Thermal Therapy: Budapest's Thermal Baths

Rejuvenating and healing the skin in Budapest's thermal baths

Credits: Graeme Churchard at
Edited By:
Raja Sivamani , MD, MS, AP

I think we can all agree that water is life. We drink it, use it for domestic and agricultural purposes, and we are even made from it! The waters of Hungary, however, have another remarkable quality though; they don’t only make life possible, but also make life better. The country of Hungary sits on one of the richest geothermal and medicinal water resources in the world and, due to its special geology, offers a multitude of thermal baths. They have been loved by locals and visitors ever since the Romans settled in the city thousands of years ago. It’s capital, Budapest, has been given the title, “City of Spas,” as it holds the most healing thermal water springs.

During my recent trip to Budapest, I decided to soak up in this bathing culture and tested out these thermal baths for myself to see how it would effect my own skin.


Szechenyi Bath

You can’t go to Budapest without hearing about this world famous thermal bath. It's the first photos that appear if you search “Budapest thermal bath” in Google and is something you just can’t miss if ever traveling to Budapest. This thermal spa is one of the largest spa complexes in all of Europe and both its baths and buildings amazed me. The minute I walked in I was struck by the ornate, yellow domed buildings surrounded by old and young soaking in the warm water, bent over chessboards. Although the pool looked like any regular outdoor swimming pool, once I stepped in I noticed the water was significantly warmer. Szechenyi has 21 types of pools and each varies in use and in temperature. Usually the temperature ranges from 18 to 40 °C. 

Now before I came to the thermal baths, I was walking around all day in the Budapest summer heat so at first, a warm pool did not sound appealing. There were many people in the pools so I decided to give it a try. The instant my body was submerged in this hundred-degree water, my stress melted away and I felt completely relaxed.

Bathing in a bath of hundreds of strangers was a strange concept to me at first, but it did make for great people watching. Locals played chess in their Speedos, others socialized, while others struggled to stay awake in the swirls of steam around them.


Rudas Bath

When I visited this thermal bath, I felt like I went back in time to the 16th century in the period of Turkish occupation. The ancient-looking architecture of the thermal pool, including a dome adorned with colored glass held by massive stone columns seemed to resemble a cavernous vault that has been welcoming bathers for hundreds of years. The first thing that caught my attention as I entered the thermal bath was the smell. There was a strong scent of sulfur, which I assumed were coming from the mineral enriched waters of the baths.

I quickly found out how they kept such a well preserved thermal spring. I had to take a shower before entering the pool and even before I stepped in the pool, I was hastily told to put my hair in a ponytail. Again, as sunk into the warm waters of the main pool, I felt completely relaxed. The warm, enriched waters hugged my skin, soothing away all pains.

One of the smaller pools of the thermal bath was 42 °C which was extremely hot but also felt great on my skin. Additionally, I took quick ten-minute session of the steam room which allowed my pores to open. Again, showering before entering the thermal pool was essential. After almost two and a half hours, when my fingers started to pucker, I decided it was time to go. I felt so recharged and rejuvenated afterwards and walked away with baby soft skin.


Magic Waters

Now to talk about the skin benefits of these healing springs. The water filling these baths are enriched in beneficial minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium, and sulfite that are easily absorbed in the skin. These waters are said to be medicinal, and bathing in the warm pools are supposed to help relieve a variety of conditions and diseases. I was surprised to find out that doctors even prescribe people treatment in these baths as part of regular medical practice.

To me this sounded like the water had some sort of magical, skin healing properties to it. The water was definitely not something I was used to. I knew something was different with the water simply because I could smell the sulfur, especially at the Rudas Baths. Before entering the baths, my skin was tired and burnt after being in the sun all day. That all instantly changed in the pools as it soaked away any pains I had. Although my fingers and toes were pruned and wrinkly, my skin felt younger and baby soft. I even noticed that my inflamed, red bug bites on my legs had significantly been reduced in size and were not even red the next day. Without a doubt, these waters will ease away pains and relax the body.


Soak Up the Culture

After experiencing this kind of thermal therapy, I can see how radiant, glowing skin can be achieved through regular bathings. More than the actual bathing experience, the baths were a beautiful sight to see. It’s the kind of architecture you would expect to see at castles or other grand buildings. “Taking in the waters” have been a part of the normal life in Budapest since the age of the Roman Empire, and for an outsider there is nothing quite like it. Not only do these unique spas bathe your cares away, but will also rejuvenate and enrich your skin.


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