The water is a warm 104 °F/ 40°C. I lie back and relax, submerged up to the neck and feeling my stress soak away. Behind me is a statue and above me is a vaulted ceiling covered in colorful mosaic tiles. This has to be one of the best baths in Budapest!
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At a glance: Best Baths in Budapest
The Budapest hot springs are probably the most famous in all of Europe. Budapest is known as the City of Spas. Hungarian thermal water is supposedly good for your health, and the buildings of the Budapest spa baths are stunning. They are fed by 120 natural mineral springs around the city that have been used since the 12th century.
Whether you are looking for a spa party, a beautifully decorated Budapest bath house or a thermal spa, Budapest has something for you.
There are two major Budapest public baths – Gellert and Szechenyi. I decided to try them both so I could compare the experience and decide which one was the best spa in Budapest.
I describe below exactly what to expect when visiting baths of Budapest, but if you just want a quick summary of the best thermal baths Budapest has, here is a quick overview.
The best thermal baths in Budapest: Comparing Gellért and Szechenyi
Choosing between one of two Budapest famous baths is difficult because they are quite different, so I’ve broken it down into different categories.
- Hotter and cooler (people, not water): Szechenyi
- More decorative inside: Gellért
- More medicinal feel to the thermal baths: Szechenyi
- More variety of thermal pools: Szechenyi
- Larger: Szechenyi
- More beautiful inside: Gellért
- More beautiful outside area: Szechenyi
- More convenient location: Gellért
- Cheaper: Szechenyi
- More crowded/ popular: Szechenyi
Verdict: Best Budapest thermal baths
If you’re young and looking for a fun time, then I think that the best bath house Budapest has for you is Szechenyi. If you’re looking to relax in hot water in incredibly beautiful surroundings, then I think that the best Budapest hot baths are Gellert because of the beautiful architecture.
Book entrance to the best Budapest baths here:
Now let’s look at each of the two main Hungarian baths Budapest has.
Gellert Baths, Budapest
The Gellert baths has been around for just over 100 years. The baths are fed by underground springs from the nearby Gellert hills, which have been known for their healthful qualities since the 15th century. The Art Nouveau building, dating from 1918, is stunning.
You can also get spa treatments, massages and do laps.
Location of the Gellert thermal baths
Address: Budapest, Kelenheygyi ut 4, 1118, Hungary
The location is one of the pros of the Gellert baths and spa.
Budapest is divided in half (the hilly side is Buda and the flat side is Pest) by the Danube River. The baths are in the Gellert Hotel, the most famous Budapest spa hotel. It’s a big and beautiful building right on the Danube on the Pest side of the river next to the Szabadsag Hid (Liberty Bridge).
The entrance to the baths is just around the corner to the right if you’re facing the main hotel entrance.
Gellert Baths’ Hours
6:00am to 8:00pm. Last entrance is 7:00pm. If you pre-bought your ticket (see below) the entrance ticket window closes at 6:00pm, so if you plan to arrive after that, do NOT buy your ticket in advance.
Gellert baths prices and tickets
You can buy tickets in advance, which can save time if you’re going at peak times especially.
When you arrive, if you bought your tickets in advance, there is a window to the right. If you didn’t, the ticket sales window is to the left. They speak English. You can buy a basic admission ticket or all sorts of extras such as massages, supplies, etc. you get a wristband that is used for charges, entrance, etc. so don’t lose it.
With cabin: Weekdays 6,600 HUF | Weekends 6,800 HUF
With locker: Weekdays 6,200 HUF | Weekends 6,400 HUF
It is also to visit for 10 minutes just to look for 2,000 HUF. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 11:00am and 3:00pm.
There are lots of spa treatments available such as:
- 20-minute aroma massage 7,400 HUF
- 20-minute thermal massage 7,900 HUF
- 45-minute Harmony aroma massage 16,300 HUF
- 60-minute Harmony aroma massage 19,900 HUF
- 45-minute royal thermal massage 17,300 HUF
- 60-minute royal thermal massage 21,000 HUF
- 60-minute Hungarian mud treatment 19,900 HUF
- 20-minute head massage 5,300 HUF
- 20-minute foot massage 5,300 HUF
Book entrance to Gellert spa plus a VIP massage here.
