After visiting Budapest last year around Christmas, this year, for new year celebrations, we went… guess where? Bingo! To Budapest again! Very original choice, we know. 🙂
We froze out there for 5 days last year, but this time we have evolved a little: only 3 days… On the plus side, this winter is not as harsh, although the December wind on Danube’s shore gets to your bones, even when the temperature is positive outside.
How did we get the idea to go again to the capital of Hungary, even though we knew how cold it was last time? Just because. We seem to have forgotten the cold, it did not have enough place in our memories. The space was large enough in our minds and souls only for the extraordinary Christmas Fair, the wonderful decorations, the impressive and well kept buildings, the thermal baths, which are a true delight when it’s cold outside, the delicious food that we tasted and so on. It was the same this year, the cold has passed, but the unforgettable moments will stay with us forever.
The second thing we did again was getting accommodation on a boat. After the Cyprus experience, which was not very comfortable, this time we have traded the Mediterranean for the Danube and we got to live on a boat again, close to the city center. The experience in Budapest was much better, the floating hotel was much larger, with nice, spacious rooms, with big windows, some of them facing the river and – on top of everything – our very own thermostat in the room, so that you can properly melt when you come home from your walk alongside Danube, by adjusting the temperature as high as you please.
Because of the fact that we stayed in the capital of our Magyar neighbors for only 3 days, we did not have enough time to visit many places, but we didn’t intend to – we will do that in the spring, when we have reserved more days to thoroughly explore this beautiful city. For the new year city-break, we planned to relax, go to hot baths and enjoy every moment. So this is exactly what we did.
The Kiraly Thermal Baths or Király Gyógyfürdő
These are the oldest thermal baths in Hungary, built by the Ottomans in the second half of the XVIth century. The place still has many specific elements of Turkish baths, such as the big dome above the main pool, with small holes through which the sun rays can barely pass, creating a mysterious but comfortable atmosphere, which teleports you in the past, in times when the sultans were organizing parties there with their friends. The main pool, shaped as an octagon, is another specific element of the ottoman style and it is the largest one there. There are also smaller pools, with water of different temperatures, a sauna, a jacuzzi, a small fitness room and a rounded, wooden hot tub outside, in the open air. It is very different from all the other thermal baths we’ve seen. It has an atmosphere that is… old, dark, surrounded by deep mist in which you can hardly see the silhouettes of the people from the other side of the pool… all in all, a very interesting experience, which you should have at least once. The entrance tickets are cheaper compared to other baths and there are discounts for various categories of visitors, including students. The interior is quite small, so it gets pretty crowded, especially in the evening. You may have to stay in line for an hour or more to get in, so we recommend visiting Kiraly baths during the first part of the day.
The Lukacs Thermal Baths or Lukács Gyógyfürdő és Uszoda
The atmosphere at Lukacs is different. Although you get the sense of living history here too, the thermal springs being used from the XIIth century, the baths became a balneary resort only in the ‘70s, and since the ‘80s the place is known for the spa and wellness facilities. Even now, some of the pools are only accessible to the patients of the hospital, which have a daily treatment schedule for various illnesses. But most pools are open to the public, the space is fairly generous, and every Saturday there are parties with colored lights and music in the thermal pool outside. The interior of the Lukacs baths is not as luxurious as that of the Gellert baths, for example, it looks quite modest in some areas, but it is very good for bathing and relaxation. This place is very crowded too, but we don’t know any thermal bath in Budapest that isn’t. The ticket price here is high compared to other places, but there are also discounts for various categories. If you want access to the saunas, you have to pay extra, the standard ticket only includes the pools.
The Palatinus Thermal Swimming Pools or Palatinus Strandfürdő
Yes, you counted the days and the baths right, we are very resourceful! 🙂 On the last day of the year we got to the Palatinus Thermal Swimming Pools, built on the beautiful Margaret island, in the middle of the Danube. Palatinus is the oldest open air beach in Budapest, but now it doesn’t look old at all. Up until a few years ago, the Swimming Pools were only open during the summer, but now, after renovations, it is open all year round. The interior is very modern, full of light, with many pools inside and outside, slides, saunas and massage cabins. Everything is nicely renovated, clean and well kept. The staff speaks English poorly, but you can communicate by gestures and mimics. The prices are reasonable, the entry is cheaper here than at Lukacs, for example. You can reach Palatinus by foot, going down the stairs from the Margaret bridge and crossing about half the island, on the left side. There is also a public bus that stops right in front of the baths.
New Year’s Eve in Budapest
The new year night was… magical! The city was very nicely and tastefully decorated, the Christmas fairs were still partially open and full of goodies, with hot wine sellers everywhere, a lot of cheerful people who wanted to party… and a lot of craziness! The firecrackers and fireworks were flying all around, although they are a little… forbidden in Hungary. People wore colored wigs, masks, glitter and were competing on who can blow harder in their huge vuvuzelas. Everybody had some sort of alcohol in their hands, which is permitted in our neighboring country.
We had dinner at a traditional restaurant in the center of the city, with delicious Hungarian dishes and mulled wine, which warmed us and filled us with energy to meet the new year properly. This place was crowded too, we had to wait a little outside until a table was free. The waiters were very friendly, making jokes with the clients and wishing them “happy new year” when they were leaving.
The midnight caught us in the huge Ferris wheel, recently installed in the center of the capital, called Budapest Eye. Above the fireworks, with an amazing view of the city dressed up for the celebrations, of the nicely lit buildings and of the people full of emotions, we said good-bye to 2017, thanking it for being an extraordinary year, with many countries visited, with a spilling bag of priceless memories and then welcomed 2018, with the promise to be at least as good as we were last year and hoping it will reward us nicely. Happy new year!