Akin to bathing in a stately home these are the largest and best equipped thermal baths in Budapest
Szechenyi Baths are the biggest baths in Budapest – if you sit on the right hand of the plane coming into Budapest’s Ferihegy airport on a clear day you can easily spot the dumb-bell shaped outline of the outside pools. There is the sports pool in the middle which is the only pool where a swimming hat is mandatory. Then there is the large semi-circular hot pool whose temperature is raised even higher in winter. Here you can spot through the haze the old men playing chess at the side of the pool. Then there is the fun pool complete with alternating swirling tidal currents followed by jets of water in all directions and streams of bubbles emanating from the pool floor. Here you can find the ladies of what the old men call the ‘bubble mafia’ diligently waiting on the best spots for the bubbles to start.
Inside you’ll find even more pools each with its’ own healing property plus increasingly torturous saunas, steam rooms and plunge pools. There are also various massages available but you’ll need to book in advance (contact us if you need assistance with this).
A small word of warning here: the recent renovation unlike that at the Rudas (see below) did not include the renovation of the baffling changing room procedure so here goes: The changing rooms are in the basement and the locker keys are held by the attendants. After changing into your swimmers and depositing your clothes in your chosen locker you must find one of the attendants and tell him which locker is yours. He makes a note of the locker number, locks it and gives you a wrist band token (which only corresponds to his notes and not as you would expect to the locker). Apon returning, all items: wrist band, attendant notes and locker, are matched up and access regained to your belongings. This is most definitely a left over from communist days when everyone had to have a job no matter how pointless.
That being said the baths are a wonder to behold whether you enjoy them in the height of summer or the depths of winter (the outside flooring is heated from below). Add to that a fantastic mix of people from young to old and you have for the princely sum of £4 a whole half day of fun and relaxation that will put the spring right back in your step. Open early till 10pm most days.
Offering a step back in time these original Turkish baths are a wonder to behold if you can time your visit right
Recently refurbished and currently the talk of the city, the Rudas [rude-ash] baths are the perfect cure to the night before. Built by the Turks who were temporary residents in the 16th century they have to be one of the few historical sights in the world that won’t leave anyone wondering what they are supposed to get out of the experience. The main bathing hall has 5 baths, the octagonal central one being lit directly by pin holes of coloured light from the dome above. You can relax in the main bath then progress through each of the 4 smaller baths, each having a different temperature and property. Then, when you think you’re ready, dive into the steam room whose hellish depths will have you running back to the cold-plunge to start the process all over again. The steam baths most days are single sex, women only are on Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon, but a recent addition is that of mixed bathing (with swim-suits of course) on Friday and Saturday nights until the early hours. Alcohol is served outside the entrance but is not permitted inside the bathing areas which seems like good sense to us!
A beautifully preserved town on the outskirts of Budapest is traditionally home to a lively art and craft scene
Not actually in Budapest but as it’s only 12 miles north and makes a great day out we thought we’d include it.
The town’s characteristic Mediterranean architecture originates from settling Serb refugees who later abandoned the town after floods hit which were in turn responsible for preserving much of its’ original appearance. Once home to a lively arts and craft scene in the 1920’s, Szentendre is billed as an authentic ethnic experience. We didn’t see much evidence of that but sitting right on the western shore of the Danube it is just a very pleasant and peaceful way to spend a day, sipping beer in the sun and eating fried sausage or whatever your tipple.
If you’re feeling energetic then you can hire a bike and take advantage of the new cycle route that takes you all the way from the Buda embankment, along the Dunube and right into the centre of the town. Too much beer and sausage once there is easily remedied by catching the ferry back to Budapest.
Every year around Christmas time they freeze the sizeable lake by Hero’s square permitting all manner of icy shenanigans in picturesque surrounding
Even if you don’t want to risk life and limb on the frozen lake beneath the shadow of the replica Transylvanian castle near Hero’s Square, the spectacle of close to a thousand people in the middle of winter hurtling around the rink should be enough. You can even sit in the warmth overlooking the action from a makeshift bar sipping warm mulled wine.
