Rising above the Danube River opposite downtown Budapest, Hotel Gellert is the un-sunken Titanic of the Hungarian Art-Nouveau monument home to a thoroughly average 3-star hotel hemorrhaging for an overhaul we wouldn't dream of staying in and a thermal spa that's is undoubtedly one of the world's true design wonders.
Getting inside the famous Gellert Spa and Bath is more like going to swim at your local municipal pool than chic day spa complete with ticket-selling kiosk, metal gate and small shop selling disposal swimsuits and plastic swim accessories. Just before the eyes pass judgment on all that surrounds, the bulky columns and infinite ceiling with baronial detailing begins to reveal the real secret of why you've come to this beleaguered landmark.
In lieu of burl locker-room, Gellert has a cavernous series of private changing rooms of claustrophobic size that feels more like a Communist-era interrogation room. And then the marvel begins, Alice down the spa shoot, into an Art-Nouveau bathing world that wows the eyes with a glorious illusion amongst grand thermal pool or varying in shapes, sizes and temperatures.
Additional private treatment rooms offer massage and scrub services provided by college-trained technicians that humble the talent found in most US day spas despite their ho-hum manner and conveyor belt-like service mentality. During summer months an outdoor wave pool adds and additional amusement park aspect to the space, albeit on a small scale, luckily with more jovial adults than screaming children.
Gellert Spa and Bath 1118 Budapest Budapest, Kelenhegyi ut 4, Hungary 06 1 466-6166