The Hévíz Thermal Lake is quite unlike any thermal bath on mainland Europe, because it is in fact a lake, and the largest thermal lake in Europe. In Hungary the lake is renowned for its medicinal properties derived from its composition including sulphur and radon. The radon inevitably though does make the lake mildly radioactive so you would be forgiven for being a little weary. If you’re open to try it though, it is quite an experience. The main buildings of the spa complex are built on stilts and protrude out into the centre of the lake. Visually the spa complex hasn’t changed much for over a hundred years but it is undergoing a major renovation that has brought the buildings and grounds up to the standard that you would expect from a modern spa, with modern interior design and clean facilities throughout.
Most bathing takes place from bath house in the centre of the lake, where you get the slightly odd choice to swim indoors or outdoors. The indoor pools are a few degrees warmer, but are actually just covered parts of the lake with some railings for you to hang on to.
If you have visited other thermal baths then you may be surprised that it is not particularly warm, but you must remember that it is a natural lake, which all year round is kept at a temperature comfortable enough to swim in. This obviously means that it’s a lot warmer in peak summer than in winter, but summer also means that the lake can become overgrown with lotus plants, so April or May are good months to visit.
Honestly speaking the indoor pools are quite dingy as they are below the main floor level between the supporting concrete pillars. It feels a bit like swimming in a multi storey car park that has been flooded with warm water. That said, Hévíz is really about the lake outside, which has abundant space to swim or float around, and apart from the lilies and some bits of peat floating about, the water is extremely clean. It is a nice experience to drift around in the open air, with so much space that you don’t feel crowded like in some other thermal baths.
The nature of the lake means that it is deep throughout so there are no shallow areas near the edges if you’re hoping to come along for a paddle. They have installed a few railings and benches in the lake so that you have something to hold on to but there aren’t many and even very tall people are unlikely to be able to touch the bottom, so unless you are very strong swimmer you should bring a float or inflatable ring, otherwise you could end up just clinging to the edge and not really enjoying it. There are plenty of shops in Hévíz town selling various types of floats and you can rent inflatable rings from inside the spa itself. Equipped with one though you can lie back and enjoy, with the lake surrounded by lush trees and the newly renovated wooden buildings sitting beautifully in and around the lake.
A few things to note when planning your trip are that children under 12 are not allowed for safety reasons, and similarly the lake closes at 6pm, so make sure you get there in time. A standard 3hour ticket costs around 2000ft. If you have children then you should check out the nearby Kehida Termal.
The Hévíz lake has a cafe in the central bath house with a range of cooked meals and some rather tempting cakes. There is also a decent cafe on land by the side of the lake next to an attractive lawn for sunbathing.
The experience of swimming outdoors in a natural lake without feeling cold.
The indoor pools aren’t well contained, and you can easily end up swimming through concrete columns and scaffolding under the building which seems both unpleasant and somewhat dangerous.
Take a float with you or hire one there because it is very deep and there isn’t much to hold on to.
Beautiful warm natural lake with plenty of space to swim around and nicely renovated historic buildings. Just remember that it is a lake, and you will need to be open to everything that goes with that.
RatingSetting: 4/5 Architecture: 3/5 Ambience: 5/5 Facilities: 3/5 Value: 4/5 TOTAL: 19/25 (four stars)