Everything you need to know about the past and present of Lake Hévíz and the Lake Baths. Facts, figures, interesting stories
The history of one of the oldest thermal spas in Hungary from the first piles being driven into the earth to the turn of the millennium...
The history of the Hévíz Lake Baths in a nutshell
Hévíz spa between 1795 and 1905
Count György I. Festetics, the landowner, had the first, then rectangular, two-building baths built in 1795 over the lake. In 1801, news of the beneficial effects of the medicinal water reached Vienna, and a report from 1818 mentioned the presence of white water lilies in the lake. Other Indian species were planted in 1898. In 1858, the forestation around the lake, the modernisation of the baths buildings and the construction of the lakeside guesthouses began. The men's and women's baths (baths enclosed by cabins) were located in the centre of the lake, but many people used the then much wider Hévíz stream for bathing.
Hévíz spa in the 1910s and 1920s
From 1905, the tenant Vencel Reischl did his utmost to develop Hévíz into an international spa resort. The former spa building was replaced by a domed building. He was also responsible for the construction of several modern hotels and restaurants, as well as the “Kursaal", an essential feature of a spa resort. In 1907, a covered bridge was built on the site of the old bridge and the characteristic two-towered main entrance was completed. The Hévíz Sanatorium and Spa Hotel were built in the same year. In 1911, the town was granted the title of "spa-type settlement". Thanks to Vencel Reischl, renowned spa physicians had already been practising in Hévíz. They successfully experimented and proved the traditional methods of Hévíz medicine.
Hévíz spa in the 1930s
After 1926, development was given a new impetus. The distinctive lakeside Bathhouse was built, and in 1932 the main building was given a glass roof, making it fully covered. By 1930, the village had seven hotels, eleven restaurants and forty villas, and a rich cultural life welcomed the almost 16,000 people who visited Hévíz annually. Dr Vilmos Schulhof was the head physician in Hévíz in these happy peacetime years. He did much to promote the medical science of Hévíz. Today, the promenade next to the Lake Baths is named after him.
Buildings in Hévíz before 1945
The “Cupping House", which was used for medical treatments (blood-letting= cupping), was built at the same time as the first spa building (1795). Whereas in the first half of the 19th century, the surroundings of the lake were merely areas with reeds and marshland, from the 1850s onwards many beautiful hotels were knowingly built. By 1870, Houses I to VII were already erected, of which House Seven was the only two-storey building. A Roman Catholic chapel was also built (it was later demolished), then in the early 1900s additional hotels, souvenir shops and the “Kursaal”, which was used for balls and concerts. World War II, however, put an end to the development, and most of the buildings were converted into military hospitals.
Hévíz spa in the 1950s and 1960s
In 1948, the Festetics-owned Lake Baths and all the associated buildings and parks were nationalized, and the period of state-run holidays began. In 1952, the State Spa Hospital of Hévíz was established and in the same year, Hévíz was declared a spa of national importance. By 1968, the country's most modern indoor spa building fully equipped with balneotherapeutic devices was completed. It was during this period that Dr Károly Moll, an internationally renowned rheumatologist and the inventor of the weight bath, became the chief physician of the Hévíz hospital.
Hévíz spa in the 1970s and 1980s
In the 1970s, tourism increased to such an extent (thanks to the growing number of Western visitors) that it became necessary to build more quality hotels and reconstruct the buildings of the Lake Baths. From 1977 onwards, the former domed buildings were gradually replaced by Larchwood-clad buildings. The full renovation was completed by 1985, but visitors were not able to enjoy the new facilities for long, as they were destroyed by a fire on 3rd March 1986. The new buildings were finally completed in 1989.
Investments and developments after the turn of the millennium
The buildings of the Lake Baths were renovated and extended several times after the major reconstruction in 1989. The two central pools, which were initially uncovered, were roofed over, making the central building completely weatherproof. In 2010, the Festetics Bathhouse, located at the entrance from Ady Endre Street, was inaugurated. This facility added wellness services to the existing range of services of the Lake Baths. A children's playground and children's pools were completed on the beach near the summer entrance, and a mud pool was built next to one of the sun terraces above the lake. Improvements are ongoing, most recently the Kinesio Movement Analysis Laboratory has been opened in the building.
