Budapest Christmas 2012

If you are planning what to do, what to see at Christmas in Budapest, here is the best resource on Budapest Christmas: Budapest Christmas, a really cool Budapest Christmas Travel Guide.

Budapest Christmas Ideas

Budapest Christmas Ideas

Some of the ideas we like:

Having a Christmas Dinner in Budapest – some of the best restaurants in Budapest are open at Xmas, some are closed: Budapest restaurants at Christmas – opening hours. This page will give you some ideas for places to eat at on Dec 24, Dec 25 and Dec 26. Then everything is back to normal.

Visiting the Budapest Christmas markets – whether in the city centre (Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market, Budapest Basilica Christmas Market), or outside the city centre, like in the lovely enchanting Obuda Christmas Market, or in the less fancy, sort of post-communist Ujpest Xmas Fair. More modern fairs are to be seen at WAMP Xmas and at the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts.

Concerts at Christmas in Budapest: don’t miss the concerts at Xmas in Budapest. Free concerts are all over the city, each evening and at weekends on Vorosmarty Square (folk, choir, coral), choir and organ concerts at the St Stephen Basilica and a whole lot more concerts (fun jazz, funky, swing etc.) at many bars and clubs in Budapest.

Merry Christmas! or, if you are wondering what is Merry Xmas in Hungarian, it goes like this (mouthful, I know):

Bol-dog – cor-arch-ont!
=Boldog karácsonyt!

Not so difficult after all!

Gul Baba Tomb (Gül Baba Türbéje) – Turkish Shrine in Budapest

Gul Baba’s Tomb or Gul Baba’s Shrine (Gül Baba Türbéje) is the tomb of Gül baba built between 1543-1548 after the Turkish armies (the Ottoman Turks to be precise) occupied Buda , the hilly side of present day Budapest.

Gul Baba's Tomb Budapest

Gul Baba’s Tomb Budapest – photo by brumd

They have come to the conclusion that Buda is a good place, the castle is OK, the Matthias Church looks better as a mosque, and Buda is nice to enjoy the thermal springs – the place is abundant with excellent thermal waters for building a chain of Turkish baths along the river Danube. So they did build the Kiraly Turkish Baths, the Rudas Turkish Baths, the Rac Turkish Baths, the Veli Bej Turkish Baths! All of them still functional thermal baths. Unfortunately they also decided to remain for another 150 years, which the local Hungarians could not really appreciate (but now we love the Turkish baths of Budapest!). The shrine holds the original tombs of several Ottoman Sultans including Osman I and his son.

The shrine is on the hilly Buda side of Budapest, and takes a short, 5 min uphill walk to get to. Worth the short detour.

Basic info of Tomb of Gül Baba and Rosegarden (1543-1548)
Address: Mecset u. 14., Budapest, II. ker. 1023 (entrance from Türbe tér 1.)
Phone: 00-36-1-326-0062
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 10 am – 6pm (March 01 – Oct 31), 10 am – 4 pm (Nov 1 – Feb 29)
Prices: 500 HUF, for students 400 HUF, for retired 250 HUF, for children (7-14 years old) 250 HUF

There were three kinds of Turkish monasteries that settled down in Hungary, the earliest of them was the Bectashi order, and Gül Baba was the greatest amongst the bectashi monks. He was supposedly an old man when he arrived in Buda in 1541, and he was the first to say a prayer and hold a speech in the former Christian Our Lady (Nagyboldogasszony) Church in Buda turned into the Suleiman jami. When Gul Baba finished his speech, he passed away and was buried on the Rose Hill (Rózsadomb). His shrine was erected by the third pasha in Buda, Jahjapasazáde Mehmed (1543-48)

Rosehill Budapest

On the way to Gul Baba’s Tomb, Rosehill Budapest – photo Denis Gourdon

The Shrine of Gul Baba was not damaged when the Habsburgs re-captured the area from the Ottoman Turks during the Second Battle of Buda in 1686. However, the shrine was converted into a Roman Catholic chapel by the Jesuits, and renamed St. Joseph’s Chapel.

This piece of estate later was owned the by János Wagner, who not only maintained the site as a property, but also allowed access to Muslim pilgrims coming from the Ottoman Empire – at that time a respectful gesture indeed. At the end of the 19th century, in 1885, the Ottoman government commissioned a Hungarian engineer to restore the shrine of Gula Baba. The historical restoration works were completed by 1914, when the tomb was declared a national monument. The site was restored again in the 1960s suring the socialist regime, who was oftentimes quite unwilling to restore historical buildings (including the Buda Castle, which was totally neglected and ruinous for many decades after WW2).

Gul Baba Shrine is now the property of the Republic of Turkey.

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/)

Millennial Monument (Millenniumi emlékmű) in Budapest

Heroes Square is one of the most visited squares in Budapest packed with some of the most beautiful Budapest attractions to see, and some fun things to do (lake / skating rink, cycling tour, Segway tours, etc.).

Millennial Monument (Millenniumi emlékmű) on Hosok tere, Budapest: the monument, also known as the Millennium Monument, was built for the 1000th birthday of Hungary. Andrassy Avenue seems to culminate in the beautiful memorial. It consists of a 35m/ 118 ft column (with Archangel Gabriel on top), and two wings with statues of Hungarian politicians & military men – you guessed: the Heroes of Hungary (children love the big horse statues).

While the domineering central piece of the square is the Millennial Monument, the two museums, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hall of Art (Mucsarnok), which flank the the square, are enhancing the grandeur of this fin-de-siecle complex. If you have a Budapest Card you can get a free entry to the Museum of Fine Arts, 20% off the entry fee in the Kunsthalle (Hall of Arts). You can also visit the Vajdahunyad Castle and Szechenyi Baths if you are on Heroes’ Square.

