Mehmet Pasha who alone had 16 Turkish baths built in Hungary. The beautiful baths in Buda bear the Turkish architectural features: the central dome studded with small eyelet windows, niches with fountains, etc. After the Turkish rule of 150 years, most steam baths (e.g. in Siklós, Pécs, Szeged, Tata, etc.) were turned into churches, schools, saltpeter-makers, and so on. In contrast, several thermal baths remained functional as baths for many many years.

Fast forward to the 21st century: four of the Turkish baths were well preserved, and in the last couple of years considerable investments have been made to reconstruct and even expand them.

Turkish travelogues as sources

Besides architectural features, historical Ottoman administrative documents, and Christian travelogues (e.g. the Tzech Vratislav Vencel or Auer Ferdinand from Bratislava) researchers have used several old travelogues written by Turkish travelers: e.g.

Menázir’l-aválim made by Âşık Mehmet bin Háfiz Ömer er-rúmí (?-1598),
Tergüme-i Coğrafya-ı Kebîr made by Ebu Bekir bin Behram ed-Dimiscinec (?-1690/1691)
manuscript of Süleymâniye Kütüphânesi
Seyahatname (Book of Travels) made by Evliya Çelebi
The biography of Sokollu Mustafa made by anonymous author in 1591 in Buda

Sources: (in Hungarian) Terebess: The history of Turkish baths in Hungary

Gellért Spa Bath in Budapest: Merry Healing in Art Deco Environment

Gellert Bath in Budapest/ Gellért Fürdő (say: Gal-ay-rt Fur-dur ) is one of the most frequented spa baths in Budapest by locals and tourists alike. Gellert Spa Bath is located in Hotel Gellert (Danubius Hotel Gellert), but the thermal spa bath is open for the general public (there is a separate entrance for non-hotel guests). Both the hotel and the spa bath are in a fascinating Art Nouveau – Art Deco building (including Hungarian folk art motifs, phenomenal colorful lead glasses and painted eosin mosaics).

The quality of the thermal water is superb (already in use in the 15th century!). In addition, Gellert Furdo has 13 baths including a wave bath and a children’s pool, so it is not only recreational but it’s fun. Needless to say, there are pampering massages, treatments, drinking cures, etc. Gellert Spa Bath – as part of Hotel Gellert Budapest was built in 1918. There are 13 baths 20-38 °C (68-100 degrees Fahrenheit).

See the Frequently Asked Questions about Gellert Bath and the Video at the bottom!

Gellert Spa Bath Budapest Hungary Gellert Furdo montage

The thermal water is recommended for:
damaged joints (e.g. worn hip and knee joints), degenerative diseases, arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis or Bechterew’s disease, low back pain or lumbago, after accidents as a post therapy.
Address: Kelenhegyi út 4, Budapest, H-1118, check its location on the Budapest Tourist map (blue waves indicate major spa baths)
Location: Gellert Spa Bath is on the Buda side, almost at the foot of Liberty Bridge Budapest (Szabadsághíd), next to Gellert Hill, which is a great green area with the Statue of Liberty and a superb panoramic view of the Pest side of Budapest with the Parliament, Chain Bridge, Basilica, Gresham Palace, etc.
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 6am to 8pm
Phone: 00-36-1-466-6166
Getting there: Trams/ Streetcars: 18,19, 47, 49, Buses: 7 (green normal, not the red express!), 86
Prices: general admission with cabin HUF 5,300. There are all kinds of massages available, which can be booked online in advance for your convenience.

More  in depth info about Budapest Baths


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Miscellaneous: Saint Gellert (also known as St Gerard) was a Hungarian bishop who came from Italy to spread Christianity and educate the son of the first Hungarian king, St Stephen in the 11th century. Pagans threw him off the Gellert Hill. Unfortunately, Gellert Furdo is slightly worn down and will need some reconstruction to get back its truly five-star beauty.

