The first time we went to Budapest was a frigid February weekend. Living in Germany, I tend to get the mid-winter blues and need to just get away. Even though, we weren’t going any place warmer, it was different and exciting. It was so cold! There seemed to be a permanent layer of frost on every exposed surface in the entire city.
We spent a good portion of the weekend seeing the city from inside a warm trolley car or sitting in cafés warming up. It was time to go back, this time in the summer, and take a dip in the famous spas of Budapest. We chose to go to the Gellert Spa and we were not disappointed.
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The Gellert Spa
One of the things we wanted to do is visit the famous baths. We entered the Széchenyi bathhouse to take a look around. Even after living in Japan where we took weekly baths wearing nothing but our birthday suits, we were still a bit out of our comfort zones. On our first trip, we peeked through the frosty windows promptly left. Between the extreme cold and the uncomfortableness of not being sure what Hungarian bath etiquette was, we couldn’t do it. We have regretted that decision ever since.
We made sure to include it on our trip when we were traveling east on a Eurail pass. We decided that no matter what else we did, we were going to do the baths. We were so determined that when booking our hotel, Jim found one that was a Budapest classic, the Danubius Hotel Gellért, which included a free entrance into the Gellert spa. Done deal!
As this was now August, taking baths sounded much more palatable, but it wouldn’t have mattered if it was raining, sleeting, earthquaking…we were getting in that bath! We loved our train trip up to Budapest, but riding a train all day, especially in places like Slovakia, it got a little gritty. I was certainly ready to get good and clean.
To be honest, we weren’t any more comfortable with the etiquette and surprisingly entering from our special hotel side, didn’t make it any easier. We found ourselves tentatively looking for the door, then we walked in a deserted hallway, side-stepping electricians working on lights, and finally made it to our concierge who promptly wrist-banded us and sent us on our way.
Additional Reading: Where To Stay in Budapest
We march up to the Gellert desk and they give us each a key for our lockers and towels.Guess what they don’t give you? And guess what we as last minute packers forgot? Swimsuits! Can you believe it? Going to the baths was one of our main goals on the trip, and yet we had no suits.
According to the assistants, though, this was no problem. They had suits for rent. The problem is there are no rental suits that fit my….statuesque body. I borrowed one to use for bottoms and wore my shirt and bra on top. They were okay with that! The history of Gellert spa in Budapest goes as far back as the 12th century.
People seemed to always know about the caves with healing waters, but it wasn’t until 13th century that the first building was erected to put them to use, and the spa is mentioned in written history as far back as the 15th century. Known to calm the soul and have miraculous healing powers, there has never been a time when they weren’t popular among the elite.
By the 19th century, foreigners were drawn to the city, just like us to experience the waters, and more buildings were added for the enjoyment of the guests. With construction due to the building of the Liberty bridge, a new design for Gellert Spa was accepted using royal Art Nouveau style. The interior is stunning, and it makes you feel like you are one of the Budapest elite.
Our hotel deal was one day pass, so we started as early in the morning as we could. There were some regulars there, who come for their daily laps or a steam and a chat with their buddies, but tourist-wise it was slow in the morning hours. We explored, we swam, we marveled, and we enjoyed the wave pool which we were surprised to learn had been there since 1927! The waves were quite strong, too.
A relaxing day, we loved the Gellert Spa. So, if you find yourself in Budapest, go to the baths!
Book your next stay at the Danubius Hotel Gellert right here!
We trained into Budapest and took the subway right to the hotel. The metro stop is Szent Gellért, so it’s easy to remember. There is also a bus stop and boat ferry stop right there. It couldn’t be more convenient. The hotel also has parking if you’re arriving by car.
Remember, we stayed right there at the Gellert Hotel so we had free entry into the spa, but for more information about tickets, events, rules, or anything else I would go directly to the Gellert Spa website.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.