The legacy of the uncle
Vencel Reischl the Younger (1839? - 12 August 1923) became an orphan at an early age. He was brought up by Vencel Reischl the Elder (his uncle), a Czech brewmaster, the owner of the Reischl Brewery in Keszthely.
The boy learnt the craft of brewing in the Czech town of Budweis. He was sent from Moravia to Graz to continue his studies, from where he returned home to Keszthely in 1862. In 1865, his uncle bought the brewery from Prince Tasziló Festetics and handed over the management of the brewery with unrestricted right to dispose to Vencel the Younger. Under his management, the brewery made such a profit that around 1910 Vencel Reischl the Younger was considered the second richest citizen of Keszthely (and the surrounding area) after Prince Tasziló Festetics.
In 1905, the brewer took a 35-year lease on Hévíz Baths from the Festetics family.
He immediately began remarkable development work in the area, as he aimed to make the Lake Baths one of the most famous spa towns in Europe. His first step was to have some of the marshy areas filled in to make them suitable for construction. Under his direction, some of the buildings near the lake were demolished and the ones in better condition were converted into multi-storey modern villas. The Rákóczi House and the György House were completed in 1906, and the Ferenc Deák House in 1907. In 1908, the László Csány House and the buildings of the souvenir shops were finished. The Kursaal, which hosted concerts and balls, was opened in 1909. The József House was inaugurated in 1910 and the Ella Villa in 1912. A modern sanatorium was built in the northern part of the town, and several new hotels and service buildings were completed. From 1906 onwards, developments continued and the modernisation and extension of the spa buildings began. The former baths were joined by additional buildings built on piles and covered by a dome. In 1907, the former simple wooden duckboard bridge was removed and, a little further on, replaced by a covered wooden bridge. The characteristic two-towered main entrance was completed, in front of which Prince Festetics had the sculptures of cherubs made.
He invited Dr Vilmos Schulhof, a spa physician, to work in Hévíz during the summer bathing season in 1906. Dr Vilmos Schulhof with his methods, expertise and internationally renowned studies and publications made significant steps in promoting the success of Hévíz medicine. He worked in Hévíz until 1944. In 1944, he and his wife were deported to Auschwitz. Dr Károly Moll came to Hévíz in 1920 and became the head physician of the spa in 1932. The expertise of the local physicians was recognised internationally. The new methodological institutes they founded, the medical procedures they introduced and the research they carried out based on their practical experience established Hévíz's reputation as a spa resort.
The construction work was accompanied by considerable "marketing" work appropriate for the era. Colourful posters advertised the beauty of the spa and the complexity of the facilities. Publications and brochures were published in Hungarian and German languages advertising the modern spa, the beneficial thermal water and the diversity of cultural life. In 1911, Hévíz obtained the title of a spa-type settlement through the instrumentality of Vencel. A little luck was also on Hévíz's side, as in 1914, Nelly, the elephant of a Budapest zoo, came to Hévíz for a bathing cure, which also brought Hévíz a lot of publicity.
During the First World War, although investment was suspended, bathing life continued relatively uninterrupted. After the war, however, Hévíz was in a somewhat more favourable position as several of the country's famous spa resorts belonged to the annexed territories leaving Hévíz as almost the only significant spa resort left in Hungary. This is also the reason why significant developments took place, including the construction of additional villas, guesthouses, a cinema, a post office and a road network after 1920.
In 1927, under the direction of Vencel’s children, a two-storey building of the baths was built on the northern shore of the lake and another bathing complex was built with another bridge leading to it.
Vencel Reischl the Younger had eight children and died in 1923 at the age of 83. He left his family a considerable fortune, a fine inheritance and the lease and income from a spa of international renown.
By 1932, the central building over the lake had a glass roof on a sliding iron structure so it was open in nice weather and closed when it rained. By this time there were seven hotels, twelve restaurants and forty villas in the village, and 16,000 visitors arrived in Hévíz a year.
