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Thermal Baths in Budapest

We are visiting Budapest mid June prior to a Viking river cruise and trying to decide between the Széchenyi Baths and Gellért Baths. Any recommendations based on recent experience would be most welcome. We are mid 60s/early 70’s as someone said Széchenyi is better for a younger “party” crowd??? Rudas Baths was suggested instead but it is not co-ed on the days we are there.

Posted by
884 posts

I have visited both as recently as 2019. Both provide wonderful experiences. The Gellert was a little easier to navigate and is considerably smaller. Enjoy your visit to a truly spectacular city.

Posted by
3985 posts

We went to the szechenyl. It is quite large and has both outdoors and indoor. Maybe you could decide by which is easier to get to from your hotel?
Blue439 - i thought i had read Gellert had some nudity?

Posted by
884 posts

Hey Barb,
Rudas is the place for "clothing optional" soaking.

Posted by
18723 posts

It may depend a little on where you are staying to some degree. My vote generally speaking is the Széchenyi Baths. The Gellert Hotel is closed for long overdue remodeling so going there you miss seeing a historic landmark. (Bath is open). The Széchenyi Baths usually works better with the days events and is a pretty amazing place. No, it's not a kid hang out except late at night.... sometimes.

Posted by
272 posts

While visiting Budapest last April, I took it upon myself to visit the big three - Rudas, szecheni and Gellert. It is my mission in life to ascertain the quintessential spa experience by seeking out the finest, bubbly, minerally water the world has to offer. It’s a tough job fraught with wrinkly, prune fingers, flip flop blow outs and swim wear mishaps but I manage. Here’s my impression of the three:
Rudas - the quietest and oldest of the three. I came on a women’s day. I was surprised by how many women of every shape, size and age bathed nude. I felt incredibly conspicuous in my voluptuous swimsuit designed to cover every possible square inch of middle aged body possible. I only wish I could be as comfortable as them in their own skins. Largest local to tourist ratio.
Szecheni - big, beautiful and busy. Not my scene. I was there mid day on a perfect spring day. The outdoor pool was packed with lots of young people, many who were drunk. I remember watching one guy barely able to walk. Another decided to serenade us in the indoor pools while his friends tried to get him to shut up. Maybe when I was younger I’d have more tolerance for the behavior.
Gellert - aaahhhhh, Gellert. This was my Goldilocks choice for baths. Yes, the hotel is undergoing Reno but the spa is absolutely stunning. I was really happy here. If you go, do make sure you wander around to see both sides of the pools. I was grateful someone told me about the other half or I would have missed it.

Well there you have it. A totally biased review of the big three according to a want-to-be spa aficionado.

Posted by
18723 posts

thenosbigs Excellent.

My experiences are only Szechenyi and Gellert so this was good. Disappointed with the durnks experience. My experiences over the years were better, but admittedly haven't been there since just before COVID and maybe something has changed. That would be a shame as I stay a few minute walk from the Opera M1 metro stop and I loved the convenience of putting a few things in a cloth bag and hopping on the M1 and being in the water in under 30 minutes door to door.

Here are two more for your next trip (totally different experiences)

https://barlangfurdo.hu/en/cave-bath
https://www.heviz.hu/en/lake-heviz/lake-bath-opening-hours-prices

Posted by
272 posts

Giggle.
Mr. E, we swim in the same sewers! I mean neighborhoods and thought bubbles. I stayed at Hotel Casati and still crave the cold cherry soup at Papa Frici when I was in Budapest. Same metro stop as your stomping grounds.
Terme Barlangfuado, the cave hot springs, were on my list when I visited Hotel Palota in Lillafured but sadly a war broke out in neighboring Ukraine six weeks before my trip. All my peeps freaked out I was going to be on the “front lines” visiting Miskolc as a solo woman. I buckled under pressured in those early days of the war. Cutting my time in Poland and Hungary short, I veered toward Berlin and Austria. In hindsight, it was a bad decision. I’m working the grand dame Hotel Palota, Lillafured and Terme Barlangfurado back into a Romanian visit. Besides spas, I seek out bespoke, old world hotels. I’m sure I had a past life as a baroness in a loveless marriage that forced me into an endless cycle of Grand Tour destination hotels, casinos and spas to fill the hole in my heart.
Heviz is on my list between Budapest and Slovenia on one of my anticipatory, keep in my back pocket, imagined trips. Keep the tips coming, I’m keeping notes!

