Budapest Thermal Baths History

Overview For Budapest Thermal Baths History

Budapest has long been renowned for its thermal baths, with a history that dates back over 2,000 years. The Romans were the first to discover the thermal springs, and they established a city called Aquincum, which became a significant center for thermal bathing. The Budapest thermal baths were then used by the Ottomans during their occupation of Hungary in the 16th century, who built several Turkish baths in Budapest.

However, it wasn't until the 19th century that the thermal baths became more accessible to the general public. During the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Budapest underwent rapid modernization, and the thermal baths were transformed into lavish establishments, with impressive architecture and intricate details.

Today, Budapest boasts numerous thermal baths, some of which are over 100 years old, and attract tourists from all over the world. The thermal waters are believed to have healing properties, and visitors can enjoy a range of services, including saunas, massages, and various water therapies. The history of Budapest's thermal baths is a testament to the city's rich cultural heritage and the importance of thermal bathing in Hungarian tradition.

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History Of Budapest Thermal Baths

Artesian Bath

The history of Budapest's thermal baths is a fascinating one, with one of the most popular and historic baths being the Artesian Bath. This bath was built in 1881 on Nador Island in the middle of the City Park lake, and although it was not as grand as some of the other baths, it quickly became a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.

The Artesian Bath gained its name from the artesian well drilled by Vilmos Zsigmondy, a Hungarian engineer who specialized in geothermal well drilling. He spent 10 years searching for the perfect location to drill the well, eventually finding it under the City Park. The well was drilled 970 meters deep and produced 525 liters of water per minute until 1938, when it was replaced by a newer well.

Today, the Artesian Bath is no longer in use, but the legacy of Vilmos Zsigmondy lives on with his bust displayed at the entrance of the Szechenyi Baths. The popularity of the Artesian Bath led to the decision by the city councilors to build the larger and more impressive Szechenyi Baths, which still stand as a testament to the rich history of Budapest's thermal baths.

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History Of Medicinal Baths

The history of medicinal baths in Budapest is rich and fascinating. Dating back centuries, the city's thermal waters have been recognized for their healing properties. The Romans were among the first to harness the benefits, followed by the Turks during their occupation. In the 19th century, Budapest's reputation as a spa destination soared with the construction of grand bathhouses like Széchenyi and Gellért. Today, visitors can still immerse themselves in this tradition, indulging in the benefits of thermal baths and experiencing the legacy of Budapest's historic medicinal baths.

Szechenyi Bath Pools

The Szechenyi Baths in Budapest underwent significant expansion in the 1920s, with the addition of outdoor thermal baths and a large open-air swimming pool. The pools were designed by Imre Franczek and were surrounded by sand to give visitors the feeling of being at the beach. A new artesian well was drilled in the City Park to provide water for the pools, which flowed at a temperature of 77 °C (170.6°F). 

This well was drilled from 1936 to 1938 and produced a daily supply of approximately 6,000 cubic meters of water at this high temperature. To promote the hot spring waters, a drinking well and a fountain were added to the baths in 1939. The heating system of the Szechenyi Baths was also designed to use the heat from the geothermal waters, making the baths a truly unique and environmentally friendly attraction.

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Thermal baths in Winter

It was only in 1963 that Szechenyi Baths remained open for the winter season, and since then it has proven a huge success (Szechenyi Bath is open at Christmas and on New Year’s Eve and Day too). This was the year when the corridors of changing cabins and lockers in Szechenyi Baths became insulated from the winter colds, and got heated. Before the restoration works began in 1997, there were closed, heated corridors leading to the outdoor pools at Budapest thermal baths in winter, but these unsightly corridors were eventually pulled down to restore the aesthetics of the building of Szechenyi Baths. This means that taking a bath robe and flip-flops are essential for winter bath guests, as there is a few seconds of walking in the freezing cold weather till you get to the steaming warm baths.

