City of baths
Baths, day spas and lidos are an integral part of Budapest life, all year round serving as places of family entertainment, wellbeing and lately even of sensational pool parties. Budapest is exceptional for being a capital rich in thermal springs and aquifers, providing eight therapeutic spas and several lidos with thermal waters that have proven health benefits. These thermal springs have been popular for a very long time according to archaeological finds of 18 Roman baths around Aquincum, on the site of one of which is the Római Lido today.
Spa culture really flourished under Turkish occupation during the 16th and 17th centuries, bathing being an important part of social and religious life. Of the eight baths built in the period two can still be enjoyed today in their original function, the Rudas and Király baths in Buda. Rudas has been extended with swimming pools and health treatments over the years, but the Turkish part of the building still retains its original layout of a central pool surrounded by smaller pools of varying temperature, going all the way up to 42°C under a domed ceiling. Previously open only to men, since the 2005 renovations Rudas is open to both sexes on certain days, most notably during late night sessions on the weekends that are an unmissable experience for any visitor to Budapest.
The third golden age of Budapest spa culture started in the second half of the 19th century and we can safely say that it's still going strong today. The Balneological Society was founded to study and promote the health benefits of the thermal waters found under Budapest, and the first hot water artesian aquifer was drilled on Margaret Island, then in City Park.
Old baths were renovated and new ones built that today provide not only medicinal benefits and recreation, but are significant tourist attractions, the most popular of them being the Gellért, Lukács and Széchenyi baths. Széchenyi, the largest spa complex not only in Hungary but Europe as well is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013. The lavishly decorated building houses several indoor and outdoor pools, the thermal waters of which are particularly beneficial for joints, and there are massages and medical treatments available. The image of people playing chess whilst taking the waters in the pool has become one of the most recognisable symbols of Budapest. After dark a quite different scene unfolds. In the summer every Saturday night the Széchenyi, popularly known as Szecska, is taken over by young revellers for a pool party with DJs, drinks and live acts for a unique party experience.