Posted by
496 posts

We didn't get to Gellert last August - but went to Szecheneyi and the outdoor ones on the island Margrethe?

Szecheneyi would be my pick - the M1 metro line is well worth the trip - oldest metro in continental Europe. The location is lovely. It was busy when we went but not overrun . Don't miss the indoors pools that go on and on - I was tempted by the beer spa - but my partner didn't want to carry me home.. (and yes you drink the beer as well as bath in it - additional cost). They no local rent towels so BYO because purchasing one is expensive.

The pools on the island are far more modern - like a Yugoslav Modernista vibe - very clean and big pools for swimming as well as soaking. Also a smaller indoors area.

Posted by
18723 posts

thenosbigs, the Hotel Palota was on my list about a year ago as part of a fishing trip into Slovakia. But the weather turned bad so i opeted for wine bar closer to home. Maybe this fall I try again.

Posted by
464 posts

My 70 something year old friend and I (61 at the time) went to Szecheneyi in Sept. 2019. We really enjoyed the experience and didn't notice any drunks or rowdy behavior during our visit. As others have mentioned, it is very simple to get to Szecheneyi, which is one of the reasons that we decided to go there.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you to everybody for your input. I don’t think we can go to wrong if we end up choosing Széchenyi and we will only have a few hours. I was leaning towards Gellért because of a recommendation from a Hungarian neighbour. However, their website indicates they will be closing sometime in 2023 for a renovation but they don’t have a date yet.

Posted by
18723 posts

It is fun and it is part of the culture. If you are the slightest bit shy about rubbing cheeks in a locker room, get a cabana (basically a closet).

Posted by
195 posts

I'll throw my vote in for Széchenyi as well ( I know, no surprise there!). We didn't go on our first two trips to Budapest becaue we thought "why waste time sitting in water when there is so much to do?" On our third visit, we had such an early arrival that a cousin recommended we drop our bags at the hotel and head to Széchenyi with her, so we did. LOVED IT. Now, we go at least twice on every visit. In between visits, I think about it all the time.

I recommend that you go in the morning - it's less crowded (the young crowd shows up arond noon), you'll see more Hungarian patrons there for their self-directed physio, and you'll LOVE it. I've actually seen someone approach the pool with a cane and a limp, swim laps (practically vertically), and then emerge from the pool and walk normally, carrying the cane as if it were a shopping bag. I'm certain I saw a few decades being erased.

You won't regret going. There is no need to purchase tickets ahead of time. Bring towels (your hotel can provide) and be sure to have flip-flops. A swim cap is only necessary if you want to swim laps in the center lap pool. Rent a cabin (can be shared with the group) so you can change and store your items, find a group of chairs and then relax. Be sure to check out the indoor pools too, and the stinkier, the better! You'll feel refreshed and renewed and ready to take on the day.

Posted by
1194 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
Szechenyi. I think, I hope the party experience was a bad day at the bath. Best time to visit is winter when the steam rises off the open air baths. But I digress. The Gellert is beautiful and touristed. Szechenyi is a bit funky as it is more locally used. Built for the thousand year 1896 anniversary.

As for the people being comfortable with their bodies. Well, welcome to Europe. But in Hungary my wife was thrilled. She fit right in. Actually, for the first time in years she felt szelte.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
1379 posts

At the risk of being a wet towel, if you don't have a lot of time in Budapest there a lot of other worthwhile things you can do instead of taking a half-day bath. Two months ago we spent 3 nights/2 days there strolling around the city and visiting some of its major sites - including walking through City Park and ducking into the lobby of the Széchenyi Baths. While beautiful, the building was worn and seemed dated but we only got a small glimpse of the pool area. My wife is known to enjoy a good spa and even she agreed we had better things to do.

