Arriving in the “Paris of the East” looking across the huge Danube River at the extremely beautiful structures lining on either side of the river bank. Budapest is truly a beautiful city. It is filled with delicious food, classical music playing romantically on the streets and more importantly, the city is famous for its thermal baths. We stayed at a famous Budapest spa hotel, Danubius Gellert Hotel to relaxing tick of this must-do activity in this city.
Thermal baths are common in Budapest because the thermal water is so close to the earth’s surface and hence easier to extract. Budapest was once ruled by the Turks during the era of the Ottoman Empire. Their culture for the love of thermal baths still exists in the modern society of Budapest. There are thermal baths ranging from the very historical to the very modern. Even all the big hotel chains have all built thermal baths in their Budapest hotels. We, on the other hand, are fond of the historical thermal baths like the ones we saw in the “Grand Budapest Hotel” movie and picked a Budapest spa hotel with this style.
Budapest have two historical thermal spas. One is called the Szechenyi Baths (Official Website) and the other one is called Gellert Baths (Official Website). Szechenyi Baths are the biggest thermal bath in Europe. Gellert Bath is famous for its elaborate decorations from an era before our time. It is built inside a historical Budapest spa hotel and thus it’s entrance ticket price is the more expensive of the two.
There are many Budapest spa hotels but they are all modern and luxury style. Only the Danubius Gellert Hotel have the historical feel like the Grand Budapest Hotel. From the hotel rooms, dining rooms to the thermal baths, the whole hotel looks like a place from an era before my time.
As we are on a budget one year trip, we stayed in a $30 USD a night hostel room for three nights before heading to our Budapest spa hotel. The Danubius Gellert Hotel is built on the riverbank at the end of a bridge which connects Buda to Pest. As we cross the bridge to Pest we could see our grand hotel from afar. This Budapest spa hotel was as beautiful as any other historical buildings along the romantic Budapest river bank.
Budapest Spa Hotel: Danubius Gellert Hotel
Danubius Gellert Hotel appears to have grand entrances but one of them leads to the Gellert Baths. We learnt this the hard way when we first arrived when we found ourselves in the lobby to the thermal baths. As this Hotel is a Four Star hotel, most people who stay here arrives in taxis and only rare few people like us came here on foot. We did pack our backpack straps up and walked in with them looking like hand luggage so we looked presentable.
This Budapest spa hotel is located very centrally and close to public transport as well. Only 20 meters away is the metro station that has a direct route to the Keleti train station. Also, the big and famous Central Market Hall is only located on the other side of the bridge in front of the hotel.
Rooms and interior of Danubius Gellert Hotel
Although we didn’t quite get a bell boy that we saw in the Grand Budapest Hotel movie, the smile of the reception lady won our hearts. The little area behind the reception is clearly historical, especially the places where they hang the room keys. The room keys we were given even looked timely. Attached to the keys was a piece of round metal marking our room number and it’s surrounded by leather.
We were surprised that we were given access to our room before it was even 11 a.m. Normally the check-in time is 2 p.m. The room we booked was the basic double room that faces the courtyard. With a little bit extra money, we could also pick a room with a view of the Danubius River. The night view on the river bank from this Budapest spa hotel is exceptional.
The hotel elevator has been updated so we still have the modern hotel conveniences. The walkways were quite bright, filled with many artworks and the chairs and tables placed along the walkways had a historical feel. The circular stairs connecting each floor and had a beautiful coloured glass like the ones you’ll see in European churches.
Our room isn’t very big but all the required furniture for a nice room is there. Of course, this room is already nicer than our typical hostel rooms which we usually stay in. The room is rectangular in shape with TV, fridge, olden style chair and table and our queen size bed.
Next to bed on the right-hand side is a small desk with an easily accessible electric plug which is convenient for business travellers. The bedding was set up with two single bed size blankets on a queen size bed which were quite odd for a hotel. But we had this arrangement in our Budapest hostel as well. We weren’t quite sure if this bedding arrangement was common for Hungarians but we slept well that night and did not need to fight for blankets.
The shower and the toilet are separated in our room which is quite convenient. Both of these facilities are both updated and were quite clean but were still olden in style. We were given quality soaps and shampoos and a shower cap which we can take to our thermal baths. It is a prerequisite to enter the thermal baths with a shower cap and it is quite costly to buy it there.
Normally a bathrobe is one of those bathroom suites accessory that we don’t tend to use in our hotel room but this time, it is exceptionally useful for the thermal baths. Hotel guests could wear the bathrobes to the thermal baths. The robe is most appreciated when we went to the outside thermal bath on a cold day. A non-hotel guest even came to us looking quite cold and asked where we rented our bathrobes when we were outside. We also read some complaints online that Gellert Baths doesn’t provide towels and if you require to rent one, it is quite costly. As a hotel guest, we could take our towels to the thermal baths and the hotel will bring us new towels after.
