The short answer is no. The long answer is, it depends. And that begs the question, so what did we do with our under thirteen year olds who weren’t allowed in? This is the story of how our family dealt with the rule that non-toilet trained children are not allowed in most of the bath houses in Budapest.
Two things Budapest is famous for in Europe, one is it’s beautiful buildings and two is the many thermal baths to choose from and relax in. Most Europeans visit for the thermal baths, and there are about twenty to choose from. We decided we wanted to explore at least two of the baths, and given that we had to go separately, we picked one each.
Although the Romans, historically, created the first bath houses in Budapest, none of them are usable but they are currently being excavated. Even in the Middle Ages, after 400CE, the locals were using the natural springs outdoors ie with no building around them. It is said that Saint Elizabeth of Hungary bathed the sick and incurable in the springs of Gellért, one of the suburbs in Budapest, which healed many of them.
Budapest is a thermally active city. It has many springs that are naturally heated. Interestingly, there are no active volcanoes in Hungary, but the strong thermal activity does indicate that the earth’s crust is thinner in one line running through Hungary to Croatia. Think of it as Europe’s Rotorua but without the mud pools and without the smell of rotten eggs.
The city has a river running through it called the Danube. This river used to separate the two cities of Buda and Pest, but has nothing to do with the bath houses. The springs are part of a separate network of underground water systems running through Budapest’s porous limestone hills. Many springs have popped up all over Budapest. Each spring has different minerals and therefore, offers different healing properties, different temperatures and different quantities. But we weren’t choosing the baths for all these properties, we were choosing them for their structure.
They say it’s a health and safety issue. Technically, young children can’t handle moving from very hot temperatures, to very cold, as easily as an adult can, it could create cardiac issues. But lets be honest, who really wants children running around or asking you for stuff, when you’re trying to gain the benefits of therapeutic thermal waters. And, it’s nice to think that no-one is allowed to pee in the bath, so making sure a child is toilet trained – that’s a great idea. Also, don’t you want a great excuse to take a break from the little ones, spoil yourself for a few hours by having uninterrupted soaking in therapeutic baths? I know I was glad to. But here’s the longer answer…
For the most part the answer is 14. The older bath houses or the traditional ones will not allow children in under the age of fourteen. If your child is not toilet trained, then most definitely your child is not allowed in. However, there are exceptions. While these bath houses are strict with regards to the toilet training rule, most are more relaxed with the under fourteen year old rule. They prefer the parent makes an educated decision for their child. Though I have read about stories of children being rejected because they are too young.
The Király and Rudas bath house are stricter about their policy of no children under fourteen years old, but we took Giselle to both, and they did not check her age. The Széchenyi pools are far more relaxed about allowing children, we saw young children that looked only four or five years old. But they are few and far between.
Yes! Fortunately, there are bathing houses created especially for families to enjoy the therapeutic waters of thermal springs. They have play areas for children to run around, picnic areas, and adult areas for a parent to sneak away and enjoy a simmer in a hot bath or sauna. You can google these online.
Well, we didn’t go to any of these. We decided that with our four full days in Budapest we wanted to have more authentic bath house experiences such as the Turkish baths of Rudas and Király bath houses. That meant we had to split our time up, and we knew it would be a more relaxing experience to not have to take the little ones with us, even if they were allowed in.
We also didn’t have the option to take Lui into any pools. He had fallen over on our last day in Spain and split his forehead open. The deep wound required one stitch but it was enough to mean he wasn’t allowed a bath for a week. Therefore, no pools for Lui. And although Kenzo is toilet trained, we decided it would be more fun for Lui and Kenzo if they stayed together.
Ajay and I like to operate differently when it comes time to looking after the kids on our own. When I went to the bath house, Ajay preferred to take them home, feed them a home cooked meal and settle them into an evening routine. I have a problem of itchy feet so I did a couple of excursions.
When Ajay took Carmelo and Giselle to the Rudas bath house, I noticed there was a monument on the cliff, overlooking the baths. I decided I would take Kenzo and Lui up there to check out the view. And when Ajay and Carmelo went to the Széchenyi Baths, Giselle and I took the little two to the Budapest Zoo. If you choose the right pools the whole family can be in the same neighbourhood but doing different activities, and then regroup later.
If you want to read more about hiking up St Gerard’s cliff or the Budapest zoo, check out this post.
During the Ottoman Era of Budapest, which was 1541 – 1699, the Turkish built many bath houses for themselves to enjoy. The design of them is what lured Ajay and I to choose the Rudas and the Király baths. They had octagonal domes above the main pool. While the Rudas still maintains a male only access to the octagon room most of the week, the Király allows for both male and female.
The advantage of the Király is that it has more locals. The advantage of going to the Rudas is that it is very modern in it’s amenities and has a wide variety of pools to choose from, including a roof top pool to enjoy looking at the sunsetting over the Danube.
The Király strictly did not allow cameras so we didn’t get any footage but the Rudas did allow cameras in some rooms.
The beauty of having to split the family up for these pool trips was that we had isolated time with our teens which is quite rare on this sabbatical for such a long period. Most of the time, we are all together, aside from the odd supermarket walk with one of them.