Posted by
18723 posts

wgayle27

I hope you have more than two days before you sail, and I hope you are staying in Pest. But no matter how long or where you can make the most of it and enjoy it.

Ive come to realize over the years you can do these trips on two levels, Top Ten and Deep. With a couple of days the Top Ten is possible and really worth it and fairly easy. Just take a moment to learn where the stops are on the M1 metro, 47/49, 4/6 and 2 Tram. One of those passes almost every sight and site. Sounds like a lot but they interconnect so moving through the city is easy and the views are great. But get a TravelCard; and if you are staying in Buda, the City Taxi App. My favorite guide for a short trip https://www.amazon.com/Eyewitness-Budapest-Pocket-Travel-Guide/dp/024146286X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3FR152X04O851&keywords=eyewitness+top+ten+budapest&qid=1684697757&sprefix=eyewitness+top+ten+budapes%2Caps%2C136&sr=8-1

To bath or not to bath, that is the question. Sure, if it will leave you with a good cultural memory.

I will be in and out of Budapest all through the month of June; wave if you see me.

Posted by
155 posts

We’re arriving in Budapest 1 Oct midday for 3 nights before going on a Viking cruise and I’m looking at Szechenyl Baths for morning of 2nd day. Prices have increased dramatically since RS 6th Edition to 9,400 Ft pp and SB web page says no rental of towels etc. Question #1 is about bathing suits as there are a number of references to speedos and bikinis. Do I need a speedo instead of my usual swim trunks? It is about 50 years since I wore or had a speedo.
Q #2 is about security in the lockers for passports and credit cards? Any problems?

Posted by
18723 posts

Wear what is comfortable. A swim cap is reqyured for the lap pool. Lockers are safe (they give you a watch looking thing with a magnet that unlocks and locks your locker). Towels? From your hotel or buy one that says "Budapest" on it for a few dollars outside the Szechenyi bath house. You also need flip flops.

I will be there in a day or two and will make sure the towel vendor is still there and maybe get the cost. I still use my souvineer from a lot of years ago.

I've been coming here fir 20 years and ashamed to admit that before last week I had never been to the Lukács Bath. If it's your first time in a Budapest bath, then Gellert or Széchenyi makes sense. But 2nd or 3rd trip try
Lukács Bath where odds are you and 2 others will be tge only non-Hungarian.

Posted by
37 posts

We'll be visiting Budapest on October 13th and 14th and are planning on a visit to the Szechenyi Baths. We'll just be getting off the plane on the 13th so I was wondering about the towel situation. Sounds like from the thread they no longer rent towels? Is it still possible to buy a towel outside the baths or should we bring one in our carry on bag (along with our suits)? Thanks!

Posted by
18723 posts

Tell you what. Tomorrow I will go up to baths and make sure the vendors are still there. It was sort of an outdoor concession. Otherwise take a hotel towel.

Posted by
18723 posts

It is 2:30 pm on a beautiful 68F day in Budapest City Park.

They have done a lot of work the past few years and the park, especially around the bath house is beautiful.

Among the "improvements" are the now gone street vendors selling towels and shower caps.

Sorry, you will need to bring your own.

Do not forget flip flops too, and a shower cap if you want to do the lap pool.

Posted by
37 posts

Thanks for checking Mr. E! We'll definitely bring our own towels.

Posted by
41 posts

I went to Széchenyi Baths a number of years ago, prior to Covid. I'm in 60's and didn't find it to be a party crowd but I was there during daytime hours--maybe it's different at night. The locker room seemed to be well guarded but nonetheless, I didn't leave any valuables in the locker. I used one of those waterproof pouches with a shoulder strap. I would never, ever, take the chance of leaving valuables such as a passport or credit card in a locker at a spa facility.

When I was there in mid-October, I personally didn't find the outside pool experience to be too pleasant. Typically I don't go into a pool unless the temps are in the upper 80's to 90's. I felt it was too chilly. I did try it for awhile though and I went into all of the indoor pools too.

It was okay and something worth doing once but I don't think I'd bother again.