Aug
20

Budapest Wellness Guide – Healthy Eating, Spas, Exercise Options and More

August 20, 2019
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Livia Szivos

Budapest is known as the City of Spas. Locals have been practising the art of bathing since the Roman Empire was in 2000 years ago. Later in the 16th century, the bath culture came to life during the Ottoman occupation of Hungary when several Turkish spas were built on the Buda side of the Danube, many of which are still used today. Hungarians are also fond of watersports, and we have many indoor and outdoor thermal spas and swimming pools all around Budapest. As thermal water has a healing effects on the human body, doctors often prescribe patients with joint diseases those recovering from operations to spend 4-6 weeks in one of the Budapest’s spas. Here they do excises in the water that contains minerals that also have a pain-minimizing effect.

Get our local guide Livia’s top tips on how to keep happy and healthy during your stay in Prague:

KEEPING FIT IN BUDAPEST

Gyms & wellness centres

Life1 Wellness is one of the best wellness centres in the city. They have several gyms all around the city centre of Budapest so it’s easily accessible on foot or public transport. They have a wide range of classes for everyone available. From yoga classes to spinning you can join many different styles of activities. Some of the locations also have swimming pools.

For a high-end option, I can recommend Oxygen Wellness, which has two locations. Here you’ll find saunas, steam rooms, a gym, a wide variety of group classes, and a rooftop terrace for the summer. You can choose from amazing massages and visit their beauty salon as well.

Swimming pools

Duna Aréna was built for the 2017 FINA world championship and it’s where Hungarian swimmers train and also where locals who like to swim and exercise. The place is close to the city centre and it has a very affordable price.

My personal favourite swimming pool is the Hajós Alfréd Sport Uszoda on Margaret Island. Here you will find many pools including both indoor and outdoor pools. Most of the swimming pools are occupied by kids training for water polo, synchronized swimming or diving, and in the summertime, the outdoor pools are taken over by families and locals sunbathing and swimming.

Császár-Komjádi Swimming pool is named after one of our best swimmers of all times. This pool is on the Buda side and also a place where many Hungarian Olympic champions were trained. You will always find a lane where you can comfortably swim for an hour.

Running & cycling

Running paths in Budapest are not always easy to find. The most obvious one in the city centre is the running path around Margaret Island, which is 5.3 kilometers long and offers a beautiful view of the Pest and Buda side of the river. It’s safe all day to use, but after 10 pm we don’t recommend running alone here.

Gizella sétány on the lower bank of the Danube on the Pest side is a 1.2 kilometre stretch and it’s situated between Petőfi bridge and Rákoczi bridge. You will meet many locals running here, but watch for cyclists as the area also sees many people on bikes.

City Park, just behind Hero’s Square offers a 3.5 kilometres path for runners.

Normafa is a good option if you would like to leave the city centre but still don’t want to go too far. Here you will be able to run in the forest on the top of Buda hills. It is 2.4 kilometres and reaches the Janoshegyi lookout point where you will have an amazing view of the city.

Cycling in Budapest can be challenging at times. In the inner city you will find some bike lanes, but they are not continuous so sometimes you have to be on the road. By bike you could see the main sights of Budapest within 2.5 hours.

Oxygen Wellness Spa Budapest
The 'Sauna Park' at Oxygen Spa includes Finnish saunas, infrared saunas, herbal cabins, a sea climate cabin, ice chamber, swimming pool, hot tub, heated stone beds, textile and non-textile sauna area. And there are even 'sauna masters' on hand who will guide you around the experiences. | Photo credit: Oxygen Spa

PAMPERING IN BUDAPEST

Spa and beauty

Hungarian Ilcsi beauty products are manufactured according to the strictest natural cosmetic requirements from only the best quality materials such as fresh herbs, fruit, and vegetables. More than 100 plants are used for the products, most of them grown on Aunt Ilcsi’s own bio plantations. Currently, these products are known in more than 40 countries around the world for their extremely high plant content and high active substance concentration.

Thermal spas

Budapest has been known the world over as the ’City of Spas’ since 1934, but the tradition actually goes all the way back to the 2nd century when thermal waters were enjoyed by the Romans. Pools with various temperatures and beneficial effects, saunas, healthcare, and wellness services are all on hand to help you forget the troubles and stresses of daily life and relax.

