Budapest is home to some of the grandest working bathhouses in the world. Of course, these aren’t “wander around in a towel looking for love” bathhouses – they’re “take a soak in healing mineral waters and people-watch” bathhouses.
With that said – ain’t nothin’ wrong with people-watching some hot dudes!
Budapest was named the “spa city” because of the 123 mineral springs beneath it, and these baths are a cultural hallmark. Male and female residents have frequented the baths for centuries not only for their therapeutic value, but as a place to gather socially, play chess, etc. Some baths are mixed male and female, all the time, others offer men- and women-only days. And a couple are quite gay-friendly. (More on that later.)
Much like an American day spa, typical Budapest bath complexes have a number of different pools at varying temperatures, from cold plunge to hot. The big difference, of course – apart from the grandeur and imposing architecture – is that Budapest’s spa pools are fed by hot mineral springs, so they have genuine therapeutic value. (Be warned, of course, that they’ll smell like Sulphur.)
Some quick tips:
- Be sure to bring your own bathing suit (you can rent a suit at some places, but ewww).
- Admission runs around $20-30 (depending on the spa and day of the week) for a day pass and a changing room where you can lock up your clothes.
- Although theft is not a big problem, avoid bringing valuables. You’re a foreigner and they don’t speak a lot of English. Good luck recovering that Rolex.
There are dozens of baths scattered around Budapest, but we’ll focus here on the top four:
Szechenyi (pictured above) is more or less the “newest” of the four, at around 105 years old, and certainly the most impressive in terms of scale. A massive complex situated in the middle of Budapest’s City Park, it was renovated a few years back to its earlier glory, and is the #1 tourist favorite.
Located inside the Hotel Gellert, this bath has gorgeous architecture, and is worth seeing for this alone (it was bombed during WWII and renovated in 2008). The hot water rooftop pool has fabulous city views. The maintenance of the changing areas and such leave a bit to be desired, however, so be forewarned.
The following two baths date back to the 16th century, and are considered not only historically significant but quite gay-friendly.
A maze of ancient spas and modern ones (it was renovated in 2006) with an impressive rooftop pool. Rudas is men-only on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Here they’ll give you a little apron-like covering (which you’ll wear instead of a swimsuit), which covers only the front. Do some butt crunches before you go.
For those so inclined, do note that frisky activity does not take place here. Discreet looks are exchanged, conversations ensue, but if you’re looking for sexy time, take it back to your hotel or river ship.
Kiraly has never been renovated and as such, is considered the least well-maintained of the popular baths. However, it is also the gayest. Here, on men -only day, men feel freer to be outwardly flirty, massage one another, etc. You’ll experience a bit less of the grandeur and a bit more of the Grindr.
Ready to take waters? Budapest awaits. Pull out your favorite swimsuit and maybe that sequined bathing cap.
Hey, sparkle a little.
- Eric Poole is Director of Marketing for Brand g Vacations, the Leading Operator of All-LGBT river cruises and land tours.