While touring Budapest (or any major metropolis), we all need to pause sometimes between admiring the city’s guidebook-superstar sights, and just kick back to catch our breath from keeping up with society’s constantly buzzing vibe. From steamy thermal baths to historic hangouts to peaceful Oriental gardens to a serene subterranean salt chamber, many slow-paced places and relaxing settings can be found just a few steps away from some of Budapest’s major landmarks, including the Parliament House, St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Citadel, and a number of other must-see monuments.
Many visitors in Budapest embark on a wearying hike up Gellért Hill for the sprawling vantage point at the Citadel – a monumental fortress built by the occupying Habsburg Empire in 1854 – and enjoy sweeping vistas over the city skyline, including the curving Danube and the Elizabeth Bridge. Crowds here can be overwhelming, but after completing the demanding jaunt, travelers can rest at several serene hideaways scattered beside the hill while descending: a meditative stopover at the Philosophers' Garden gives anyone a spiritual charge, surrounded by eight hallowed statues in the tree-flanked parkland including Jesus Christ, Buddha, and Laozi. On the other side of the hill, towering above St. Gellért Square, a mystical Cave Church awaits those who want to take a break by contemplating life inside this sacred hillside den that boasts a mild internal temperature all year round.
Besides Gellért Hill’s sylvan settings, two prominent thermal baths in the Citadel’s vicinity await visitors for a calming plunge: those who want to dive into the city’s Art Nouveau architecture amid vibrant light should not miss a sweltering swim in the Gellért Bath near the Liberty Bridge, and just a short stroll away from the Elizabeth Bridge, the recently added alfresco Jacuzzi atop the Rudas Bath is a serene oasis with magnificent city views; lounging in the spa’s recently modernized pools and saunas is a soothing conclusion to a hectic day of hoofing it around the city’s iconic sites.