Gellert Furdo FAQ

Are the baths inside or outside?
Baths are both outside and inside.
Is Gellert Spa Bath closed in winter?
No, it is open all year, on weekdays from 6am to 7pm, and at weekends from 6am to 5pm (except for some public holidays).
When is it the best time to go to Gellért Fürdő?
Well, that’s a good question. Although Gellert Furdo has 13 baths, weekends tend to be crowded, so it is worth going there a bit earlier.
Do you need anything else than yourself, a swim gear and money?
A towel, flip-flops or rubber shoes (for general hygienic and preventive reasons too), and water-resistant purse for the buffet or for massages & treatments will come in handy (although you can hire some of them for a nominal price). If you want to swim laps in the pool, besides using the thermal baths, you will need a swim cap too.
Can you book massages in advance?
No, unfortunately, massages cannot be pre-arranged. Gellert Spa Bath is operated on a first come first served basis.
Is Gellert Furdo good for children?
Yes, Gellért Spa Bath is a family-friendly place. For instance, there is an outside bath whose thermal water starts to wave periodically: its gradient depth ranges from 0.4m/1.30 feet to 2.75m/ 9 feet) . Then there’s a separate children’s spa bath (30 degrees Celsius/ 86 degrees Fahrenheit and 0.4 m/ 1.31 feet deep). Nevertheless, the spa bath is still a calm thermal bath and not a water amusement park (no big and complex slides, spring boards, etc.).
Shall I go to Gellért or Széchenyi Spa Bath?
Ideally, you should try both baths to discover which suits better your tastes. Both are located in a beautiful building (Szechenyi is neo-baroque, Gellert is fabulous art-deco). Both have world-renowned healing properties and good massages. Gellert Spa Bath might be a bit more touristy as it’s located in Hotel Gellert, while Szechenyi Furdo is an individual spa bath (note: contracted with several Budapest hotels). In addition, Szechenyi Spa Bath is slightly less expensive than Gellert Spa Bath (e.g. admission with cabin: 2,800 HUF vs. 3,100 HUF). Gellert might be a better choice for families with kids though, but several travelers suggest Szechenyi for children. Good question. Let me know what you found out: add your comments, please.

Do you know of the best Spa Hotels in Budapest?

We think that Hotel Gellert is really great, but may seem a bit outdated, if you want something high-end, upscale, and are willing to splurge. Here is a good list of the best Budapest spa hotels, and if you ask us, we recommend Corinthia Hotel Budapest.
How do you get from Keleti railway station to Gellért Spa Bath?
The easiest and quickest way is to take the red line Metro at Keleti pu. until Astoria. At Astoria, get off and take the green number 7 bus, which will take you over the Elisabeth Bridge to the Buda side. About 3 stops. See the Gellert Hill and the nice Hotel? There you are!

Watch Gellert Spa Bath Budapest on this video made with Michael Palin (comedian, writer, Monty Python member, as well as maker and presenter of several BBC travel documentaries). Hey, one of my favorite comedians!

Hungary the Land of Spas and Budapest the City of Spas

Visiting Budapest can not be complete without visiting one of the Budapest baths. There are thermal baths, open air spa baths, lidos and pools in big green parks all over the city. How come?

Gellert Bath

Gellert Bath – Joe Mabel Photography

Why is Budapest the City of Spas?

Hungary is full of wonderful spas, thermal waters, and both Budapest and the countryside (e.g. Zalakaros, Hévíz) can boast about superb thermal baths (at truly affordable prices). Little wonder that in 1937 Budapest officially became the City of Spas at the first World Federation of Hydrotherapy and Climatotherapy, for short FEMTEC conference held in Budapest with the participation of 37 countries.

Even the first president of the World Federation of Hydrotherapy was a Hungarian man (József Ferenc) Unfortunately, during the communist era, spa baths were very hard to be accessed for western travelers daring through the iron curtain. But since 1989, Hungary has been open to everybody who wishes to relax in its thermal baths, and huge investments are being made into the versatile utilization of geothermal energies.

As the old Roman proverb says:

“Balnea, vina, Venus corrumpunt corpora sana,
Corpora sana dabunt balnea, vina, Venus.”

“Baths, wine and love spoils healthy bodies;
but baths, wine and love make up healthy bodies.”

(this ancient Roman proverb was well-known in the Turkish ruled Hungarian city of Eger in the in the Middle Ages, according to chronicles)

Last time, I have written about Szechenyi Furdo, Budapest, probably the most frequented by tourists due to its charm, location, architecture, treatments, etc. This time I will give a short overview of Hungarian spa baths.

How many spa baths are there in Hungary?