Budapest’s oldest thermal bath- Gellert Bath
As a hotel guest, we do not need to walk 50 meters around the outside to enter through the Gellert Bath main entrance. There is a special path that leads directly from the hotel to the thermal bath. Before we leave the hotel, there is a staff that mark off our hotel number and if it’s our first time entering the thermal bath we get a free entry. The hotel staff gave us a black electronic bracelet each which gave us access to the thermal baths. If we did choose to enter the bath the second time, we get a 50% discount as a hotel guest here.
This Budapest spa hotel was built between the years 1912 and 1918. It was significantly damaged during World War II but was reconstructed after. during the 13th century, people found that the hot springs here had healing abilities and a hospital was built here during the medieval ages. Don’t worry, there weren’t any funny spirits in the hotel. Only until the Turks occupied Budapest, there was a thermal bath built here. The beautiful mosaic tile decorations in the Gellert bath spas have a Turkish influence.
The lobby of the Gellert Bath was quite grand and feels like walking into an olden style palace. Here they have a café, shop and a hairdresser. After entering the gates with our electronic bracelet, we had to walk down through a very long corridor which basically passes by the main indoor pool. We then exit in the change rooms which leads to the main indoor pool. The layout is quite complicated but the navigation is a lot easier with a map which we could get at the front desk.
There are four different thermal baths with different temperatures ranging from 35 to 40 degrees. Next to each thermal bath is a 19 degrees cold bath to cool off. The main indoor pool has a comfortable temperature of 27 degrees. The big outdoor pool is only open during summer and it generates a man-made wave every 10 minutes.
The thermal baths in Budapest are very different to the ones in Japan. Firstly you need to wear swimwear and you must wear flip-flops or slippers to walk around the facility. If you want to use the swimming pool, you must wear a swimming cap or a shower cap. Both women and man share the same thermal baths and Winny was disappointed that there weren’t any scales (which is in every Japanese thermal bath) to weigh herself after the thermal baths in Budapest.
Of course, there is also the typical sauna and steam room facility available in this Budapest spa hotel. The Gellert bath also offers a session of special massaging treatments with extra costs and requires booking. If you are interested in this, visit their Official Website for further details and prices. There is a very unique one I read in the treatments which are the “chocolate treatment” where you get to be covered in chocolate!
The water that fills the thermal pools in the Gellert baths comes from Gellert hill close by. On the hill, there is a stone church where people use to seek the healing spring water. The medicinal thermal water contains, calcium, natural-magnesium hydrogen carbonates, sulphates and chlorides. It’s highly advisable not to wear any jewellery into this water because it may get discoloured.
Although we visited Budapest in summer during our time here, there was a thunderstorm so we didn’t stay in the outside pool for too long because it was cold. We also discovered that there is a thermal spa on the side connected with a short flight of steps. Next to the pool, there was a sauna room. To be able to enjoy the external thermal pool in such beautiful surrounding and on a cold day is quite a luxurious feeling.
Breakfast at Danubius Gellert Hotel
We believe that a good breakfast is important for a classy hotel and normally the quality of the food can change our opinion on the hotel. Breakfast at the Danubius Gellert Hotel starts at 7am and finishes at 10am. You can have the option to have breakfast in your own room as well but the variety wouldn’t be as good as eating in the dining room.
This Budapest spa hotel had quite a variety of hot and cold food available in the breakfast buffet. With hot food, they have and not limited to eggs, bacon, roast vegetables and sausages. What I particularly like is that we could order omelettes from the waiters and they will bring us a freshly made omelette from the kitchen.
There is also some traditional Hungarian breakfast food as well, but we couldn’t remember their names nor took the pictures. That did save us time and money to try these food on the streets.
People who love bread as much as Winny will like breakfast in this Budapest spa hotel. However we though that they were lacking some variety in fruits and desserts. For fruit,s they had grapefruit, oranges, apples and bananas. But for the price we paid, this meal was definitely worth it. Not that this place is like the Five Star hotel which we stayed in Dubai. (further reading)
Our thoughts on Danubius Gellert Hotel
In a city so famous for the thermal baths, Danubius Gellert Hotel is truly the last historical Budapest spa hotel. Everywhere other Budapest spa hotel is now modern and new. Although this hotels is only four stars, their service is brilliant. From the receptionist to the waiters, they always serve us with a smile. Even when we requested for some hot water late at night they came straight away with a water kettle.
Danubius Gellert Hotel has a Gellért Brasserie Restaurant with an excellent view of the river but the food is average according to the online review. However, walking 500 meters across the hanging bridge will get you to the Central Market Hall where they have many delicious traditional Hungarian food and fresh fruits.
As this Budapest spa hotel is right on the river bank of Danube River, we highly recommend people to take a night stroll. When all the lights lit up along the river, we have one of the most beautiful night views in Europe. Especially when there are so many musicians playing the violin and other romantic classical music instruments.
Thank you for reading our journey in Budapest!