A Visit to the Rudas Thermal Bath in Budapest
17 September 2017
I’m a novice at spa culture, but when in Rome .. so I visited the Rudas Thermal Bath while in Budapest. I hope this blog post will help the next novice :) In Sep 2017 the exchange rate was about 250 HUF for 1 USD. The first picture is the baths from outside. The thermal baths are in the low building on the right, that dome lets in light.
In a Turkish bath you relax in warm-water pools, steam rooms and hot-air saunas at your own pace. The Rudas complex has a thermal (Turkish) bath, a swimming pool and a “wellness” spa. Swimming pools and spas are everywhere but ancient thermal baths are rare, so I’ll focus only on that.
First pick your day: men only MWThF, women only Tue, mixed on weekends. Expect to stay an hour or two.
What to bring: money (HUF 3300 weekdays, 3700 weekends), maybe a bottle of water, possibly your shampoo. Flip-flops? I saw nobody wearing them. Friends? The signs say silence but there was much talking. A bathing suit? Only on the weekends.
A covering is required, full nudity not allowed. The standard garment for men on their days is a white cloth apron about 14 inches square with a tie string. You wear it in front walking around, turn it around to sit in the sauna — never want bare skin on wood etc. A long swimsuit is so uncomfortable in the sauna that I highly recommend wearing the apron, anyhow it’s included in the entry fee. Some people wore two: one front for modesty and one back for convenience, I wasn’t that savvy on my first visit :). Will you look ridiculous? You will look exactly like everyone else.
What about securing your stuff while you’re inside? The standard entry fee to the thermal baths includes a private cabin that your wristband locks and unlocks. It’s not exactly high security, so I left my valuables back at my place. The baths have a real safe where you can leave your phone etc. for an additional fee of HUF 500.
Questions? The price list at the entry was in English. The staff was not fluent in English, but very friendly and spoke enough to get me through.
OK you’re finally inside! Shower off the street dirt (look for a shower with a soap dispenser) then enter the main chamber. You’ll see five pools: small side pools at 28, 30, 33 and 42°C, and a large center pool at 36°C. Move among them as you like! Side chambers have steam rooms — don’t know the temperature as I could not even see the floor in front of me — and hot air rooms at 50–55°C. Steam first? Steam last? Entirely up to you. After leaving a hot room look for the shower stall with a rope and a bucket of cold water, feels good when dumped over you. (Unlike some spas, there is no open-to-the-outside room where you can cool off in fresh air after some sauna time.) When your skin and heart can’t take anymore and you are on your way out there is a cold water pool at 18°C to, uh, tighten everything up again lol.
Somewhat confusingly there are no towels here, no terrycloth plush anything. After you leap shrieking from the cold water pool you grab a large sheet off a shelf, take it to a chaise lounge in the relaxation room, wrap yourself up and rest.
You may wish to return to the showers and use your own fave shampoo before dressing. I was not savvy enough to realize this either on my first vist.
For what it’s worth, the bathroom doors have no locks and many signs that say one person at a time.
If you want to splurge, many many services like massages, pedicures etc. are available, see the list below. The cheapest massage is HUF 3400 for 20 minutes. (They tell you the start time for your service so you have to keep an eye on the clock, which frankly disturbed my attempt at relaxation, but what can you do.) Yes it more than doubles the price, I thought the basic massage was great.