Note: Hosok tere is also the favorite hangout place for acrobatic bikers, line skaters, etc.

Address: Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square) Budapest
Opening hours: 24/7
Prices: free
Getting here: the underground (old metro, yellow line) has a station called ‘Hősök tere’ but you can also take buses (e.g. number 30), or trolley buses (e.g. number 79)

See its location of the Hungarian Millennium Monument on the Budapest Tourist Map (the yellow balloon icon in the middle). Click the View larger map blue link under the map to enlarge the map-view.


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The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest

The Parliament in Budapest (the Hungarian Parliament) is a wonderful building completed in 1902 in eclectic style. Visits need to be booked in advance. Parliament tours are daily, but the Parliament (Orszaghaz in Hungarian) tours may be cancelled if someone important is visiting the political leaders. Regular starting hours of the guided tours. 10 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2pm, 6pm

Budapest Parliament Hungary

Budapest Parliament (photo: Christine McIntosh)

You can book your Budapest Parliament tour here. Unfortunately the tickets to the Hungarian Parliament building are not free for EU citizens from 2013.

Address: 1055 Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3., Hungary
Phone: 00-36-1-441-4904 or 00-36-1-441-4415
Getting here:
Budapest metro (red line), station: Kossuth Lajos tér
trams/ streetcars: number 2

Fishermen’s Bastion (Halaszbastya) in Budapest

Fishermen’s Bastion (Halászbástya) built in 1905  is one of the best panoramic views of Budapest & the river Danube (part of UNESCO world heritage). Halaszbastya is located on the Buda side overlooking the beautiful attractions on the Pest side with the river Danube and the 19th – 20th century bridges.

Fishermen Bastion Budapest Attractions

Fishermen Bastion Budapest (photo: Robert Marse)

The bastion can be approached by the minibus circulating in the Buda Castle District on top of the hill, or you can climb the many scenic stairs leading up to the Fishermen’s Bastion. The open air attraction is literally open, an open arcade with stairs, towers and balconies. It is one of the best sights to visit if you are staying in Budapest one day only.

Address: Szentháromság tér 5, 1014 Budapest

Opening hours: 24/7
Prices: free


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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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One Day Tour in Budapest: Get The Most Out Of 24 Hour

If you only have one day in Budapest, although it is not much time to really look around to see the sights and enjoy fun things to do, you can still make the most out of it in a one-day tour, and hopefully you will come back to see more. Let’s suppose you arrive late afternoon, so all you are ready for is having a good dinner, maybe a feel of Budapest nightlife, and you leave discovering the attractions for next morning.

Night in Budapest

If you plan to have a few drinks in the happening area, Pest side gives more options than Buda side (where the castle is). Here’s a great map of the pubs, bars, clubs and party places of Budapest. The different color-coded icons on the map show you different styles: e.g.

  • Green for Irish pubs,
  • Blue for Best – based on tourists’ feedback
  • Blue dot for Best alternative pubs
  • Blue pin for Belgian beers
  • Light blue for maybe good
  • Yellow for themed pubs (e.g. Western, Cuban, etc.)
  • Pink GL-friendly, etc.

Here’s the map, color-coded: double-click to enlarge, or click on an icon to get more info on the pub / bar.

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Whichever pub or bar suits your style and wallet more, one thing is sure: don’t miss the Danube river-view at night. It is beautiful: classical yet intimate beauty. Read more about the Best Restaurants in Budapest or the Best Cafes in Budapest.

Next Morning in Budapest

1, (7-9am) I would start with an early morning Széchenyi bath and wash away my headache in the thermal water: it’s for both men and women, and kids. Take your towel.
2, (9-10:30) go over to Heroes’ square & have a look at the Millennial monument, then (depending which attracts you more)
a, Arts: peep into the Museum of Fine Arts
b, Agriculture: the Vajdahunyad Castle in the City Park (hosting the Museum of Agriculture)
c, History: the House of Terror on Andrássy: tricks and tools of Nazi and Soviet dictatorship at the former HQ of the Hungarian Secret Police. Not for small kids.
d, Model trains, cars, planes etc.: Museum of Transport, Budapest
e, none: you saved 1.3 hours!

Follow your route on the Budapest Tourist Map: double click to enlarge or simply click on the view large option under the map.

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3, (11-12:00) take the underground to Vorosmarty ter, have a quick snack, coffee, cake in Café Gerbeaud OR walk over to Gresham Palace and have a snack there.
4, (12-12:30) walk over the Chain Bridge, get on the Funicular on the Buda side at Adam Clark square (Clark Ádám tér) up to the Castle Hill.
5, (12:30-14:00) have a quick look around the Castle District, take photos at Fishermen’s Bastion (you will see the beautiful Parliament, which is highly worth checking out but no time now) & at Matthias Church.
6, (14-16:00) take the bus (number 16) from Dísz tér to Deák tér, then the tram (number 2) along the Danube embankment up to Fővám tér – go to the Central Market Hall to do some gift shopping and or have late lunch or a quick snack (e.g. Lángos). Note: the Central Market Hall is closed on Sundays and closes early on Saturdays, so change the order if it is not convenient for your travel, please.

Alternatively,

You can do the whole thing backwards, or with variations. Start with the Castle, down to Gresham Palace (then to the Basilica or the Synagogue & the old Jewish district) or directly to Heroes’ square.
I usually leave shopping at the end to avoid having to wade through the city with bags. If you are more shopping-minded, use the Budapest Shopping Map to guide you.

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No need to rush: you can come back any time and take a closer look at Budapest. It’s well worth it: after more than 20 years I am still discovering a lot of new things to see, do, eat – it’s a city that does not let you get bored, and which always welcomes you, alone or with friends & family.

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.