Has anyone been to several of the baths? Our hotel recommended Gellert, but that seems lower ranked than others on several forums. We can only do one! Thanks for any insight.
It's ready not about ranking, each is a different experience. Pick one: https://bathsbudapest.com/
Each is unique and you can not do wrong.
While there really can't be a best one, my favorite is Széchenyi . If you can only do one, do this. My best tips:
- Go before 9am: it's cheaper and easier to find a chair to place your towel (and more locals will be there)
- Pay the additional fee for one cabin for your group: You can use it to change and it's great to store all of your items.
- You must have flip flops, but you don't need a swim cap unless you want to swim laps in the center pool.
- Don't be alarmed by the smell from the indoor pool: it's the minerals and they are magical.
On our first two visits to Budapest, we didn't visit the baths because I thought it would be a waste of time. Why waste time in a pool when there is so much to see? Silly me. It is a lovely experience and probably my favorite thing to do. It is relaxing and envigorating and so different from anything we have here in the Midwest.
I've been to three of them: Szechenyi , Gellert, and Veli Bej. I loved them all, for different reasons.
Szechenyi was the first we went to. It is gorgeous, with lovely architecture and statuary. One section of the outdoor baths has different jets. It alternates between bubble jets that come up from the bottom, and more typical jets that come out from the sides, along the seating. Another section of the outdoor baths has built-in chessboards.
The second one we went to was Veli Bej. This was the oldest bath still operating, but, at the time (2014), was also the most recently renovated. It is a more traditional, Turkish style of bath. The old part has 5 domes. The large one in the centre is over the largest warm bath. There is a sort of waterfall pouring into this bath, and the dome has holes in it where the light comes through, mimicking stars. Surrounding this bath are four smaller baths under four smaller domes. Each of these baths is a different temperature. On the modern side is a spa tub that is lukewarm, and a more typical swimming pool. (Be aware that in Budapest bathing caps are required in swimming pools. The same is true of the outdoor swimming pool section at Szechenyi.) There were no other tourists there the day we were there, and we had these baths almost entirely to ourselves. I'm not sure how typical that is.
Gellert was the last one we visited, the same day we visited the Cave Church, which is just across the street. Outside, there is a wave pool (the waves weren't operating the day we were there) and a hot pool. But it is inside that these baths really shine. In one area, there is a swimming pool (caps required) and a hot pool. Then there are two sections that contain hot pools. One side is the men's section, and one side is the women's. These are lavishly decorated with beautiful blue tilework, but the men's is more ornate than the women's. The day we were there, people of all genders were going into both sides. I'm not sure if that is typical, or not. Note that the hotel that houses these baths is a beautiful sight in its own right.
I liked all of them, but if you can visit only one, I'd say that you can't go wrong with visiting either the Szechenyi or the Gellert baths. Both are beautiful in different ways. So choose the one that fits the best with your schedule.
I suspect that Szechenyi is the most user friendly for first time experiences.
If you want a more local, far less crowded bath, consider Lukacs Baths.
It's conveniently located, but not well known.
That's the one I go to most often, but not really the picture book Budapest experience for a first time tourist.