There have often been times while traveling that I’ve grown so exhausted I need a vacation from vacation. Or maybe the weather is shit, but you’re all museum’d out. Sound familiar? I’ve experienced this quite a bit. For me, it shows up as guilt.
Guilt that I’d rather sit on my ass for a few minutes than explore another neighborhood or be on my feet for one more second. Guilt that I’m in some magical, foreign place and I need a reprieve from the burdens of travel. But there comes a time when you need to listen to your body.
Honor the break that you may need, regardless of whether it’s physical or mental rest that you require. Here’s my personal itinerary to spending the ultimate day of relaxation in Budapest.
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My most recent trip to Budapest was spent over-crowding my days with plans, mapping ambitious walking routes, and literally running to make trains. I clocked my highest mileage one day at 17.7 miles – of just roaming around! So, on my last full day in the city, I knew I needed some rest. But, what do you do when you need rest and the trip isn’t over?
It was my first solo trip to Budapest, and the only thing I had left on my ‘Budapest Bucket List’ by the time the last day rolled around was to spend some time in one of the thermal bath complexes in the city. A few days prior I’d had the best cappuccino of my life at the New York Café, as well as a hot oil massage from a local parlor. I decided that both of those things were worth re-visiting and to make the most of my ‘rest and recharge’ day. And so, I set out to have an idyllic day of relaxation in Budapest.
Here’s a rough guide of what I did, so maybe if you find yourself in a similar situation, in Budapest or elsewhere, you can find some inspiration to give yourself a much-needed reprieve.
**Note: I stayed on Király utca while in Budapest, so this itinerary is fairly central to that location. Cafes and Thai massages are all over the place in Budapest, so it’d be easy to create a similar itinerary based in a different part of the city. Message me with any questions you might have!
ultimate day of relaxation in budapest
breakfast at new york café
Begin to plan a trip to Budapest, and undoubtedly in your research, you will see ‘the most beautiful café in the world’ pop up. New York Café, inside the New York Palace Hotel, is indeed beautiful – lavish and elegant, certainly one of the most beautiful places in Budapest. I never really expected to say this prior to visiting, but Budapest is truly one of the most beautiful European cities in general.
The café serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is expensive, as would be expected in a setting so gorgeous, but when I tell you they served me the best cappuccino I’ve ever had in my life – I mean it.
While the cafe is the epitome of opulence, it doesn’t lend a snooty quality to the experience. I felt quite comfortable as I sat in the cafe absorbing the chatter of my fellow patrons, the clinking of glass and silver, the gentle fluttering of piano keys.
Enjoying a cappuccino with fresh fruit and pastries, accompanied by homemade jams, honey, and farmed butter is the ideal way to begin this type of day. As difficult as it was, I did not allow my mind to wander off to agendas and schedules and timelines.
A couple of times I’d close my eyes to experience the café with my other senses. A tourist hot spot for sure, but it truly is so gorgeous in every way. That being said, I didn’t have a reservation – it was just me, around 8 o’clock in the morning.
The deep, sonorous sounds of the violins provided the perfect symphonic backdrop to a grand breakfast affair. The café offers a buffet of epic proportions, as well as a la carte offerings, including omelets and Hungarian sausages. A perfect feast to start your day of relaxation in Budapest.
Take your time finishing up breakfast, there’s no need to get up as soon as you pay the bill. Today, try to focus on taking your time and slowing down. See if you can discover how much more you notice and absorb when you slow down. This day is about relaxation! And soaking up all the beauty and magic that is Budapest!
Walk north up Erzsebet krt. and take a right once you reach Andrassy utc. Once you’re on Andrassy, the walk is quite pretty. There’s a mix of overgrown, unruly beauty intertwined with the grittiness of Pest, and it’s apparent in this area.
You’ll walk through Hero’s Square to reach Szechenyi Thermal Baths. If it’s winter, you’ll also pass the rink where skaters go in the colder months. There are museums on either side of the square, if you are so inclined. There are a ton of options in the surrounding area to customize your day of relaxation in Budapest as you see fit!
Well, this was an experience! One that I probably would have rather had with another person as opposed to being alone, but, an experience nonetheless! Upon entering the building you’re greeted with the welcoming aroma of… sulfur. It’s to be expected, but it still takes a few minutes of acclimating to the smell.
Szechenyi Spa is the largest in Europe and has a mix of indoor and outdoor pools. Outside there are three (of varying temperatures), as well as a number of pools inside. The outdoor pools didn’t have the same sulfur smell, but I opted to stay primarily indoors.
In addition to the pools, there are also a number of saunas. Be forewarned: there is one sauna that I mindlessly wandered into, without realizing it was 60C! That’s 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Each inhale I took (all 3 breath cycles that I lasted!) set my nostrils and throat on fire. My eyes began to water and tears started streaming down my cheeks. I shook my head and mumbled something along the lines of ‘fuck this’ to myself, and found my way out. If hanging out in the inferno is your thing, I’m sure you’ll be just fine.
Tips for visiting Szechenyi Spa:
- Bring your own towel and flip flops. ‘Slippers’ are required, not available to rent, and cost 3000 forint (about 10 euro). The towels they give you here are flimsy, though I did see people walking around with Szechenyi towels that looked more legitimate. I probably just chose the cheap option!
- The pools are of varying temperatures. It is recommended that you start cool, work your way towards the hotter pools, and then alternate hot and cool to give your body time to reset.
- Plan to spend a few hours here. I think I spent 2 hours but likely would have stayed longer had I been with other people.
