Király Bath is the only thermal bath of Budapest, which was not built over a hot spring. Moreover, the only bath, which was really built by Turks. A widespread belief, that bathing culture arrived with the Ottoman Reign to Hungary, though thermal baths existed far more before, already in the Roman times, and later also in tne 13th century (on the place of Sait Luke’s, Rudas, Gellert and Racz bathes).
When Buda was under Turkish rule, the actual city consisted from the districts we call Buda Castle and Watercity today. Turks used the Castle only for a barrack-room for their troops, the new citizens arriving following the conquest settled down at the bottom of Buda Castle, in Watercity, which was surrounded by strong walls. Even the Pasha of Buda lived here, instead of the palace of the Hungarian kings. Inside the walls Turks built mosques, dervish monasteries, and two bathes. One of them – at the present Capucine’s Church of Fő street – has been destroyed, but Kiraly Bath survived the centuries, and is in use even today.
Kiraly Bath’s construction started in 1565 by Pasha Arslan, who intended to ensure the joys of bathing for the muslim citizens of Buda even in case of an eventually siege. Pasha Arslan was died before finishing the work (according to the chronicles the sultan sent him the famous „silk twine”, which meant at that time, it is better to kill himself, as to wait for his execution), so the bath was completed by his successor, Sokoli Mustafa. The main part, the hot room („hararet”), with its octagonal pool is the original one still in this days. It is coped by a characteristic dome, which allows the light into the bath through little windows – so called „elephant eyes” – of the dome. In Turkish architecture there are two solutions to build a dome: in the first case the dome is supported by columns (like in Rudas Bath), in the other case the dome lays directly on the walls. Kiraly Bath is considered to be the most beautifil example of this second solution.
Evlija Celebi, the famous Turkish traveller and that time „blogger” writes about Kiraly Bath, like this: „it is a little bath, but very pleasant. It is built above eight arches, the dome is covered with pink ceramite tiles. The pool locates exactly in the centre of the bath. There are four lions around the pool, and from their open mouthes clear and hot water comes at day and at night. But the water is so hot, that men can immerse in it with a big brave….” This is something notable fact, as Kiraly Bath had no direct hot water base, nor has it any today. The water came from the spring of Saint Luke’s Bath through a long wooden pipeline, but miracously did not cooled down. Even today it goes like that!
In 1687, after occupation of Buda, the Austrian emperor Lipot I donated the bath to his royal doctor, Friedrich Ferdinand Illmer. In the following years Kiraly Bath’s owners has changed, while in 1796 it went into the posession of the König family. „König” means „Kiraly” in Hungarian, which literally could be translated as „King” or „Royal”. This fact gives base for the belief, that the bath’s name is „Royal Bath”. The Kiraly family reconstructed the building, but fortunately left the historic relics that remained from the Ottoman times untouched. In 1826 they added a new wing in classicist style, the builder was a named Matthias Schmidt. At that time the bath had two yards, in one of them, built still by the Turks, was four stone pools and ten rooms, while the new wing housed another four pools surrounded by 13 rooms. By 1934 Kiraly Bath was further expanded, housing three big pools, 188 vestiaries, six „saloon bath” with individual eartenware tubes, six bathrooms with stone tubes, and 18 bathrooms with marmor tubes . The Kiraly Bath was badly damaged during WWII, but was shortly afterward restored, and is now a protected relic, presenting to us the early Ottoman bath culture in its original beauty.