Currently there are about 140 registered thermal baths in Hungary, out of which about 10 spa baths are located in Budapest (Csepel Bath and Lido, Dagaly Bath and Lido, Dandar Bath and Lido, Gellert Baths, Kiraly Baths, Lukacs Baths, Paskal Lido and Baths, Palatinus LidoRac Bath, Rudas Bath, Szechenyi Baths, Ujpest Bath) – some are using the same thermal springs. However, according to estimates (sources differ widely), there are about 1300 thermal springs in Hungary (620 wells) – many of which are not simply mineral waters containing magnesium or calcium, etc., but they are proven medicinal waters with various healing properties.

You can see some of the spa baths in Budapest in this nice video:

Why are there so many spa baths in Hungary?

First the Romans, then the Turks have discovered that the area where Hungary is now located is abundant with warm or hot healing waters – some are muddier, others are cleaner, some are good for your legs, arms and joints, others for your lungs, kidney, stomach, etc. Spa waters were recognized by their heat and smell, and soldiers, dervishes, pashas, etc. liked this special luxury – not just for religious but for medical reasons too. But why are there so many of these healing waters? The answer is geothermal energy, i.e. the energy given by the heat of the Earth. This heat preserved in the inner parts of the planet, under the crust, gets to the surface more easily in Hungary as the crust under the country has become thinner over the thousands of years. So much thinner that the average geothermal heat coming from beneath is twice of the European average. Hungary has several geothermal reservoirs, hot springs, more readily available, well before geothermal drilling became a practice. You can find thermal waters under 80% of the Hungarian territory. No wonder, 2008 has been announced as the Year of Waters by the Hungarian Tourism Co.

What are Hungarian spa waters good for?

Of course, over the last 1000-1500 years in the Carpathian basin, people who inhabited these regions have got to know what these waters are best used for to preserve your health. Treating locomotor diseases, stomach complaints are the most typical, but some of the water springs are recommended for gynaecological problems, skin diseases, etc. As thermal waters are not black or white magic, you may wish to check with your doctor if spa baths are recommended for you or not (usually they are not suggested for chronic high-blood pressure, anaemia, during pregnancy, right after heart attacks, etc.).

Remains of the old Spa Culture

Excavations have revealed Celtic and Roman ruins of bath houses, mosaics, remains of frescoes, which show that the Romans used the available spa water resources for heating and bathing alike. Aquincum (literally: Water-city) a military city also inhabited by wine-growers, tradesmen, etc. had bath houses, palaces, amphitheatres, aqueducts, sewers, and it is the most well-known aquacultural memento of the Roman times in Hungary. Originally it served as a border city to protect the outermost territories of the Roman empire. See its location on this reconstructed map (red letter in the upper right part):

Aquincum map in the Roman times now located in Budapest Óbuda

Here’s a photo of the mosaics of the Roman bath (made by khoogheem)

Aquincum Budapest Museum the Roman bath house mosaics

Turkish occupation, Turkish Baths

During the Ottoman Turkish occupation (from 1526 to 1699), the Turks have built at least 40 spa baths (or hamam) on the medicinal water springs they have found in Hungary. It was an excellent financial investment – not just today but already in the 16th century. Turkish architectural features (impressive dome, small windows, niches with fountains, etc.) were well preserved, and in the last couple of years considerable investments have been made to reconstruct the beautiful and mysteriously lit Turkish baths. Alas, only a handful of them are operational these days. In Budapest, you will find Rudas Gyógyfürdő (Rudas Spa Bath from the 1550s), Rác Gyógyfürdő (Rác Spa Bath – formerly known in King Matthias time as the Royal Spa – under construction!), Király Fürdő (Király Spa Bath – built in 1565), as well as the historical Császár Fürdő (Csaszar Spa Bath). In the countryside, you can visit the Turkish Bath in Eger (built in 1610-17), or the Turkish Bath (now only functioning as a Bath Museum) in Pécs.

This is a photo of Rudas Fürdő (Rudas Turkish Bath)

Rudas Fürdő Turkish Spa Bath in Budapest

and a picture of Király Fürdő (Király Turkish Bath)

Király Fürdő Turkish Spa Bath in Budapest

Searching For Oil, Finding Water

In the course of the 18-19th century, there were several attempts made to find oil in Hungary, the liquid gold to make profits everyone was hoping for, which often resulted in finding good quality thermal medicinal waters. Hungarians enjoyed them tremendously, but it took many decades to recognize that the thermal baths and geo thermal energies are the golden mines of Hungary. Not only in Budapest, but all over the country of Hungary new spa and medicinal baths were built, e.g. in Zalakaros, Hajdúszoboszló, Sárvár, Hévíz. Needless to say, the most visited thermal bath houses are in Budapest, so if you take a visit in the Hungarian capital, do not miss the “Baths Budapest” item on the itinerary.