In the first half of the 1900s, the Reischl family was one of the most influential families in Keszthely and the surrounding area. They were held in high esteem because their public involvement helped the region to prosper. It is very sad that, by the 1940s, as a result of the anti-Jewish laws, the well-respected Reischls were not allowed to hold office and even to vote. Later, several members of the family emigrated because of their Jewish origins and the family’s brewery and the Hungária Hotel in Keszthely were nationalised in 1948.
What happened to the baths?
The 35-year lease expired in 1940. The property with the baths, hotels and the sanatorium was again in the hands of the Festetics family and they planned further improvements. However, the prince died unexpectedly in 1941 at the age of 59. His 9-month-old son became the heir to the entailed property, leaving the administrative duties to his mother Countess Maria Haugwitz. In the first years of the war, the spa life in Hévíz was relatively undisturbed, but from 1943 almost all the hotels were converted into military hospitals. On 25th April 1945, the Hévíz National Committee decided that the Hévíz spa, the thermal lake and all the associated buildings and parks owned by the underage Prince György Festetics (IV), who was abroad at the time, would be taken over by the municipality. The family fought in vain for the ownership of the lake baths. In March 1948, all properties were nationalized.
DR KÁROLY MOLL
1889 Simaság - 1982.
Hévíz / He received his medical degree in 1913 and worked in Hévíz from 1920. He was a member of several professional organisations of national importance and, in 1927, he organised the first rheumatism department in the Hospital of the Hungarian State Railways in Budapest. In 1932, he was appointed chief spa physician in Hévíz, and in 1952, he became head of the department of the State Spa Hospital. He was also deputy director of the institution until his retirement in 1968. He was awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of Hévíz for a good reason. His work, research activities, and professional successes contributed greatly to the recognition of Hévíz medicine both in Hungary and abroad. In addition to the discovery of the weight baths, he is also credited with the creation of the currents map of Lake Hévíz. More than 50 of his publications were published in scientific journals. His wife, Dr Ilona Hoffmann (1908-2008), was the first female rheumatologist at the spa and a worthy professional partner in his work.
Dr Károly Moll is commemorated by a statue in Hévíz and a memorial room in the hospital, which is decorated with the renowned spa physician's medical equipment and objects. Their daughter, Dr Veronika Moll has a practice in Hévíz also as a rheumatologist.
DR VILMOS SCHULHOF and DR ÖDÖN SCHULHOF
1874. Budapest - 1944. Auschwitz and 1896. Budapest - 1978. Budapest
Vilmos Schulhof, after whom the promenade in front of the hospital was named, completed his studies in Budapest and later trained as a doctor in Berlin. He first worked at the St. Lukács Spa in Budapest, then, in 1905, he moved to Hévíz where he worked as a spa physician and then as the head physician of the sanatorium until 1944. His work was of outstanding importance in promoting Hévíz as a spa resort. He did much to improve medical treatments, one of the most important elements of which was the foundation of the Zander Institute in 1911 (such an institute existed only in Karlsbad). The Zander method is based on the use of machines to help with therapeutic gymnastics, i.e. machines help patients, who have difficulty with it, to move parts of the body during physiotherapy. With the introduction of these methods, he made a great step towards helping patients with very limited mobility to recover. In 1927, he published a book in the German language, in which he described the medicinal properties of Hévíz in detail, and, in 1937, his book Hévízgyógyfürdő (Hévíz Spa) was published, in which he summarized his decades of experience as a spa physician. His credo was that “experience is superior to knowledge”. Unfortunately, his recognition and expertise did not save him and his wife from being deported from the Keszthely ghetto to Auschwitz in 1944. His work was continued by his half-brother Ödön Schulhof (1896-1978), who was 22 years younger than him and fortunately was not in town at the time of the deportation. As a rheumatologist and physiotherapist, he was responsible for diagnostic examinations. However, he also carried out research, for example on the effects of the hydrostatic pressure of water and the biological effects of mud wraps in treatments. His so-called "insight" bone x-ray images became world-famous. He worked until 1948 in Hévíz, then, in 1949, he moved back to Budapest, where he became director of the National Research Institute of Balneology. Generations of rheumatologists grew up under his guidance as he taught, and wrote the first textbook on rheumatology, this time in the Hungarian language. During his time in Hévíz, X-ray examinations and electrotherapy treatments were also introduced in Hévíz Spa.
