Rejuvenating Weekend: Spas, Nature and Relaxation



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For those looking to unwind and pamper themselves a bit, Budapest can be a great place. Far cheaper than Western Europe, Budapest’s numerous spas merit great attention. This trip begins at the Rudas Bath, then winds across the Elizabeth Bridge and into Pest, taking in a pastry at the Jegbufe before strolling down the Corso or Vaci St. past the Parliament and towards the Margret Bridge, ending with a stroll on the Margret Island. The next day begins at the Szechenyi Spa, followed by a stroll around the City Park where the fantastic Budapest zoo and amusement parks may be visited. This ends with a stroll down Andrassy and, perhaps, a light meal or coffee at Kogart. Fantastic itinerary for those looking to rejuvenate yet see a fair amount of the city.

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Author: Jennifer


Day 1 - Budapest


Hungary is home to more than 1,300 springs or natural sources of mineral water. Over one tenth of these springs (more than 130) are found in Budapest itself, making Budapest the only European capitol situated upon such a treasure. Budapest has been advertising itself as a “city of baths” in tourism literature since 1934. Interestingly, the Celts (the first settlers of Budapest, most likely around 4 B.C.) named their settlement “Ak Ink”, meaning “bountiful water” or “plentiful water” and this abundance of water was probably a major influence on their decision to settle this territory. This area is today known as the Taban/Gellert Hill. The history of the baths in Budapest, at least, starts with the Romans. While there are some remnants of Roman “bath culture” at Aquincum ( the public bath or polgari furdo) and the remains of a military bath (katonai furdo) in the underpass of Florian Square in Obuda, these are really are of interest to historians and researchers as opposed to tourists or Budapesters. The earliest baths of interest to locals and tourists date from the time of Turkish occupation, being the Racz, Kiraly, Rudas, and lesser-known Csaszar. Of these, the Rudas was the first to belong to the city (1696) soon after the end of the Turkish occupation. Interestingly, some citizens of Pest never set foot in one of the capital’s baths, rather retreating in the summer to spa villages (Heviz, Gyula, or Hajduszobaszlo) for a week or two. However, with the possible exception of the Gellert bath (due to its exorbitant entry-fee and the highly unprofessional nature of their staff), you are just as likely to find Budapesters enjoying the thermal baths as a tourist. This is perhaps because the Hungarian National Insurance plan (TB) will actually subsidize a visit to the baths upon prescription from a doctor. The Rudas bath is a must-see for those interested in a long, relaxing, soothing afternoon. Reached easily by public transportation (bus #7 stops directly in front) or by foot (a 10 minute walk from Ferenciek Square), the Rudas remains a destination in and of itself. Men’s days are Monday and Wednesday to Friday. Women may visit the bath on Tuesdays; mixed bathing occurs Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays. Evening bathing occurs all-night long and frequently there are extravagant disco parties (ask about the Cinetrip parties) where discreet debauchery has been known to occur. If such a party is being held during your visit, make it a priority to drop by; it is something very unique and will not disappoint. During the day, the Rudas is an au natural bath, the only one left in Budapest, and guests will receive a modesty apron to wear during their visit and receive a cabin in which to change and store their belongings. Guests also receive a sheet at end to dry off so you don’t need to worry about bringing one from your hotel room. Of course, swimsuits are required weekends and evenings during mixed bathing hours. After sufficiently unwinding, walk back across the Elizabeth Bridge to the Ferenciek Square. Here, you will find the Jeg Bufe, a timeless Hungarian café. Grab a coffee and a pastry to wake up and stand at one of the windows for phenomenal people-watching and to get a glimpse of the hustle and bustle of the transport hub. Head back to Vaci St. to do some light shopping at Zara or H&M or pick up a few postcards or, if the weather permits, take a walk down the Corso. Walk down past the parliament (or hop on Tram #2) toward Jaszai Mari Square. If you’re walking, walk down Falk Miksa St, one of the chicest addresses on the Pest side (Yoko Ono owns an apartment here) and explore the Art Deco antique shops which dot both sides. Be sure and explore the smaller side streets here, too. Arriving back to the Large Ring Road (Nagykorut), walk over the Margret Bridge and down onto Margret Island. This island is named for King Bela IVth’s daughter, Margret, who was sent here at age 9 and never left the island again. Fun fact: until that point, the island was named Rabbit’s Island. Stroll along the Margret Island or rent a bicycle or kayak for more active fun. You can catch bus #26 back to Pest and the Nyugati train station.


