Why visit: Turkish bath, architecture, history
A Brief History of Császár Baths - Veli Bej
Hidden in the backyard of a Classicist-style building in Buda, Veli Bej, also known as Császár Baths, has a rich history. References to healing waters in this location date back to Roman times. The Turkish bathhouse, originally named Veli Bej, was built in the 16th century during the Turkish era. Commissioned by pasha Szokullu Musztafa, this was one of the most beautiful baths of its time. The original stone building survived the varied history of the ensuing centuries. After the Turkish occupation the bath was renamed to Kayser Bad, Császár Baths in Hungarian, and later it was given to the Order of Hospitallers, who used it for healing the sick.
Throughout the years several extensions were added to the core building. The Classicist-style building, still in use today, was designed in the 19th century by architect József Hild. Today, this building houses a hospital and a hotel that faces the Komjádi Sport Swimming Pool, another one of the additions to the original complex. The historic Turkish bathhouse, which was closed to the general public for decades, regained its original splendor with the recent renovations.
Visiting Császár Baths - Veli Bej
The beautifully renovated Turkish bath complex is still in a pre-opening phase (as of Dec. 2011*), meaning, that the spa facilities are open to the public, but the main entrance, the café and the beauty salon are still closed. Until the official opening, access to Veli Bej is through the adjacent hospital, operated by the Order of Hospitallers (Budai Irgalmasrendi Kórház), located at Frankel Leó út 54.
So, for now, a dingy old corridor leads to the Turkish baths, but don't be turned off by the makeshift entrance because once you reach Veli Bej's reception you'll see that the facilities are up-to-date and offer everything you need to unwind and relax. Tickets, until the official opening, are a steal at HUF 2,000 for everyone, anytime of the day. Upon paying the entrance fee you'll receive a plastic armband that grants access to the baths and to a locker. The armband opens and closes the locker by simply touching the lock with it. Each armband is assigned to a different locker and, should you forget your locker number, there's a scanner in the locker room to help you find the right one. Veli Bej is coed, even the locker room, meaning that men and women use the same area, equipped with several changing cabins, to change into their bathing suits.
The facility offers a large octagonal, hot-water thermal pool, surrounded by four smaller thermal pools with different temperatures, a modern swimming pool, a Jacuzzi and a special bathtub for hydrotherapies. The wellness section is equipped with steam baths and various saunas, including an infra-sauna. Massages are also available. The main attraction here is without a doubt the traditional octagonal pool under the Turkish dome. No matter what time of the day you visit, the pleasant, dimly lit pool area nicely complements the water's calming effects. For relaxation, there are chairs and deck-chairs scattered around the pool beneath the dome. Veli Bej's rich history is also on display in a small, on-site exhibition featuring a number of archeological finds.
The hot springs feeding the thermal pools rise from the wells of the nearby Lukács Baths and from Margaret Island. The waters, rich in calcium, magnesium, hydrogen-carbonate, sulfate and sodium, with a significant content of fluoride ions, are recommended to help cure degenerative illnesses of joints, chronic and semi-acute arthritis, spinal problems and post-injury healing. Though the bath's thermal water is known for its healing powers, you don't have to have any ailments to appreciate it. Visiting Veli Bej is a fun and pleasant way to wind down and relax the body and mind in an historic setting.
Budapest is one of the few places in the world where you can experience original Turkish baths dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The Turks were the first to turn Budapest's thermal springs into bathhouses. Veli Bej, built in 1570, is one of the oldest Turkish baths in the city. It's a unique place where history, beautiful architecture and tradition meet state of the art facilities. Veli Bej is not as well known (yet) as the other two Turkish baths, Király Baths and Rudas Baths, therefore it's rarely crowded. Nearby Turkish attractions include the Tomb of Gül Baba, the burial place of a dervish and the northernmost holy place of Islam.
A day pass with a locker costs HUF 2,500.
6 am to noon and 3 pm to 9 pm, daily
Getting to Császár Baths - Veli Bej:
Take Streetcars 4 or 6 to Margaret Bridge in Buda, and then take bus 86, 109 or 160 to 'Császár-Komjádi Uszoda'. (Take a short walk along Zsigmond Köz to Frankel Leó út 54 and use the hospital's entrance, until the bath's main entrance is opened to the public).
*Update: Veli Bej has officially opened to the public in the fall of 2012, after five years of renovation.