During the Communist times, Szechenyi Baths were much neglected as the city had no financial means to restore the building. There was much corrosion, fungi, and the mosaics, statues, etc. were broken in many places. Thanks to the detailed restorations in the last few years, Szechenyi Bath is beautiful again, and recommended by top travel magazines in Europe and the US.

The Beginning of mixed Baths

Szechenyi Baths have a rich history of gender separation, which was common practice in bath culture for many decades. However, by the 1970s, it had become a hindrance, and in 1981, Szechenyi Baths made the decision to become fully mixed, with all 18 pools for bath guests and the additional 3 hospital pools turned into co-educated. Today, Szechenyi Bath is mixed all week, from Monday to Sunday, except for the sunbathing rooftop terrace and the gender-specific toilets, shower rooms, and public changing areas.

The original design of Szechenyi Bath was planned for separate male and female pools, resulting in a symmetrical structure with the same type and number of pools on both sides. This symmetry can make navigation easier for visitors, although the Bath Palace is quite large, so first-time visitors are advised to take a map of Szechenyi Baths with them.

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Facts About Budapest Thermal Baths History

  • Budapest is known as the "City of Spas" because it has more than 120 natural hot springs, making it one of the largest thermal water cave systems in the world.
  • The tradition of thermal baths in Budapest dates back to Roman times, when the Romans discovered the hot springs and built the first thermal baths in the city.
  • The oldest thermal bath in Budapest is the Rudas Baths, which was built during the Ottoman occupation of Hungary in the 16th century.
  • The largest thermal bath in Budapest is the Széchenyi Bath, which has 18 pools and is visited by more than 1.5 million people every year.
  • The benefits of thermal baths in Budapest are relaxation in various health conditions, such as arthritis and muscle pain because the water is rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are believed to have therapeutic benefits.
  • The thermal baths of Budapest were used as hospitals during World War II, and many wounded soldiers were treated in the baths' warm waters.
  • Budapest is home to the only thermal baths in the world that have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. These are the Gellért Baths, which are known for their Art Nouveau architecture.
  • In addition to the traditional thermal baths, Budapest also has some unique bath experiences, such as the "beer bath" where visitors can bathe in a tub filled with beer, and the "chocolate bath" where visitors can soak in a tub filled with cocoa and honey.
  • The thermal baths of Budapest have been a popular destination for celebrities throughout history, including Queen Elizabeth of Austria, Franz Liszt, and even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
  • Budapest's thermal baths are not just for humans - there is a special thermal bath for dogs called the Palatinus Bath, where owners can bring their furry friends to relax and swim in the warm waters.

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What is the history of thermal baths in Budapest?

Budapest has a long history of thermal baths dating back to Roman times. The city is known for its geothermal springs, which have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Many of the thermal baths in Budapest were built during the Turkish occupation in the 16th and 17th centuries, while others were constructed in the Art Nouveau and Modernist styles in the early 20th century.

Which are the most famous thermal baths in Budapest?

Some of the best thermal baths in Budapest are the Gellért Baths, the Széchenyi Baths, and the Rudas Baths. Each of these baths has a unique history and architecture, and they all offer a variety of pools and services for visitors.

What are the benefits of soaking in thermal baths?

Soaking in thermal baths is believed to have a variety of health benefits, including relaxation, pain relief, and improved circulation. The high mineral content of the water is also said to have therapeutic properties that can help with skin conditions, joint pain, and other ailments.

Are there any rules or etiquette that visitors should be aware of when visiting thermal baths in Budapest?

Yes, there are several rules and etiquette guidelines that visitors should be aware of when visiting thermal baths in Budapest. These can include showering before entering the pools, wearing swimwear at all times, and not bringing food or drink into the pools.

How has the use of thermal baths changed over time in Budapest?

The use of thermal baths in Budapest has evolved over time, from primarily medicinal purposes in the past to more recreational and tourist-focused uses in the present day. However, many of the baths still offer a range of services and treatments that focus on health and wellness.


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