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2017.05.19 - Why is Budapest so rich in medicinal waters?

Why is Budapest so rich in medicinal waters?

Budapest’s location is envied by many other capitals. What is more, not only what you can see on the surface is special but also what you find under the ground: there are caves and hot springs under the city. Officially there are 19 different medicinal waters springing to the surface in Budapest. There is a wide range of thermal and medicinal waters that differ in their mineral composition, quantity and temperature.  

Széchenyi fürdő

In Budapest you can find lukewarm karst water, thermal karst water, thermal deep karst water and water from artificial wells. A good example of these is the wells in the City Park (Városliget) that supply the bath on Margaret Island and the Széchenyi Bath with water. The waters of most Budapest baths can be used to treat locomotor diseases, while the waters of baths with a drinking well (Széchenyi, Lukács, Rudas) are recommended for those suffering from digestive system diseases. The water of Széchenyi Bath is perfect for people with dermatological complaints and it also has other beneficial effects.

Now let’s see how the many hot springs of Budapest were formed.

Király fürdő

A bit of geology

It is a well-known fact that the Earth’s crust under the territory of Hungary is rather thin. Because of this the heat coming from below reaches the surface more easily. While in other parts of the world ground temperature increases by 1 degree in every 30 metres, in Hungary this only takes 20-22 metres to happen. In addition to this, this great energy is covered with an insulating stone layer, thanks to which the heat can only spring to the surface with the help of water – and there is  a lot of water deep down in the ground. It is mainly present in the form of karst water in the belly of mountains: rainwater permeates the porous limestone and is collected inside, before reaching the surface at the foot of the mountain. However, it can also be fossil water – especially in the Great Hungarian Plain – that is stored in porous stone that got trapped there in earlier geologic periods.     

The medicinal effect of thermal water is determined by how it makes its way to the surface, e.g. the chemical composition of stones it passes through, what kind of minerals it dissolves from there. From a geological point of view the Buda Hills are one of Hungary’s most complex low mountains in terms of composition. They are composed of about 30 different stone and deposition types, which have 220 million years of geological history in them. The present look and structure of the mountains was mainly influenced by erosion processes that started 8-26 million years ago, in the course of which a continuous water flow system developed in the more porous limestone parts of the mountain, which created more than 150 caves in the Buda Hills.            

A Budapest of caves

In the 21st century cave explorers are still finding kilometres-long new caves 50-60 metres below Hungary’s capital city, where there are two million people living. Under Rózsadomb-Szépvölgy on the Buda side more than 33 kilometres of new caves have been discovered. At the end of the 19th century few caves were known because they didn’t have natural entrances. Perhaps the only exception was the labyrinth under Buda Castle. It was mining, construction works and canalisation that opened the first sections of large caves. For instance cave divers started off from the Malom lake to discover the corridors of the Molnár János cave, most of which are situated underwater. Hungary’s second longest cave is the 20.1-kilometre long Pál Valley and Mátyás Hill cave system. It was created by connecting the Pál Valley and Mátyás Hill caves.        

Molnár János-barlang