From early December.
Definitely for the adventurous around the busy streets of Budapest but if you stick to the many cycle routes this is a safe and great way to see the city
The unusually named Yellow Zebra Bikes will hire you a bright yellow bike with all accessories for 3000ft a day (£6) but returns are before 7pm. The bikes are easy-rider style with the essentials for budapest roads: chunky tires, big comfy springy seat and relaxed riding position.
Better for time is the bar-cum-club and now cum-bike-hire Szoda who charge around the same price but returns are up until a more reasonable midnight. The bikes are of the geared mountain bike variety, not strictly necessary for what is a very flat ride to Szentendre but essential if you plan to divert anywhere to the west.
Forget the traffic jams and watch Budapest fly by along the many tram routes circling the city
They’re cheap, safe, reasonably frequent, never get stuck in traffic jams, and despite some being more than 40 years old are still as reliable as ever. A bit like old London buses there’s a certain romance about them so go on give them a go. If you do get on one going the wrong way, sure enough, they’ll be another one along in a bit to take you back again where you started from. Buy your tickets in the metro stations and make sure to validate your ticket when you get on the tram by putting it in the little machine and pushing the red button down on top. Tickets are valid until you use them.
Billed as the biggest music festival in Europe, Budapest’s Island Festival serves up a massive selection of musical delights
For the young and young at heart is what is billed as Europe’s largest open air music festival. Spread over 8 days and hosting 100’s of live acts including a respectable roster of big names, many from the UK and US as well as plenty of local talent, there’s something to suit almost everyone’s taste. In between you’ll find plenty to entertain with a huge selection of activities from ab sailing and rock climbing to assault courses and our favourite just to watch, the team tomato event held in a 5-a-side sized inflatable pitch filled with tomatoes. Food is varied and as good as any tent prepared festival fare can be. In particular you should look out for Langos [lang-osh] which is a cross between a pizza and a pancake with toppings like sour cream, garlic oil and cheese – great for soaking up any excess alcohol. Another must try is Kurtos Kalacs [koor-toosh kol-ach] a light doughy sweet treat made by winding long strings of dough onto a tube which is then quickly roasted on a special spit then dipped in a coating of your choice, usually sugar based.
The big tip with these is never buy the pre-prepared ones sitting on the counter, Kurtos Kalacs are at their very best when freshly prepared which usually only takes a couple of minutes – original Hungarian fast food. The great thing about the Sziget (sig-et) festival is you can pay for single days if you wish – a day’s entry is a very reasonable £20 (2009 price) which allows re-entry so you can afford to dip in and out as much as you like.
Budapest is a safe city and there are only a couple of things we should point out to keep your visit trouble free.
Hailing a can London-style is not advisable. There are plenty of reputable cab companies in Budapest and all just a quick phone call away. Hailing a cab on the street puts you at risk to unscrupulous and often unlicensed cab operators who will be more than happy to charge more than 10 times the normal fare using tampered meters.
Our favourite company, though there are many good ones, is (0036)(12)666666 (each cab has a dice on the top!), they can be relied on to turn up on early morning pickups, the drivers are usually courteous (though don’t count on it) and turn up quickly when needed.
A good tip if you’re out of reach of a phone is to pop into a hotel and get them to order the cab for you. Most are more than happy to oblige.
Of course, for your trips to and from your appointments transport will always be provided.
Be aware that Hungarian driving laws have zero tolerance to alcohol
Hungary operates of strict zero tolerance to drink driving. Whereas in most places you can be breathalysed to see how much alcohol you have drunk, in Hungary they breathalyse you to see whether you have recently drunk anything at all. As alcohol stays around in your system for a while this can often be from the night before. Of course this should not stop you driving around town three sheets to the wind but just make sure you do it in the back seat with someone else driving!
Please feel free to contact us with any other questions you may have.
You can reach us by telephone (free): 0800 047 0842 or 0845 838 6278
or Email: customerServices@SmileSaversHungary.co.uk