With around 120 naturally thermal springs pumping out some 70 million litres of blissfully warm and therapeutic water daily, Budapest is the perfect choice for a mums’ break – one featuring some serious relaxation and lots of pampering time. The nightlife, the food and the shopping aren’t disgraceful either, and it’s quick and cheap to get to from the UK. Why hesitate?!
Our first port of call was the Szechenyi Spa Baths, one of Europe’s very largest, occupying a splendid Neo-baroque palace built for the purpose in 1913. It was a gorgeous July day, and the venue did feel a little crowded, despite there being 15 indoor and three grand outdoor pools, 10 saunas and steam cabins, and several treatment rooms to spread out in. But we loved that you could get beers or cocktails to sip while relaxing in the sunshine (our way to spa!), and Szechenyi was great for people-watching as you floated around in the pools of varying temperatures. The spa is also excellent value – basic day entry with a locker costs just €16 on a weekday – and child friendly, with a fair amount of families there during our visit.
Having started to unwind, it was time for our second pampering experience – in the Royal Spa of our hotel, the elegant but family-friendly Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal. Similarly historic, and beautifully restored, it opened in 1886 and retains its classical architecture and original features while incorporating state-of-the-art wellbeing technology. There’s also a 15-metre heated swimming pool (kids are allowed into the spa between 11am and 3pm). My ESPA deep tissue massage was sublime.
We unfurled in a sumptuous Junior Suite with two bathrooms – perfect for two mums in need of plenty of space to get ready to go out on the town! All rooms can fit one extra bed. Rates for Superior Kings (the starter level) can be as low as €100, making them a bargain for a hotel of this calibre. My one complaint would be the sound of trams that awoke me at around 5am – next time I’ll be sure to request a room at the back.
And that said, the hotel’s location on Erzsébet körút in central Budapest couldn’t be bettered. You’re right on the edge of the Jew Quarter, with its famed ruin pubs – bars/nightclubs in old abandoned buildings, often with large open courtyards. We liked Szimpla Kert for its fleamarket decor and its different bars for different types of drinks (the cocktails were divine). We also loved the Jewish street food from Ricsi’s, a wooden hut in the Rácskert beer garden.
Our other eating-out recommendation is KonyvBar & Restaurant, lined by shelves of books and with a menu themed on famous novels (Bridget Jones’s Diary at the time of our visit!). Our hotel, too, had great dining – of the three restaurants, we sampled the light-flooded atrium Brasserie with its modern Hungarian cuisine including the likes of goose liver terrine with dark chocolate and coconut, and grilled pike perch with ratatouille, potato foam and garlic ash. Next time I come, I'll treat the kids to upmarket Far Eastern fare in the hotel's Rickshaw restaurant, which has just introduced family-style dining with lots of sharing dishes arranged in the middle of the table.
Read more about Budapest family holidays and breaks.