Taking the Waters in the International Spa City of Budapest

A Spa Tour of Budapest

Taking the Waters in the International Spa City of BudapestThis article originally appeared in Great Golf Magazine

Today every city has a spa, but only Budapest can lay claim to the title International Spa City, an honor it’s held since the 1930s thanks to its nearly 120 natural thermal springs, the highest concentration on earth.

In the last few decades, spa and wellness travel has skyrocketed in popularity, but the history of spa culture goes back to ancient times and the use of curative waters. In fact the dictionary defines the word spa as “ a place where water that has many minerals in it comes up naturally from the ground and where people go to improve their health by swimming in, bathing in, or drinking the water.”

Emperor Marcus Aurelius built the first thermal bath in Budapest, with most of the bathhouses established by the Turks in the 16th century. Today there are over 50 places to take the waters from beautiful Ottoman influenced bathhouses, to Art Nouveau wonders, and modern structures.

Picking your bathhouse is a tough choice. Most are similar with indoor thermal pools, saunas, steam room and cooler plunge pools. Some have large outdoor pools as well. Insider tip one: spas still have male and female days along with mixed gender pools, so check ahead of time. Insider tip two: swimming caps are required for both sexes at some spas-that one caught me by surprise. Insider tip three: you can rent towels, but they’re flimsy. Bring your own from your hotel instead.

Many bathhouses also offer spa services, but if you want to partake in a massage you need to specify that when you buy your entrance ticket. You’ll also want to make sure you buy a private cabin for changing and storing your belongings.

For the most authentic Turkish bath experience, head to the Rudas Baths. The centerpiece is a large domed octagonal pool. You’ll also find six thermal pools, a rooftop pool and Jacuzzi that offers a stunning view of the city, and for the bold, a drinking hall featuring mineral water from three springs. Drinking the water from the Juventus spring is said to be akin to drinking from the Fountain of Youth. Unfortunately youth comes with the price of downing very warm, very sulpheric smelling water.

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