Spas and baths have flourished in Hungary since Roman times, using the famed medicinal thermal springs to promote holistic wellness. Nowadays, the best spa hotels take advantage of this prime resource, meaning you can dive into a watery world and immerse yourself in this age-old tradition. So whether you’re looking for a stimulating sojourn in Budapest or a healing holiday on the shores of Lake Balaton, there’s something for you here.
The pool and sauna complex in the Royal Spa are among many architectural highlights at the Corinthia, the hotel that inspired Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. The ground-floor spa, restored to its opulent late-19th-century glory, has art deco details, elegant columns and a wave-form balcony around the swimming pool. Aromatic saunas, a languid steam bath and an energetic hot tub make this an oasis in bustling Budapest. Tailor-made, two-hour-long body treatments can involve algae, mud wraps or customised aromatherapy. Upstairs the classic autumn-toned rooms and suites help preserve the soothing effects of the spa.
With the warm waters of Lake Balaton a short stroll away, you may find it difficult to stay inside the hotel – then again, this quirky boutique retreat and spa offers a new delight at every turn. Each room and bathroom is different, with exotic themes including bright Thai silks or Japanese minimalism. The glowing hot tub channels Roman bathing culture with mosaics and urns, while the Egyptian-themed swimming pool is reached through an arch daubed with hieroglyphs and flanked by inscrutable cat sculptures.
Soft coloured lights dapple the walls of a heated pool, the sauna glows invitingly and the slate walls of the plunge pools glisten in the steam. The bedrooms in the five-star Anantara New York Palace are similarly stylish with muted colours, classic furniture, marble bathrooms and city views. Splash out on a terrace for outdoor seats where you can gaze across the Budapest skyline. And don’t miss the New York Café, dripping with gilded reliefs and spectacular frescoes.
They take sulphuric waters seriously at this part-hotel, part-swimming complex in the village of Kehidakustány, under 15 miles northwest of Lake Balaton. Levels of calcium, magnesium and hydrogen carbonate are high, even by the mineral-rich standards of Hungarian thermal baths and you can bathe in 12 different pools. There are special fountains, from which you can even drink the warm water to treat digestive problems. Next door, the Mediterranean-style adventure zone is not so much a spa as a map of watery fun with waterfalls, a sound-and-light-effects slide, a hot tub island and lazy river.
The folktale romance and glamour of One Thousand and One Nights inspire the decor, wellness area and dining room at this luxury hotel in the spa village of Egerszalók near the volcanic Mátra mountains. The spa, with a big outdoor pool, is all Moorish-style tiles, floodlit domes and decorative columns. The bedrooms follow suit with stained-glass lanterns, arched doorways and colourful silk canopies. You can sip Moroccan mint tea with rose water, or nibble pistachio and cardamom cake under filigree lamps and terracotta murals in the restaurant, or between fountains and roses in the garden.
Matild Palace is a Belle Époque building bringing visitors some of the most elegant experiences in Budapest including, of course, bathing in thermal waters. Relax in the pristine Swan Spa, which has art deco motifs and dimly lit circular chambers, or sip cocktails among fairy-lit olive trees on the rooftop terrace. The rooms are spectacular too, particularly the slope-ceilinged loft rooms with low leather beds and views of the Budapest cityscape through big slanting skylights. There are also spa-style bathrooms and superfast broadband in the deluxe rooms.
The Secret Garden Day Spa is a jewel in the eclectic architectural crown of this converted masonic palace, which opened as a luxury hotel in 2018. Relax, float and swim in a glass-roofed garden among marble fountains and urn-planted palm trees while the clouds chase each other across the Budapest sky above you. Alternatively, you can see cascades of crystal chandeliers and the palace façade with its masonic sphinx from the hot tub.
In the spa town of Heviz, near the western tip of Lake Balaton, Bonvital offers facials involving quartz and damask roses or steaming mud. But the biggest all-year draw is the nearby Lake Heviz, one of the largest swimmable thermal lakes in the world. It’s refilled every 72 hours by hot flowing springs, so you can take daily dips in ever-fresh waters.
In the town of Sarvar, whose name means ‘mud castle’, four natural lakes circle the postmodern Spirit hotel, where a thermal spring bubbles deep below the surface, pushing steaming water up through 250m-year-old rock, to fill 22 spa pools every morning. There are massages too – with organic floral oils or steamed herbs – hydrotherapies, oxygen therapies, saunas and plunge pools with lakeside views. Choose Oriental rooms to get a big round bed or king rooms for your own hot tub.
For more options, discover our guide on the best luxury hotels in Hungary and book now on Culture Trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
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