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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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:

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)

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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