Free spa visits as Budapest kicks off health tourism drive

If you're in need of some relaxation this holiday season, Hungarian capital Budapest has just the solution - free spa admission for visitors to the city through March 2011.

Offered as part of the city's winter marketing campaign, the deal offers those looking to visit Budapest free entry to one of the city's three most popular spas, as well as a free night if you visit for three or four nights.

Hungary's capital sits on a total of around 118 thermal springs, which were first discovered by the Romans and remain a popular tourist attraction today.

Among them are the Széchenyi thermal bath, the largest medicinal bath in Europe, and the Gellért Baths and Spa, one of the most popular for visiting tourists.

Tickets to both of these and the Rudas thermal baths are available for visitors this winter.

The Hungarian National Tourist Office says that alongside the three spas, 60 hotels are participating in the campaign by offering free guest nights, and Hungarian national carrier Malev is providing deals on flights.

The tourism agency plans to position Hungary as a health tourism destination over the coming years, luring German, Austrian and British tourists away from other eastern European health hotspots such as Poland and the Czech Republic.

The attempt is being driven by a boom in the number of spa and wellness hotels in the country - from only 24 in 2001, the number had risen to 140 by 2009.