1

Aquincum Museum

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Location:

Szentendrei út 135 District III
District III
1035 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +36 1 368 8241
fax: +36 1 430 1083


2

Rudas Bath

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Location:

Döbrentei Square 9
1013 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +3613561322
fax: +3613758373


3

Erzsebet (Elizabeth) Bridge

Location:

Districts I and V, on Danube river
Connects Buda and Pest
1056 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +36 (0)1 322 4098
fax: +36 (0)1 488 0475


4

Jegbufe

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Location:

Ferenciek tere, 10
1053 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: 36 01 318 6205
fax: 36 01 318 3271


5

Váci Utca

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Location:

Vaci utca (from Vörösmarty Square to Vámház Krt.)
1052 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +36 (0)1 322 4098 (Tourist Information)


6

Margaret Island

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Location:

Margitsziget
1138 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +36 (0)1 322 4098 (Budapest Tourist Information)
fax: +36 (0)1 488 0475 (Budapest Tourist Information)


7

Nyugati (Western) Railway Station

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Location:

Terez korut, 55 (Nyugati ter)
1067 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +36 (0) 1 322 4098 (Tourist Information)


Day 2 - Budapest


Pack your swimsuit and a towel and grab the M1 (yellow underground) to the Szechenyi bath in the City Park. One of the most famous baths of Budapest, the Szechenyi dates from the early 20th C. The Szechenyi first included only several indoor pools (1913) but then was expanded 14 years later (hence the names of 2 architects associated with the bath, Zsigmondy Vilmos and Czigler Gyozo) to include the outdoor baths and statues. After the completion of its outdoor pools, the Szechenyi became among the largest types of baths of this kind anywhere in Europe. The water bubbles forth nearby at around 74 degrees Celsius (165 degrees Fahrenheit) and must be cooled before use in the bath. This bath was refurbished around 2000 and remains in great shape today. The Szechenyi is indeed an iconic symbol of Budapest, men playing chess in the water in winter as the steam rises around them. For those interested, there is au natural sunbathing atop one of the buildings, just ask. After sufficiently bathing your beautiful body, explore the City Park (Varosliget) a bit. This is home to the legendary Budapest Zoo, the second largest in Europe. A sprawling, tremendous institution full of elegant Art Nouveau and some Eiffel designs. Eiffel fell in love with Budapest upon visiting and moved his family here soon thereafter. He inhabited Budapest for about 10 years, leaving his fingerprints on designs all around the city (the Nyugati train station, among others, was designed by his firm). Skip the overrated tourist trap known as the Gundel, it is a shadow of its former self and known more nowadays for its indifferent service and exorbitant prices. There was once a time where Gundel remained unparalleled in the city but that time, sadly, is long gone. The owners and employees just don’t seem to realize it. Nearby is the home of the Hungarian circus as well and Budapest’s only amusement park, the “Happy Park” (Vidam Park). Another insider’s tip: hop on the Ferris Wheel for some fantastic views and photographic possibilities. If your wallet allows, dine in style nearby on Andrassy at Baraka or Kogart. Or, for a more simple, Hungarian option, walk down to Hunyadi Square and hit the Hunyadi Square Kisvendeglo, a traditional Hungarian restaurant with home-style foods at great prices.


1

Millennium Metro

Location:

Vorosmarty ter, Deak ter
1051 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +36 (0)1 322 4098 (Budapest Tourist Information)
fax: +36 (0)1 488 0475 (Budapest Tourist Information)


2

Széchényi Bath

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Location:

Állatkerti krt. 11
1146 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +3613633210
fax: +3613633210


3

Kogart Restaurant and Café

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Location:

Andrássy Avenue 112
1062 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +3613543820
fax: +36 1 354 3838


4

Andrassy ut

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Location:

Andrassy utca
Oktogon to City Park
1061 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +36 (0)1 322 4098 (Budapest Tourist Information)
fax: +36 (0)1 488 0475 (Budapest Tourist Information)


5

Amusement Park

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Location:

Allatkerti korut, 14-16
Vidam Park, District XIV
1146 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +36 1 343 9810
fax: +36 1 478 0874


6

Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden

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Location:

Varosliget, Allatkerti korut 6-12
District XIV
1146 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +36 1 273 4900
fax: +36 1 273 4902


7

City Park

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Location:

Behind Heroe's Square
District XIV
1146 Budapest, Hungary

Contact:

tel: +36 1 322 4098 (Tourist Information)
fax: +36 1 342 9390 (Tourist Information)


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