20 July 2016 14:36:08 IST

Hidden Budapest bath a locals' favourite for vibe, healing power

“Time has stopped here, and the harmony and the vibe are absolutely unique.”

Hungary's capital owes its popularity as a tourist destination partly to its numerous hot springs and bathing culture which have drawn visitors to the area since Roman times.

Bath houses range from large, ornate 19th-century buildings like the Gellert and the Szechenyi to tiny Ottoman Turkish-era hamams, some of them more than 500 years old. However, few command such fierce loyalty from locals as Lukacs, an intimate bath complex wedged between the Buda hills and the Danube River.

Tucked away in a leafy hospital courtyard, Lukacs offers not only swimming and bathing facilities but also boasts special healing powers for its mineral-rich waters.

“No other bath house compares,” said the director of the site, Mariann Eva. “Time has stopped here, and the harmony and the vibe are absolutely unique. Guests calm down, take life slowly, engage with one another.”

Artists and intellectuals

There has been a bath house at the site, which sits atop a hot spring, since the 12th century and its clients have included the 20th century composer and educationalist Zoltan Kodaly.

In the communist era, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, Lukacs was a gathering place for artists and intellectuals, providing an island of relative free speech.

Hundreds of marble thank-you plaques on the outside wall speak of the healing power of the waters for the joints, the back and various diseases of the organs.

As well as regular swimming lanes and a large pool with massage and jacuzzi functions, Lukacs has a Turkish bath complete with saunas and steam rooms. Medical massages are administered by experienced professionals.

Bernadett Marosi, 72, has been coming to Lukacs daily for decades and her devotion led her to turn down an invitation from her daughter to move to Italy to live with her.

“I told her I couldn't (move to Italy). My life is here and the strength I get for my life comes from Lukacs,” Marosi said.