Budapest for the Soul

Budapest is full of architectural delights, and needless to say the religiously orientated structures that heavily dot the city don’t disappoint. There’s a genuinely diverse collection of churches, basilicas and synagogues with a generous smattering of Islamic houses of worship. The latter shouldn’t be surprising, given the lengthy period of occupation by the Ottomans. There’s the Basilica of St Stephen, named after perhaps the most famous and important Hungarian of them all. To say he has a big hand in the founding of Hungary is an understatement. Although his hand doesn’t look so big. You can check it out. It’s on display inside the basilica, and looks every bit it’s thousand years of age.

The worlds fifth largest synagogue, and largest in Europe, lies within the centre of Budapest as well. It is imposing, and very Moorish. But also a bit pricey to go inside. Too pricey for my wallet. The Matthias Church on Castle Hill however, is a bargain. We just joined the queue and walked in for free. It was only later, upon exiting, that we realised you’re meant to buy a £3 ticket. But if the two ticket inspectors on the door aren’t going to actually bother to check tickets, then the uniformed will stroll in, gratis. It’s worth the £3 though, although it’s perhaps the exterior which is most impressive. The tiled roof is a marvel. Click here for photos of the Basilica, here for the synagogue and here for the Matthias Church.

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If the churches haven’t soothed your soul, head on for a bath. Budapest is know as the City of Spas for good reason. Sulphuric H2O burbles up to the surface from drilled wells, filling ornate thermal baths that mostly line the river Danube. The waters are as hot as 42 degrees, which is perhaps a little too warm for my liking. I settled for 38 degrees as being my perfect temperature. We tried a total of four baths during our trip. First was the famous and opulent Gellert Hotel, followed by the slightly more out of the way Lukacs baths. The latter was more popular with locals and was considerably more functional.

This was followed up with a trip to the Szechenyi complex, which was undoubtedly the most glorious from an architectural point of view. It’s also most people’s favourites, but not ours. The pools are outside, and whilst still warm, could have been a bit warmer. But it was also far too crowded by party people. Last on the itinary was the Turkisk Rudas baths. Currently undergoing renovation, they look from the outside like a building site. The interior is another story – fabulous. The Rudas baths have another massive advantage over the others in that it’s easy to use. The Gellert and Lukacs are a nightmare. Where do you enter? Where should you change? Where are the pools? You can spend as long working that out as you will in the baths. The staff in the Gellert were spectacularly unhelpful. You’ll seriously need a relaxing soak just to wash out the stress of getting in the water.I didn’t take any interior photos of any of the baths, preferring not to risk my camera. But there are some exterior shots of the Gellert Hotel here.

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