- Don’t worry about what to wear, or what your body looks like. I forgot my bathing suit and wore underwear and a sports bra and was just fine. There were people in bikinis, speedos, one-piece suits, trunks, and every type of body you could imagine. The only thing they don’t allow is full-body swimwear (i.e., burkinis).
Check out this complete guide to visiting Szechenyi baths for more info. Whether you’re staying indoors or outdoors, a visit to one of the thermal bath complexes in the city is a MUST for relaxing in Budapest.
lunch at korheley faloda
Walk back down Andrassy Ut. to reach Liszt Ferenc tér on your left. Take a left into the square, and you’ll find Korhely Faloda & Daloda back and to the right. Korhely Faloda is a great lunch spot I frequented a couple of times during my short stay in Pest.
The chef has a clear passion for his craft and all things food. He speaks to the utilization of local Hungarian ingredients as binding agents for the people and the culture that abound here.
I tried numerous dishes at Korhely Faloda over the course of my couple of visits. Pictured above is házi lecsó friss kenyérrel, Hungarian homemade lecsó (a hearty vegetable ragout) served with bread.
For dessert, Somlói Galuska, a Hungarian specialty consisting of sponge cake with vanilla custard, raisins, chocolate, and cream. I prefer savory to sweet, but this was pretty good!
stroll along the danube
Give yourself some time to digest, take a walk along the river. It’s a little out of the way from the Király u. area, but in reality, everything in Budapest is super-walkable if you’ve already got a moderately active lifestyle.
I had a massage planned for later in the afternoon, but I didn’t want to go straight after lunch. Or, if you’re not in the mood for a walk along the river, take a nap! No shame! Modify this itinerary as you see fit, it’s your day of relaxation in Budapest, no one else’s!
Don’t feel guilty if your body needs rest after days or weeks of strenuous travel. Different things affect each of us in different ways. If your body has different needs than your travel partners or what you consider to be ‘normal,’ don’t worry about it!
Take care of yourself and the rest will fall into alignment. Whether you choose to take a walk along the river or stare at the back of your eyelids for an hour, spend the time enjoying your choice instead of questioning it.
After flying, coupled with long days of sight-seeing, what could be better than a good rub down? Before booking, I’d recommend checking out the website to see what your options are.
The season may influence what treatment you decide to get. While in town, I received the Hot Oil Massage the first time, and the second time the Traditional Thai Massage.
De Lanna Thai Massage was close to me and had great reviews. I highly recommend this place, but you can go onto just about any GPS-based map application and search ‘massage near me.’
De Lanna offers a number of different options in terms of treatment style as well as duration. You have the option of choosing between 30 minutes and 120 minutes (or thereabouts). They offer reflexology (foot, leg, hand), head massage, aromatherapy massage, sports/deep tissue massage, back massage, jet lag massage (feet and back), traditional Thai massage, hot oil massage, and hydrating gel massage.
I opted for 60-minute treatments both times. A 60-minute hot oil massage cost 10.900 Ft (35 euro) and a 60-minute traditional Thai massage cost 7.900 Ft (25 euro). The spa recommends hot oil treatment for winter months and the hydrating gel treatment for summer months.
This was my first experience with traditional Thai massage, and I LOVED IT. You remain fully clothed for the massage, in contact with the masseuse the whole time. Also known as Thai Yoga Massage, the bodywork incorporates aspects of acupressure, Ayurveda, and assisted yoga postures to open up the body.
***UPDATE*** The next time I was in Budapest, I really wanted to re-live my first Thai massage experience. It. Was. AWFUL. I went to Luxury Thai Masszázs Szalon, near to Keleti train station. The woman actually made me cry, I was in so much pain. The parlor had great reviews, so I wasn’t worried – maybe I had someone new. Traditional Thai Massage is definitely not for the faint of heart, and it can be intense at time – but what I experienced was unbearable.
whatever you want
Now what? Do whatever you want! Hungary has some great wine, an option would be to do a wine tasting. I’ve heard great things about the wine tastings at Faust Wine Cellars, but I myself have not done one. Another option would be to get chummy with the bartender at a local wine bar and sample wines from different regions of the country.
I wound up getting some tapas and grabbing cocktails at Jardin Bar in Gozsdu Udvar, an interesting courtyard-type space filled with bars, restaurants, and nightlife. It reminded me of an open-air mall, but instead of stores, there were bars, pubs, restaurants, etc.
I found it to be a more approachable place to visit alone than the famed ruin bars. I’d been here one night prior during my stay, and between the décor, friendliness, and skill of the bartenders, I chose to return for my last night in the city. It was the perfect ending to the ultimate day of relaxation in Budapest.
honor your needs
While this was not the first trip I’ve taken where exhaustion and achiness have set in before the trip was over, it was the first one where I’ve been accepting of the fact that my body and mind need to chill for a bit. For someone as Type A as I am, to relinquish the need to ‘go, go, go’ is no easy feat.
Being able to take the time and space for myself to recharge my batteries before moving on to the next leg of my journey was a big success for me. Not to mention the fact that it gave me the strength and energy I needed for the following day: Vienna!
Have any other tips or tricks for a day of relaxation in Budapest? How about other cities or countries? Leave a comment below with your suggestions!
Check out this post, self-care while traveling, for more tips and tricks to feel great during your journeys. Feel like getting some yoga in without going to a studio? Have a long flight or train ride? Here is a travel yoga sequence meant to counteract the negative effects long travel may wreak on your body.