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Is Away Spa the best spa in Budapest?

Budapest: A wellness break like no other

6 MIN READ • 10th April 2024

Travel and wellness writer Sarah Highfield hops on a flight to Budapest to discover why it is the wellness destination you need to book this summer and explores some of the best spas in the city

Budapest is a city brimming with spas and if any nation knows how to spa, then Hungary it is!  More than that, Budapest is an all-round wellness destination that comes complete with a side of culture, culinary delights and charm.  The city boasts over 120 hot spring spas, is brimming with history, and is surprisingly light on your pocket compared with other European capitals. So, here’s why you should visit the city, plus my take on the best spa in Budapest.

The best spa in Budapest (or spas!)

While most of us consider visiting spas as a treat; in Budapest, they are a way of life. Nicknamed the ‘City of Spas,’ there are spas dotted all over the city catering for tourists and locals alike. From big open-air spas to small discreet ones, spa-ty spas (those are the party spas), and ancient spas – Budapest has them all. 

Three spa recommendations for the uninitiated:

  1. For a luxuriously serene experience… Away Spa:  A hidden oasis in the city centre; Away Spa is tucked away beneath W Budapest and ideal for those seeking serenity from the bustling city streets. I stopped by the spa for a moment of calm and found it very hard to leave. Regina, the Away Spa receptionist with the warmest smile, helped me to settle in and relax before I was treated to a soothing detox exfoliation and massage by Mia. Mia used a concoction of delicious smelling products, which left my skin so soft and glowing that I had to find out exactly which exfoliator was used. It was a spa favourite, the Comfort Zone Body Strategist Peel Scrub, which is now firmly on my beauty wish list.  Following my treatment, I immersed myself in the tranquil ambience of the private WET pool area and settled down on the peaceful loungers with tea and healthy nibbles. 
  2. For a spa-ty day out… Szechenyi Baths: Budapest’s most famous and tourist-laden spa is the Szechenyi Baths located next to Heroes Square.  It is one of the largest spa baths in Europe, complete with 15 indoor baths and three grand outdoor pools, saunas, steam rooms, and even a rooftop spa greenhouse. The bath complex is over 100 years old and housed in a beautiful historical Neo-Baroque palace. The Instagram-friendly spa welcomes everyone from large party groups, to stag and hen holidaymakers, and curious travellers.  It is busy and lively, and perfect if you are looking for a more social spa experience. Every Saturday night, the spa hosts Spaty, the world-famous party night, complete with a huge sound system and laser lights.
  3. For mingling with the locals… Dandár Bath: Located in a beautifully restored Art Nouveau building in the heart of Budapest, Dandár Bath is where many locals head after a long day at work. Its peaceful, therapeutic baths boast an assortment of indoor and outdoor pools filled with mineral and trace element-infused thermal water. The spa is for those who want an authentic local and relaxing experience.
A selection of spas - which one is the best spa in Budapest?

Where to eat in Budapest

While discovering the best spa in Budapest might be at the top of your bucket list, the city is fast becoming a culinary destination in its own right with excellent food, that encompasses all budgets.

Three foodie restaurant recommendations:

  1. For high end dining… Nightingale by Beefbar: The place to see and be seen in Budapest, Nightingale by Beefbar is set within a vibrant opera-themed space with a majestic Art Nouveau inspired aesthetic. It is a unique culinary destination where artfully crafted Asian and Mediterranean cuisines merge. On offer are tantalising dishes including delicate yellowtail sashimi in a truffle and yuzo dressing, vitamin-laden Super Kale salad, and melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef. Importantly, the Pastilla Sucree dessert should not be missed; it is truly amazing. Added to this, the restaurant serves a fantastic selection of non-alcoholic mocktails made with Tanqueray 0.0, fresh juices, and a variety of homemade lemonades.
  2. For healthy food on the go… Szimply: Szimply is a sprightly all-day breakfast and brunch café set within a cobble-stoned courtyard in the centre of downtown Budapest. The menu is full of mouthwatering brunch dishes including sumptuous buddha bowls, avocado toast, eggs benedict and more, along with plenty of gluten-free and vegan options.  While this alone may not sound like anything out of the ordinary, the gorgeous presentation and quality of ingredients is very impressive. I highly recommend you try one of their croffles, a waffle made from croissant dough – it is absolutely delightful. Peter Bajko, co-owner of Zsimply, told me: “We started serving brunch in 2016, and since then we have continued to perfect our craft. The key factors we always consider are: make it fresh, keep it exciting, and present it wonderfully. These have helped us to create dishes which are not only healthy, but also fun to eat and look at.”
  3. For Hungarian cuisine with a twist… Hoppá! Bistro: A highly-praised restaurant, Hoppá! Bistro is recommended in the local Michelin guide thanks to its creative twist on traditional Hungarian classics and excellent value. The menu is full of homegrown favourites including chicken paprikash, deep fried Mangalitsa marbled pork chop, and Hungarian cottage cheese dumplings. The atmosphere is relaxed and the waiters are more than happy to explain details about the dishes and their origins.

What to see in Budapest

Budapest is easy to navigate on foot and bursting with decadent Art Nouveau architecture and monuments of yesteryear. The city and its buildings are well preserved, so wonderful for any architecture fans.

Three sights that every tourist needs to visit:

  1. For history fans… Buda Castle: The castle showcases a harmonious blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, reflecting the various periods of its construction and reconstruction. It is a good starting point to discover more about the history of Budapest, with an onsite museum, which covers the history of the city from the very beginning up until today. You can also see some ruins and reconstructions of the Medieval palace, including the Gothic chapel and the Knights Hall.
  2. For something grand… Hungarian Parliament Building: Situated along the River Danube’s bank is the imposing Hungarian Parliament Building, which is Hungary’s biggest building. It is a stunning architectural masterpiece and a must-see attraction; its Gothic Revival style and grandeur make it one of the most iconic landmarks in the city.  Visitors can take guided tours to learn about its history and marvel at the beautiful interiors, including the ornate staircase, the dome, and the Hungarian Crown Jewels.
  3. For Hungary’s national monument… The Millenium Monument: In the centre of Heroes Square, you will find the Millenium Monument, which is Hungary’s national monument. In the centre, Archangel Gabriel tops the triumphal column, whose lower part is crowded by Hungarian chieftains cast in bronze, and flanked by two sets of colonnades. The monument is breathtaking in size and splendour.

Where to stay in Budapest

Budapest is truly one of the more affordable capital cities in Europe, which means your money will absolutely stretch further. Whether you are seeking a small hotel or something grander, you will find many options.

While I was in the city, I stayed at W Budapest, which is centrally located on Andrássy Avenue, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and formerly home to the Institute of Ballet. The hotel offers a unique in-room personal bathing programme called Soakline. Inspired by the thermal bathing tradition of the city, W Budapest has curated a bespoke in-room bathing menu with Hungarian skincare brand, Omorovicza.

A more boutique and cosy hotel is the popular Alice Hotel that is housed in a beautiful villa, situated close to Heroes Square and Széchenyi Thermal Bath Park.  It is a small yet elegant hotel, and close to lots of tourist hotspots, making a good base for a budget-friendly city break.

Born in Hong Kong and based in London, Sarah Highfield is a travel and wellness writer. Follow her travels on Instagram: @SarahHighfield

Looking for a more local spa break? Check out our UK recommendations here.

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