Szechenyi Spa Bath in Budapest: Soaking, Healing, Fun

Szechenyi Spa Bath/ Széchenyi Fürdő (say: Say-chain-ee Fur-dur ) is one of the most popular spa baths in Budapest – and in Europe –  both among locals and tourists: it is in a beautiful neo-baroque style building, the quality of the water is great, and it’s simply fun to go there – not in a jumpy bubble city style though as the average age tends to start from 25.

Szechenyi Baths

Szechenyi Baths – photo: melyepterv.hu

At Szechenyi Baths can enjoy wonderful massages, treatments, drinking cures, etc. You can even see some clever quirky guys playing chess on the edge of the baths, join them if you are good at chess! The spa bath was built in 1913 after some deep drilling in the city park. There are 15 baths indoors and 3 outdoors 20-38 °C (68-100 degrees Fahrenheit).

HOT TIP  for Szechenyi Baths: the palace of baths is a maze, print your map before you go as no maps are provided in the bath and the signs for navigation are poor.

See the Frequently Asked Questions about Szechenyi Bath and the Video at the bottom!

The thermal water is recommended for:
damaged joints (e.g. worn hip and knee joints), degenerative diseases, arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis or Bechterew’s disease, low back pain or lumbago, after accidents as a post therapy. As a drink therapy the thermal water is used for gastro-enteritis, ulcers, kidney inflammations, certain types of kidney stones, rheumatic gout, calcium deficiency, bile treatments.
Address: 11. Állatkerti körút, Budapest H-1146, check its location on the Budapest Tourist map (blue waves indicate major spa baths)

View Larger Map
Location: Szechenyi Spa Bath is next to the big City Park (Városliget), and a few-minute walk to the Zoo, the Budapest Circus and the Amusement Park.
Opening hours: spa baths and medicinal massages: all days from 6am to 7pm (except for some public holidays!). Szechenyi Pool: all days from 6am to 10pm. Mud treatments: Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Aqua-fitness: 8.30, 11.30 and 16.15
Phone: 00-36-1- 363-3210
Getting there: the yellow line underground stops right at Szechenyi bath (stop: ‘Széchenyi fürdő’), Trolley bus: 72
Prices: general bath ticket prices are about HUF 3400 at the bath, where you can also book various massages (aroma massage, refreshing massage, massage therapy, etc.
Miscellaneous: István Széchenyi was a 19th century Hungarian politician oftentimes referred to as ‘the greatest Hungarian’ due to his formidable contribution to modernizing Hungary. Széchenyi Fürdő is pronounced something like Say-chain-ee Fur-dur. Szechenyi Furdo fitness classes are FREE of charge!

Szechenyi Furdo FAQ

Are the baths inside or outside?
The bigger baths are outside while some specialty baths are located inside (see the video at the bottom)
Is Szechenyi Spa Bath closed in winter?
No, it is open all year, all days from 6am to 7pm (except for holidays). It is FUN to swim in the steaming outside bath!
When is it the best time to go to Széchenyi Fürdő?
Well, that’s a good question. Although Szechenyi Furdo has 15 baths, which can take up about 1,500 people, weekends tend to be crowded, so it is worth going there early (between 6-8am) to get a good spot.
Do you need anything else than yourself, a swim gear and money?
Definitely a towel, warmly recommended are flip-flops or rubber shoes (for hygienic and preventive reasons too), and water-resistant purse for the buffet or for massages & treatments will come in handy (although you can hire some of them for a nominal price). If you want to swim laps in the pool, besides using the thermal baths, you will need a swim cap too.
Can you book massages in advance?
No, unfortunately, massages cannot be pre-arranged. Széchenyi Spa Bath is operated on a first come first served basis.
Is Szechenyi Furdo good for children?
Yes, Szechenyi Spa Bath is a family-friendly place. For instance, there is an outside bath (depth 0.8m/ 2.62 feet) whose thermal water starts to rotate periodically. But the spa bath is still a calm spa bath and not a water amusement park (no slides, spring boards, playground).
Shall I go to Szechenyi or Gellert Thermal Bath?
Ideally, you should try both to discover which suits better your tastes. Both are located in a beautiful building (Szechenyi is neo-baroque, Gellert is fabulous art-deco). Both have great healing properties and good massages. Gellert Spa Bath might be a bit more touristy due to the fact that it’s located in Hotel Gellert while Szechenyi Spa Bath is a stand alone thermal bath (mind you, contracted with several Budapest hotels). In addition, Szechenyi Spa Bath is slightly less expensive than Gellert Spa Bath. Gellert with its 13 pools including a wave bath and a children’s pool might be a better choice for families with kids though, but many suggest Szechenyi for children. Great dilemma. Let me know what you think (in the comments)!

