Budapest is Europe’s spa capital with plenty of places that offer a Finnish sauna, a steam cabin and aromatherapy. Here’s where to find the best for a healthy sweat and warming relaxation.
Hungarians have been sweating in saunas for generations so there’s a few rules the uninitiated foreigner needs to know first.
Wear standard swimming gear – for those used to saunas in Germany and Austria, keep those trunks on, please.
Wear flip-flops around the spa but leave them by the door of the sauna itself – you’ll see a little cluster outside. Take in a towel to sit on, some may also have a sponge of some kind. Forget birch branches, that’s for Russians. The more experienced Hungarian sauna goer might add a few aromatic drops to the hot stones, but they’ll always ask first.
If there’s room, stretch out, but remember that other guests come and go.
Most of all, OPEN AND CLOSE THE DOOR QUICKLY! Nothing irks a local sauna regular more than someone dithering with the cabin door wide open.
The Gellért Baths are undoubtedly the most beautiful in Budapest, but there is only one Finnish sauna, in an exclusive little wooden hut outside, with glass windows looking at the fun pool. Inside, you find a sauna and an aromatic steam cabin. Adjacent is a cold plunge pool.
Although many smaller saunas can be used at the Lukács Baths with a regular ticket, purchasing a special wristband enables you to enter the separate well equipped sauna section. You need to ask for this extra ticket upon arrival, which then enables you to walk freely in and out the sauna world complete with a salt crystal sauna, an aroma steam cabin, infra- and Finnish saunas and a tepidarium. There is also a nude section here, which feels somewhat like being in Austria.
During the recent renovation of the Palatinus lido on Margaret Island, it was completed with a spa section open all year round. In addition to thermal pools, there are also saunas here.
The most interesting feature is the city’s only geothermic sauna, which is heated with 70°C water bursting from below ground through drilled wells. We recommend you stand in this steamy cabin, as although there are stone seats, it feels a lot warmer standing up.
The spa section is also complete with a Finnish sauna, a camomile steam cabin, hot and cold plunge pools, and an ice well, too.
Among Budapest’s world-famous thermal baths, the Rudas is the best choice for a sauna session. There are three separate sections (with separate or a combined entrance tickets) and all three are equipped with saunas. The Turkish section contains a 60-80 °C cabin, a camomile steam cabin and a small Finnish sauna also for swimmers.
Salty-Iodine Baths in Pesterzsébet
These are the only baths in Budapest where salty iodine water comes up from below ground. The baths were closed down in 2005, but reopened in 2018 for a test period. The outside area is still under renovation, but inside pools and a spa section are currently operational. The Finnish sauna is huge, enough for 20 people at any one time. There is also an aroma steam cabin, as well as spacious salt and infra saunas.
Two huge 80-100 °C cabins await in the main building of this ornate spa, just under the stairs as you trot in from the outdoor pools. There’s always enough space for everyone. The Széchenyi Baths also have three more steam cabins, and 50-55 °C aroma and Finnish saunas. As the Széchenyi are the most popular baths in Budapest, they often get a bit too busy for truly relaxing rejuvenation.
The Duna Aréna only provides limited access to the public, so it is best for those with a flexible schedule. The swimming pool and the saunas are open between 10am and 2:45pm from Monday to Friday, between 10am and 6pm on Saturdays, as well as between 6am and 6pm on Sundays. An extra 1,000 forints is charged for the two Finnish saunas and the steam cabin on top of the entry ticket.
As the venerable Hajós on Margaret Island is home to training sessions, it is always very busy here, with lanes often separated for professional sportsmen in the swimming pool. There are two saunas, but only one, the bigger Finnish sauna, works. Hajós is more for professionals than the public, but is still an attractive destination thanks to its location.
Ludovika Sports Centre
In the evenings, the swimming pool at Ludovika by a student complex is open to the public. The small spa section is enhanced with two Finnish saunas and showers.
Besides its swimming pools, MOM Sport is complete with a well equipped spa section. Besides a Finnish sauna, there is also a less hot eco sauna and a spacious steam cabin. And MOM Sport is open until 10pm.
Bliss and Body
There are not too many spacious gyms in central Budapest, due to the lack of urban space. Bliss and Body may not be very big but its spa section is worth a visit. There is a large Finnish sauna, a steam cabin, a jacuzzi, as well as an extensive swimming pool.
F&M – Fitness & More
F&M is one of the best-equipped gyms in the city, and the spa section is free to use with an entrance ticket. There are two Finnish saunas, a 60-80°C steam cabin and two infra saunas with a sophisticated lounge area.
Gilda Max Fitness Hermina Tower
The three Gilda Max gyms in Budapest are open 24 hours, suitable for late-night body building. The one in the Hermina Tower has a spa section with big Finnish and infra saunas, lounge chairs and showers. This closes between midnight and 4am, although the gym stays open.
Life1 Corvin Wellness
The Life 1 franchise has two gyms equipped with a sauna near Nyugati station and the Corvin Quarter. At Nyugati, the saunas can be reached from the changing rooms and are quite small. The Corvin comprises a 23-metre swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a 80-90 °C Finnish sauna and a 60-70 °C aroma sauna, as well as a 50-55 °C steam cabin – you have to pay extra to use the spa section.
Lite Wellness Mammut
Lite Wellness inside the Mammut mall is the most popular gym in District II. Besides the Finnish sauna, there’s an ice cabin, as well as lounge chairs.
The spa section of this modern and clean gym is one of the best in Budapest. There is no extra charge and a lot of sunshine in the afternoons. A 14- and a six-person sauna await inside, alongside a steam cabin, a jacuzzi and a tanning terrace.
Springday Health Club
The spa section of the Springday Health Club is cutting-edge. A 90-100 °C sauna, a 80-90 °C Finnish sauna, light therapy, aroma and crystal steam, tepidarium, salt room, heated stone beds, pools and a jacuzzi all feature while a sauna master often holds sessions here with various aroma demonstrations.