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Snapshot: Baths of Budapest

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With 118 hot springs and a reputation as the ‘City of Spas’, Budapest’s thermal baths are still one of the top reasons to visit the Hungarian capital. We explore the tradition that remains so integral to the city. By Farida Zeynalova

 

Budapest’s thermal baths are world-famous for their healing properties — including getting rid of hangovers after one too many palinkas (local flavored brandy). The city’s history is illustrated through the architecture of the baths, with 16th-century Turkish springs built by the Ottomans and intricate art nouveau designs alongside modern baths of the 21st century.

One of the largest is the Széchenyi Baths, a Neo-Baroque icon located in City Park. These opulent baths are the oldest in Europe, and have welcomed over 100 million guests in their time. Bathers can while away an afternoon in one of its 18 pools (15 thermal baths and three swimming pools) with a glass of red wine in hand, or book a massage for an even more indulgent experience.

Visitors to Kiraly Baths could be forgiven for thinking they’ve ducked into a hamam in old Constantinople. The authentic Turkish thermal bath, one of the smallest in Budapest, was built during Ottoman rule, and its need of a lick of paint only adds to its charm. The octagon-shaped pool and the dome (with small holes allowing beams of light to shine through) is evidence of the influence of its Turkish rulers.

Lukács Thermal Bath is a favourite with locals and usually tourist-free. It prides itself on being one of the first baths in the city to offer medicinal treatments, and the walls are adorned with plaques and tablets penned by those healed by the waters. Visitors can use their Budapest Card for free entrance, whether it’s to ease respiratory issues in the Himalaya Salt Chamber, or throw on sparkly bathing suits for Saturday night’s Magic Bath Party, featuring flamboyant lights and a DJ.

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