You can rent a towel and swimwear (which I did). These days, the baths are all unisex, so you need to wear swimwear everywhere. Swimwear rental costs 3,000 HUF plus a 2,000 HUF deposit. Towel rental is 2,000 HUF plus a 2,000 HUF deposit. You can also rent a bathrobe for 3,000 HUF plus 5,000 HUF deposit. Euros are not accepted.
Note that you need to return everything but 5:45pm or you won’t get your deposit back.
There are signs telling you to wear slippers/ flip flops, which you can buy for 3,000 HUF at the shop (the shop is before the entrance gate).
Note that the rental window (after the entrance gate) only accepts cash. If you don’t have cash, tell the cashier when you get your ticket so they can charge your card.
Finding your way around the Budapest Gellert baths
After you buy your ticket, continue in and you’ll see the entrance gate. You’ll go down through tunnel then up again where you’ll find the rental desk.
Locker or cabin?
You can use a locker or rent a small cabin. I rented a locker.
Once you’re all sorted, you go up one more floor to the lockers. The lockers are shared by men and women. There are small change booths inside the locker room where you can get changed. You use your wristband to lock and unlock the lockers.
The cabins are in the same floor as the rental desk.
When you’re ready, go back downstairs from the lockers to the rental desk level. If you have a cabin, you’ll already be there.
From the rental desk area, you enter to the indoor pool. This is the centerpiece of the baths. It’s a lovely place to cool off and/ or do laps. There is a top deck surrounding it. Go to the other end and up the stairs for a view down to the indoor pool.
Note: you need a swimming cap to swim in the indoor pool (nowhere else though). You can buy one for 1,200 HUF.
Gellert thermal baths
Go to the opposite end of the indoor pool and on each side are doors to the thermal baths. You will go through a labyrinth of small massage rooms, but it is well signposted in English.
Once upon a time, one side was for women and one side for men, so there are two main baths on each side – one is at 97°F/ 36°C and one is at 104°F/ 40°C. However, although both sides are for men and women these days, each side is not the same.
On both sides, there are two baths in the same roughly circular room, and each of the two different pools is roughly a semicircle with a path in the middle. Both sides have a sauna and steam room and showers. However, one side is much more ornate than the other, so be sure to check both sides out.
There is a small ‘hidden’ cold pool.
Private Bath at Gellert
There is also a private bath for two people with its own entrance that you can book for 90 minutes.
Outdoor pool at the Gellert Spa, Budapest:
There is a really nice outdoor pool with a wave machine in the summer that actually dates from 1927. To get there, go upstairs from the indoor pool. There is a buffet and bar at the top of the stairs, as well as the doorway to the outdoor pool. There’s a large outdoor terrace around the pool.
Szenchenyi Baths, Budapest
The Szechenyi Baths are houses in a neo-Baroque palace dating from 1913. They yellow building is beautiful, and the outdoor pool area is especially gorgeous. It is the largest thermal baths in Budapest (indeed, in all of Europe). It is served by two springs.
Location of Széchenyi thermal bath, Budapest
Address: Budapest, Allatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146, Hungary
The location in City Park is a little less convenient for travelers because it is in a park away from the Danube. You need to take the Metro there. See the Getting Around section below. It’s easy. Get off at the Szechenyi furdo station.
Szechenyi baths hours
6:00am – 10:00pm. It closes at 10:00pm vs. Gellért which closes at 8:00pm. Note though that the ticket office closes at 9:00pm.
Szechenyi baths tickets
You can also buy tickets in advance. If you do, note that the window for receiving pre-bought tickets closes at 6:00pm.
Széchenyi thermal bath price
Similar to Gellért, you can get a basic ticket or get a massage, a package of equipment, etc. and you can also rent swimwear and a towel. However, the Budapest baths prices are not the same, as Szechenyi is actually slightly cheaper than Gellert. The same as Gellert, though, the Szechenyi baths price is a higher if you book a cabin rather than just a locker.
With cabin Weekdays 6,300 HUF/ Weekends 6,500 HUF
With locker Weekdays 5,800 HUF/ Weekends 6,000 HUF
There is a 20-minute guided tour for 3,000 HUF. Monday – Sunday, 10:30am and 4:00pm (in Hungarian and English). Tickets are available at the cashier; not online.
You get a wristband the same as Gellert. The same as Gellert, the entire place is unisex, so you have to wear swimwear at all times. There are also signs to wear flip flops.