Does Szechenyi Bath have a hotel accommodation?

No, unfortunately, Szechenyi Bath is a stand alone thermal spa bath, and has no hotel built into the palace. If you want to have a spa weekend, you can visit Szechenyi Bath on your own, or pick one of the Budapest spa hotels, including the popular Danubius Hotel Gellert)

How do you get from Keleti railway station to Szechenyi Spa Bath?
The easiest and quickest way is to go underground: take the red line Metro at Keleti pu., change at Deák tér to the yellow line underground (you will need a new ticket validated unless you have a pass!) and get off at Szechenyi Furdo stop. There you are!

Watch Szechenyi Thermal Bath on this video made by budapest.info:

Best Cafés in Budapest: Luxury, Popular, Wifi, Classic, etc.

Are you looking for a good cup of coffee, or a fantastic cake in Budapest? Now, that won’t be a problem, as Budapest is full of good cafés, mouth-watering pastries, marzipans, etc.

Cafe Central Budapest

Cafe Central Budapest

You will find high-end coffee houses, mid-range popular cafes, historical cafe and confectioner’s – look at the list and pick the best for your tongue & style. To learn more about the basic info, see the individual articles about each cafe for opening hours, prices, addresses, phone numbers and more: click on the name of the cafe in the title. Or if you want full meal, read about the Best Restaurants in Budapest here.

Some High-end Cafés

Café Gerbeaud: café and restaurant

Cafe Gerbeaud is one of the most elegant historical cafes in Budapest. The café was founded by Henrik Kugler in 1858 in Viennese style during the high times of the of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and expanded by its later owner, Emil Gerbeaud. Sumptuous interior with graceful chandeliers, marble-topped tables, lavish fine wood paneling, gold-plasters and statuettes, etc. It is also a restaurant and a bar. Great place to ‘people watch’. See its location, opening hours, prices, address, phone number and more here on Cafe Gerbeaud.

Café Gerbeaud in Budapest

New York Café: café and restaurant

New York Cafe is in the recently renovated opulent five-star hotel, in the New York Palace, in a busy part of Budapest (easily reached by the red line metro at Blaha tér, or the trams 4 and 6). It is a historical venue where the big names of Hungarian literature and movie making got together and an opulent coffee house and bar – one of the oldest grand cafés of the fin de siecle Budapest. Both smoking and non-smoking parts. For your coffee, I suggest trying the Tiramisu in real Italian style, or just sipping a glass of Tokaj aszú – according to totally unscientific studies it helps to feel the grandeur of the café. :) OK, this is my invention, but it has some truth in it. See its location, opening hours, prices, address, phone number and more here on New York Café.

Café Callas: café and bistro

Café Callas is a hip cafe and restaurant right at the Opera House. From strudels and coffees to sushi or Hungarian dishes, you will find all kinds of dishes and rinks on the menu. Nice interior, big windows, prices towards the higher end.

Some Popular Cafés

Cafe Gerloczy: a place to have an ideal breakfast in downtown Budapest. Cafe Gerloczy is a coffee house and a restaurant at the same time, with fresh, fresh, fresh croissants. See its location, opening hours, prices, address, phone number and more here on Cafe Gerloczy.

Café Centrál has a good central location on Ferenciek tere, and it is also spacious and bright. Insert it in your Váci utca and Central Market Hall shopping program or just a walk along the River Danube on the Pest side of Budapest. See its location, opening hours, prices, address, phone number and more here on Café Centrál.

