One of Budapest’s most historic spas has been beautifully renovated, but lain empty and unused for years, locked in a legal dispute. Photographer Tamás Pataki has just taken a tour of the building, capturing its ornate interior, the pool areas long awaiting the first bathers.

Near the Rudas, a short walk from Elizabeth Bridge, the Rác Baths also date back to the Ottoman era. While the name of the spa is written Rácz across the façade, Rác is the more common spelling, taken from the Serbs, referred to as Rácok, who lived here in what was the Tabán quarter.

After this district of smoky taverns and little workshops was knocked down in the 1930s, the spa acquired the name of the St Imre Baths. Most still called it the Rác, even up to modern times.

The original baths had undergone serious reconstruction between 1864 and 1870, based on the plans of Miklós Ybl of Opera House fame. In the 1960s, part of the complex was demolished and the remainder renovated.

But the Rác continued to deteriorate, with some sections shut off for safety reasons. In the 1990s, it was closed for good.

Renovation by a high-end Italian hotel chain between 2007 and 2010 also saw it surrounded by a phalanx of busy archaeologists whose occasional discoveries halted building operations.

A decade-long legal dispute then put the whole project on ice. Rumours of its revival in 2018 proved greatly exaggerated.

Ace photographer Tamás Pataki recently gained access to the ghostly complex to capture these stunning images.