Emperor, poet, actor... or internationally wanted terrorist? Who were the most famous visitors in Hévíz?
After Count György Festetics built the first spa building in Hévíz in 1795, the spa quickly became famous in Hungary and abroad. In the late 19th and early 20th century, more and more famous visitors came to Hévíz to relax and recuperate.
Several famous Hungarian writers and poets took spa treatments in Hévíz or were visitors of the town: Mihály Csokonai Vitéz, Sándor Kisfaludy, Dániel Berzsenyi, Károly Eötvös, Pál Gyulai, Attila József, Áron Tamási, Gyula Illyés, Lőrinc Szabó, Zsigmond Móricz.
Many people from the world of art also visited Hévíz, such as Mari Jászai, Sári Sebők, Erzsi Sándor, Ferenc Székelyhidi, Karola Szalai, Endre Nagy, Gyula Saphir.
Several members of the royal family also travelled to Hévíz. The guest list also includes the name of Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand, who was the guest of Prince Tasziló Festetics. Archduke Joseph and his wife Archduchess Augusta also paid a visit to Hévíz.
Researchers, scientists and politicians also came to Hévíz: József Eötvös, Ferenc Pulszky, Kálmán Szél, and Kálmán Kittenberger, Béla Lengyel, Dr Gyula Weszelszky.
The famous Estonian playwright Eduard Wilde spent his holiday in Hévíz too.
Infamous guests from the political elite of the second half of the 20th century: In the 70s and 80s, several prominent Hungarian and foreign people stayed in Hévíz for holidays and spa treatments in complete secrecy, of course. There certainly are guests whose names are shrouded in mystery to this day. However, it is certain that Fred Sinowatz, who became Chancellor of Austria in 1983, visited Hévíz in 1982. Also in the 1980s, the leadership of the East German secret service (Stasi) arrived in Hévíz several times. The delegation usually consisted of 20-25 men and two accompanying women. On these occasions, they were usually accompanied by the head of the Stasi, Markus Wolf, the 'faceless man'. And in September 1984, none other than the Venezuelan-born "Carlos", better known as the "Jackal", the most feared terrorist of the Cold War, wanted also by Interpol, stayed in Hévíz. It was not the only time that the Jackal visited Hévíz and Hungary. In the first half of the 1980s, he met here the head of the Stasi several times, among others. All these guests stayed in the sanatorium of the Ministry of the Interior as it was protected by the military.
Less infamous but rather internationally renowned guest of Hévíz was the South African heart surgeon Professor Christian Barnard, who performed the first heart transplant in 1967. In June 1993, the 14th Dalai Lama Tendzin Gyaco arrived for the inauguration of the Peace Stupa in Zalaszántó and stayed in one of the buildings of the Hunguest Hotels.
János Kádár stayed in Hévíz on two occasions, in 1970 and 1972 but the only thing people knew about his visits was that the building of the BM Sanatorium in Kossuth Street was under constant police surveillance. Op-art artist Victor Vasarely and astronaut Bertalan Farkas stayed in Hévíz on several occasions. The Kossuth Prize-winning composer György Ránki composed his Cain and Abel during his holiday in Hévíz.
The most famous four-legged guest, Nelly, the elephant
In 1913, circus director Mátyás Beketow presented a young elephant to the zoo because he felt that the animal, who had a bad leg, would not be suitable for working in the circus. Dr Emil Raitsits, the Zoo's veterinarian, examined the elephant Nelly thoroughly and diagnosed her with incipient rheumatism. The zoo's management decided to help Nelly's rheumatism with a spa treatment, so to the great pleasure of the people of Hévíz, she was treated at the Lake Baths in Hévíz for several months.