Café Daubner or Daubner Cukrászda (cukrászda means confectioner’s in Hungarian). Your can read Fodor’s review here. OK, it is not easy to get there by public transportation if you don’t know the city at least a bit. Take a cab if you want to know why people are lining up – regularly. We had our hundreds of snacks called Pogácsa (approx. cheese scone) for our wedding from Daubner. Delicious!

Cafe Szamos

There are several Szamos branded cafes in Budapest (one even in the Zoo), and probably the most conveniently located Szamos kávézó is on the grand boulevard, Erzsébet körút 43-49., within the luxury hotel, Corinthia Hotel Budapest. The Szamos brand is primarily associated with marzipan but the coffee houses & confectioneries serve a wide range of cakes and pastries alongside the marzipan figures. The Szamos business was founded in 1935. Cafe Szamos in the Grand Royal is open from 10 am to 8 pm all week. phone: 00-36-1-413-7968.

Old Grandeur Cafés (Antique Furniture, Old Family Recipes)

Café Ruszwurmis a 2 min walk from the Matthias Church and you should not miss it. Confectioner Ferenc Schwabl started the business in 1827. Great pastries and beautiful Biedermeier interior with remnants of the old confectionery industry, glass cabinets, etc. (officially declared to be protected as the most important confectionery complex in Hungary). There are also various porcelain figures from the sweet past e.g. bishops with sweets under their high cap, with a red flag in their hands and a prayer book under their arms; pretty horses whose neck can be taken off to offer candies from their belly, etc. See its location, opening hours, prices, address, phone number and more here on Café Ruszwurm.

Here’s a photo of the biedermeier cabinet in Cafe Ruszwurm. Looks beautiful, doesn’t it?:

Café Ruszwurm in Budapest

Café Auguszt has three different locations in Budapest. One is next to Astoria square (red line metro) in Kossuth street in a closed courtyard of a 19th century house – the coolness of the courtyard is a true relief in hot summers! See its location on the map. Now, we have to admit that this is our favourite hangout for a cuppa and a cake…

The other is behind one of the most popular shopping mall in Budapest, the Mammoth (Mammut), in Fény utca. Take a seat upstairs. And the third one is next to one of the most reputable cemeteries in Budapest (at Farkasrét) off the city centre. Personally, I am a great fan of Auguszt pastries and salty yummies. Old recipes refined through several Auguszt generations. Their only mistake is the short opening hours (closes at 6 pm!) and the lack of a good website. One more thing, the founder of the Szamos business used to be an apprentice of József Auguszt. See Café Auguszt locations on the Budapest tourist map.

Other admittedly subjective choices

Café Csészényi (Csészényi kávézó) is a lovely little cafe on Krisztina körút with reasonable prices and a special design (a slew of colorful coffee grinders and old Budapest notices, advertisements on the wall). The name means ‘cupful’ and the place is indeed smallish. No internet.

Café Créme: on the left side of Gellert Hotel and Spa bath, there is also a nice little cafe with free wifi, Although the cafe is small, it has also a terrace, great to sit in/ out and have a good café latte. Dark wooden tables and chairs, smallish in size. Good to have a rest before or after a walk on the Gellért Hill, a visit to the quirky and special Cave Church, the Citadel and the Statue of Liberty.

PS: One of the TripAdvisor visitors wrote:

Coffeehouses deserve a special mention. Budapest is the heaven of pastries. Great, beautiful, coffehouses are everywhere, and pastries are excellent and cheap. For 800-900 HUF you can have coffee ot hot chocolate of highest class and pastries that are out of this world. Wow. If you are a serious pastry lover I can recommend staying at the Corinthia Grand Hotel with access to the Executive Lounge. Here, they have miniature pastries of many different kinds, and you can have as many as you like. And truly, these pastries were the best we had in Budapest. I believe that it is the coffehouse next to (or even inside) Corinthia that delivers these pastries, so if you do not live at Corinthia, you might want to try this coffeehouse. There are some old coffeehouses that are often mentioned in guidebooks. Of these, we found Central Kavehaz fantastic in terms of beauty, but less so in terms of the quality of the pastries. Worth going still for the beauty of the place. Cafe New York is equally beautiful, but is now under the ownership of a large hotel chain and is rather expensive, and staff is not very friendly. (emphasis added by me)