You can play chess with the locals in Széchenyi or admire the colourful details of the Gellért Bath’s Art Nouveau building. The entrance fee is between HUF 5,500 and 6,200 at Széchenyi Bath and HUF 5,900 to 6,500 at the Gellért Baths (depending on the day and your locker/cabin preference). Rental of towels, swimming suits for men and women or bathrobes is also possible. If you’re in town on a weekend and don’t fancy the crowds, then you can get a quieter experience at one of the city’s Turkish spas: Rudas or Király. At Király Bath the prices are significantly cheaper as well: HUF 2,600 for a ticket with locker usage, or HUF 2,900 with cabin usage. Our suggestion is to go to the spas as early as possible (between 8-9 am or even earlier ) in order to enjoy the spas at its best without crowds. It’s worth noting that Budapest Card holders can also enjoy a 20% discount on daily tickets in most of our gorgeous thermal spas.

These thermal spas are also the best spots in Budapest to get a massage. The prices vary depending on the time you choose to spend on the treatment and the style of the massage. A basic 20 minute aroma therapy costs HUF 7000 in Széchenyi and Gellért Spa as well, but if you would like to feel like a queen/king, treat yourself with a 60 minute royal thermal massage for HUF 20,000.

 

Beauty treatments

You’ll find a lively atmosphere and great service at Style Bar N5 with its stylish interior and professional hair stylists. Welcoming and caring, the staff make going to the hairdresser a truly enjoyable experience with their patience and expertise that really shows through.

Szabó Imre Hair & Beauty uses the latest technology and the highest quality products. This modern hair salon has professional stylists who are on hand to make your hair dreams become a reality so that your hairstyle shows off your personality.

Barber King is a very nice barber shop with a good atmosphere and kind yet professional staff who try to accommodate your wishes whilst also paying attention to the small details. Ideally located, this barber shop has competitive pricing and welcomes both locals and tourists with English speaking staff.

REDS Quick Male Hairdresser is a cool salon with professional English speaking staff who understand what you want and work quickly and efficiently to make that happen whether you’re looking for a quick trim or a new look.

Tuirkish spa Budapest
Local guide Livia enjoying the old Turkish spa. | Photo credit: Budapest Urban Adventures

Healthy Eating

Everyday Hungarian cuisine is considered very tasty, albeit is not necessarily healthy. The main ingredients of our typical dishes are onion, lard, and paprika. They are not unhealthy in little amounts, but cooking everything with lard can cause health problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, obesity, etc.

Fortunately many restaurants raise awareness for a healthier lifestyle by cooking only with locally produced, fresh ingredients, and avoiding artificial additives, flavour enhancers and preservatives.

There are a great variety of vegetarian and vegan restaurants (which we have conveninetly rounded up) as well to balance out the meat oriented cuisine of Hungary.

Restaurants

At Kőleves restaurant they strive to prepare everything they serve for their costumers locally, from the best ingredients possible. They put together varied daily menus every week and change the complete menu seasonally.

Address: Budapest, Kazinczy u. 41, 1075

Napfényes Restaurant in Budapest’s Ferenciek tere offers a vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free selection. The colourful dishes and smell of healthy food can be a perfect choice not only for people with a meat-free diet, but also for open-minded guests who do not mind a lack of animal protein on their plate.

Address: Budapest, Ferenciek tere 2, 1053

Markets

Budapest is famous for its market halls selling delicious local produce, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Those wishing to experience the full spectrum of the local food scene and get an intimate, behind-the-scenes look, will find that the Great Market Hall, also known as the Central Market Hall, is the perfect spot for culinary exploration.

Located in downtown Budapest, the Hold Utca Market is relatively small, but manages to pack plenty in! The market aims to bring farm fresh produce into the center of the city, and as a result, there’s plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to be found here.

Every Sunday, the courtyard of Élesztőház turns into a bustling market called Pancs gastroplacc with home-grown and home-made products. Seasonal fruit and vegetables, cheeses, ham, salami, pastries, cordials, jams, juices and wine will be on offer.

