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Danubius Health Spa Resort - Spa Review

Thrifty Spa Stays in Budapest and Beyond

by Irvina Lew

The pool at Danubius Gellert
The pool at Danubius Gellert

In Budapest, where thermal spring-fed pools are a national resource, bathing in one of the city's 130 mineral spring pools is part of the local lifestyle. Budapest has had the reputation as an international medicinal "Bathing City" since the 1930s, since the sodium, magnesium, sulphur and fluoride in the waters have long been considered an antidote to rheumatic pains and arthritic conditions.

Though the cost is minimal, some of the city's public pools are outrageously extravagant, even palatial. These include the exquisitely romantic Danubius Gellért Bath; the small, Bauhaus-styled jewel, the Dandár; and the recently restored Széchenyi, a neo-Baroque complex where 13 of the 18 pools are thermal and men play in-water chess as steam rises around them.

The Danubius Hotel Group specializes in operating health spa resorts at thermal springs throughout Central and Eastern Europe. In Budapest, we stayed at the luxe Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget where the contemporary accommodations offer two single beds together (no bedspread), a desk, chairs and coffee pot (but no scale, safe or make-up mirror) and a nice-sized balcony with park and city views. (The hotel is located in pedestrian, park-like, Margaret Island, which is situated smack in the middle of the Danube River, just an easy walk or taxi ride to the city).

View of Margitsziget
View of Margitsziget

The hotel is linked to the enormous spa complex and to the more traditionally-styled 164-room (four-star superior) Danubius Grand Hotel Margitsziget where marble hallways and stairwells, wood-paneled walls, traditional and antique furniture add to its appeal.

All of the Danubius Health Spa Resorts offer reasonably-priced packages, available through Tradesco Tours. At Margitsziget, rates from $750 a week per person double. The all-inclusive rates include accommodations, use of the spa facility, six treatments (three 20-minute massages, mud pack and electrotherapy) and a meal plan with some spa-style selections: all-you-can-eat breakfast and dinner buffets.

All the Danubius Health Spa Resorts also offer amazing aquatic facilities with thousands of square feet of heated pool space. They are temperature controlled (from icy to hot) and include lap pools, exercise pools, pools with muscle relaxing jets and access to outdoor pools. Each complex has a fitness facility (though not necessarily a high-tech, state-of-the-art one), a beauty salon ($15 blow-dry) and clinic-style treatment cubicles (some are curtained or have half walls; there are no high ceilings with moldings, wood-paneled or window walls).

The emphasis is very much on wellness. All package guests (most stay a week or two) are first seen by a doctor who prescribes daily treatments. Additional spa services, such as wraps or aromatherapy baths or the Cleopatra Bath (a hydrotherapy service) are priced à la carte.

Hotel Gellert

In addition to the Danubius resorts that we visited within Budapest, we checked out three spas in the countryside. (The one at Heviz-home to the largest thermal spring lake in the world-is best for Americans seeking a reasonably priced spa vacation.) Here and in all of the resorts, there are both allergy-free and handicapped accessible rooms (with an adjoining double room).

Because we are accustomed to more luxurious spas, we pack our own "perks" and bring them to the spa: a light-weight yoga towel, an eye mask, slippers and robe. We also request double massage appointments (paying extra for 40 minutes is worth it) and point to whatever body parts hurt. (Some staff-members speak English but not all therapists do.) Then, we just appreciate it.

Europeans are used to the health benefits of relaxing with daily sauna, swim and massage. They don't need to be super-rich to enjoy the lifestyle. In Budapest , and beyond, neither do we.

Danubius Hotel Group

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