Main Entrance &
dr. Schulhof Vilmos promenade and Ady Endre Street
Early season / Off season
27. March 2023 - 28. May 2023
4. September 2023 - 8. October 2023
Closing of the cashdesk: 17:30
End of bathing time/wellness: 18:00
29. May 2023 - 3. September 2023
Closing of the cashdesk: 18:00
End of bathing time/wellness: 18:30
|Holiday time in December|
|Closing time on 24.12.2023 is at 14:00; on 31.12.2023 at 16:00. Opening time is at 11:00 on 01.01.2024.|
Summer EntranceDeák Ferenc Square
CLOSED AT THE MOMENT
Closing of the cashdesk: 18:00
Hévíz Lake Bath reserve the right to change the opening hours and prices.
Hévíz Lake Bath Telephone:
+36 83 342 830
Hévíz Lake Bath and Festetics Bathhouse price list
Valid from 01. April 2023. until withdrawn
|3-hour ticket||4 500 Ft|
|3-hour senior ticket / over 60 years old||4 000 Ft|
|3-hour student ticket / over 14 years old||4 000 Ft|
|3-hour children ticket / between 6 and 14 years old||2 400 Ft|
|3-hour group ticket / up to 20 people
||4 000 Ft / p|
||7 500 Ft|
|Daily senior ticket / over 60 years old
||7 000 Ft|
|Daily student ticket
||7 000 Ft|
|Daily children ticket / For children between 6 -14 years of age. Admission for children under 6 is free.
||3 600 Ft|
Combined family daily tickets
Minimum 3 person, if at least 1 person is a child.
|Adult||7 000 Ft / p|
|Student (over 14)
Senior (over 60)
|6 000 Ft / p|
|Children (between 6-14)||3 600 Ft / p|
|+ 1 hour extension (for the 3-hour tickets)
||1 800 Ft|
|+ upgrading to daily ticket (for the 3-hour tickets)
||3 600 Ft|
|+ additional wellness ticket (for all tickets)
||3 300 Ft|
|Time limit fee (For exceeding the time limit, for every 30 minutes started.)
||1 000 Ft|
|10-hour Lake Pass - Valid on the day of purchase + 15 calendar days.
||13 000 Ft
+ 2 000 Ft deposit
|20-hour Lake Pass - Valid on the day of purchase + 25 calendar days.||23 000 Ft
+ 2 000 Ft deposit
Other ticket types
|Discounted Ticket before Closing (available 2 hours before the end of bathing time)
||3 600 Ft|
|Visitor's Ticket (bathing is not included, max. 30 min)
||1 900 Ft + 3 000 Ft deposit|
|Luggage room (seasonal)||300 Ft / package|
|Swim-rig rental (daily fee)
||700 Ft + 2 000 Ft deposit|
Single-day tickets: Usable on the day of purchase only. Entitles the bearer to one-time entry. An additional charge will be levied if the allotted time limit is exceeded. Additional time extension cannot be purchased after the time limit has expired.
Lake passes: Deposits are refundable within 5 days of expiery. Refunds are payable in cash only, each day before the end of bathing time. Passes eintitle the bearer to enter the premises on two occasions per day. Following the bearer's first exit, a 15-minute wait period is required before return entry is permitted. Upon exiting the premises, locker number assignments are automatically cleared, after which we can accept no liability for contents. An additional charge will be levied if the alloted time limit is exceeded.
- Valid from 09.05.2020 until withdrawal.
- The depth of the medicinal lake is 2-38 meters.
- Free use of changing rooms (included in the entrance fee)
- A sauna sheet is provided free of charge if you buy a ticket that entitles you to the use of the wellness facilities.
- The services of the wellness area are only available to persons over 12 years of age.
- Children under 6 years of age are admitted free of charge.
- The deposit is refundable within 72 hours of expiry.
- Daily tickets are valid only on the day of purchase.
- All tickets are valid for one entry a day only.
- We are not able to refund the price of the purchased tickets.
- We reserve the right to change prices and opening hours.
- An ATM is available during the opening hours in the building accessed from the Schulhof Promenade.
You can have more information about our special offers at the cash desks or on our website.
Hévíz Lake Baths phone number: 06 83 342 830