Address: Budapest, Tűzoltó u. 22, 1094

Drinking water

Drinking water is strictly controlled in Hungary. Because of that the tap water in Budapest is healthy and safe to consume. After other big European cities like Bristol, Berlin, and Hamburg, Budapest has also joined Project Refill. Thanks to this initiative, restaurants, cafés, bars or even shops and offices engage in refilling anyone’s bottle with fresh tap water during their opening hours. These places and the drinking fountains of the city are also marked on a map to make it easier to find them.

Budapest market hall
It's easy to fill up on fresh, local foods at Budapest's Central Market Hall | Photo via Pixabay

MIND, BODY & SOUL

Yoga

During the warmer months, Aria Hotel’s Harmony Spa offers special rooftop yoga every Sunday morning! Classes take place in one of Budapest’s rooftop terraces and garden at High Note SkyBar. Participants can enjoy 360-degree views of the city. The price is HUF 6500 per person which includes a yoga class, an Aria Signature Refreshment and access to Harmony Spa’s wellness facilities after class.

Address: Budapest, Hercegprímás u. 5, 1051

In Bikram Yoga Központ you can choose from several yoga classes. There is no pre-registration and you can attend any class whether you’re an experienced yogi or just a beginner. In the relaxing area, herbal tea is waiting to get you in a yoga mood, and after class they offer fresh fruits to refresh and enjoy your serenity for a bit longer.

Address: Budapest, Károly krt. 1, 1075

Restful places

A real hidden treasure in the residential area of the Buda Castle District is Koller Gallery, the oldest Hungarian private gallery. It’s located in a peaceful courtyard and besides focusing on contemporary and modern Hungarian art they also collect antiques.

Housed in the Neo-Baroque Wenckheim Palace built in 1889, Szabó Ervin Library has been functioning as a library since 1931. As well as an architectural landmark, it’s a popular place for students, professors, and academics to spend many a rainy afternoon amid its huge historical halls and in its cosy armchairs.

Art Mozi cinemas are small arthouse cinemas in Budapest and they’re a wonderful rainy day activity (actually they’re a fabulous any day activity, in our humble opinion). They are all decked out in different styles, but what they all have in common is a cozy, unique and often retro vibe. Movies are shown in English every day and browsing their showtimes you will find the latest Hollywood movies alongside old, award-winning classics. These hip picture palaces also function as meeting spots for in-the-know locals, as most of them have a café or a bar attached.

Outdoor relaxation

In the summer of 2016 they cleaned up the nearly 100 hectare Lake Lupa and its more than half kilometer long shore, which resulted in Lupa Beach, meaning crystal clear water, white sand, palm trees, sunshades, cocktails, and beach food. The location is near the border of Budakalász, which might seem too far, but it’s actually only 12-20 minutes away from Árpád Bridge by car (there is a parking lot near the entrance), and it is only 17 minutes away on public transport (take the suburban railway to Budakalász station).

Római Part (Roman Embankment) is a place of pilgrimage for those who like to spend time by the Danube, eating fried fish with a cold beer in hand, sold from any number of outlets and eateries that line the riverfront. Besides culinary delights at Római Part you can choose from several water activities: kayaking, canoeing and SUP are available for everyone.

Rooftop yoga, Budapest
Rooftop yoga is a must in Budapest | Photo courtesy Aria Hotel

Adventure

Budapest is a city where it only takes 30 minutes to get from the city centre to the hills and forest with a stunning view. Several hiking trails and viewpoints wait for people who would like to escape from the noise of the city and enjoy spending time in nature. For example Árpád lookout tower is situated west from Óbuda on Hármashatár hill, and you can get there easily by bus 11 from Batthyány Square.

Address: Budapest, Glück Frigyes út, 1025

For a physically less trying experience (but with equally awesome views), ride Zugliget Chairlift which is a 1040 metre-long cable-railway connecting Zugliget lookout and János Hill, the highest point of the city. Here you’ll get a spectacular panoramic view to the Buda hills and forests during the 15-minute trip.

Once a neglected piece of land, Kopaszi-gát in south Buda has been transformed into a smart recreational zone thanks to an innovative development project. The ten-acre green area on the Buda side of Rákóczi Bridge provides a nice riverside setting for terrace cafés and family-friendly attractions.

Part of the undulating Buda hills, Normafa is a popular year-round hiking destination. Here you can go for a run on the refurbished running track or hike up to nearby János-hegy, accessed by several forest trails. The view from the peak is amazing.

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