As with Gellert, you can rent essentials including:
- Swimsuit: 3,000 HUF + 3,000 HUF deposit
- Towel: 2,000 HUF + 2,000 HUF deposit
- Bathrobe: 3,500 HUF + 3,500 HUF deposit
The deposit can only be paid in cash, so make sure you bring enough.
You can also buy:
- Swimming cap: 1,500 HUF
- Slippers: 3.000 HUF
You need to return anything you’ve rented by 9:45pm to get your deposit back.
Finding your way around the Széchenyi baths and pool
You will see the rental desk first. Then you go down to lockers from the rental area. There are separate change rooms for men and women. There are no private booths to change in. Cabins are also available on the same floor as the rental desk.
If you have a locker, after you’re wearing your swimwear, go back upstairs to the rental desk/ cabin floor.
Thermal bath, Szechenyi
Go through cabin area to the thermal baths. This is a labyrinth and not very well signposted. The thermal paths are a long string of different baths and there are multiple entrances along their length, all through the cabins area. There are 15 different baths. The temperatures are not marked, but there are warm and hot baths, plus a cold one. Based on the Gellért baths, I’m guessing they were 36°C and 40°C.
One bath was brown (a different mineral content) and one had a strongish Sulphur smell. The waters, high in magnesium, hydrogen carbonate and calcium are purportedly good for joints, arthritis and circulation.
In the center, there is a side semicircular room with palms and a high ceiling that’s makes a nice place to relax in the water. However, the rooms are all white and are not especially decorative, so there is a real feeling of the medicinal/ therapeutic experience to these baths.
There are several steam rooms and showers along the way.
The Szechenyi spa baths are a bit Jekyll and Hyde. The thermal baths seem less fun because of the more austere surroundings and the multiple baths with different kinds of mineral water. However, the outdoor baths are a whole other story.
Outdoor pools at Szechenyi
This is the highlight of Szechenyi spa, Budapest. To get there, there is a door at either end of the line of thermal baths. At one end, there is a sauna under the steps. The outdoor pool is the setting for Budapest’s famous spa parties.
The “fun” pool is heated (chlorinated, not mineral) water between 91°F/ 33°C and 100°F / 38°C. There are different jets and showers as well as a circular section to float around in a circle. This is a great place to hang out, and very popular.
Down a little bit is a separate lap pool. There is a second ‘thermal’ pool at the opposite end of the lap pool. The surrounding yellow buildings if the bathhouse make a very beautiful, decorative setting.
There is also a “beer spa” where you can drink beer while soaking in a wooden tub that is filled with bubbly hot (97°F/ 36°C) water and the ingredients for beer (malt, hops and yeast).
It’s up a narrow staircase; there are signs. It costs from 25 euros/ person for two people (in addition to the regular entrance fee) for a 45-minute session, but includes unlimited beer during this time. They also serve appetizers.
There are six tubs, each big enough for two people.
I didn’t try it (I don’t drink beer and it sounds kind of gross, to be honest), but if you like beer, it would probably be lots of fun.
Up another staircase near the rental desk is a luxury spa center with lounges and palm trees. You can book massages when you buy your ticket.
Spa treatment prices at Szechenyi are:
- 20-minute aroma massage 47 euros
- 20-minute thermal massage 48 euros
- 45-minute Harmony aroma massage 77 euros
- 60-minute Harmony aroma massage 90 euros
- 45-minute royal thermal massage 80 euros
- 60-minute royal thermal massage 92 euros
- 60-minute Hungarian mud treatment 89 euros
- 20-minute head massage 41 euros
- 20-minute foot massage 41 euros
Book entrance to Szechenyi spa plus a VIP massage here.
Tips for enjoying Budapest baths
- Take flipflops (you can buy them there)
- Wear a bathing cap to do laps (you can rent them there)
- Wear swimwear at all times (you can rent them there)
- Keep an eye on your towel (if you rent one, they are expensive to replace)
- Book a massage (why not?!)
- Allow time – this is not something you want to rush
Other things to do in Budapest
While it is certainly possible to spend your entire time in Budapest soaking in the thermal baths, it would be a shame to miss out on all the other wonderful things that Budapest has to offer.
For a perfect two days in Budapest, follow this two-day Budapest itinerary.
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James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents. He is passionate about experiential travel, i.e. meaningful travel that actively engages with the environment and culture. He helps people have similar experiences that involve active participation in activities and festivals; engaging with the local food and handicrafts through lessons and food tours; and interacting positively with environment by hiking, riding, rowing, diving and low/no impact animal encounters.
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