Panoramic shot of Széchenyi Thermal Baths

Soak It Up: The Best of Budapest’s Thermal Baths

23 May 2019 By Ryan Burton
Panoramic shot of Széchenyi Thermal Baths

With its medley of natural springs (123 to be exact) running beneath its surface, Budapest is renowned across the globe for its stream of traditional spas and thermal baths.

And while this unique epicentre of culture flaunts a wealth of world-class attractions, city break lovers are drawn towards its centuries old bathing traditions. There’s nowhere else quite like Budapest!

Since Roman times, the Hungarian capital’s calming waters has been a source of relaxation and recovery. Fast forward to the modern day and this European favourite continues to help visitors heal in body and mind with its patchwork of chill-out spots. But which one is best for you? Our essential guide to the best of Budapest’s baths is here to help you find out!

Gellért Baths

 

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We start our tantalising thermal journey at Gellért Baths – one of Budapest’s most striking establishments. Flaunting its sparkling blue waters amid mosaic walls, porcelain tiles and Roman style columns, you’ll feel like you’re bathing in a cathedral. This Art Nouveau marvel is one for the architecture lovers!

Opening in 1918 along with the Gellért Hotel, crowds would flock to these natural hot springs for their healing properties. And while it still remains popular today, its found a new purpose in providing a laid-back social scene for locals and holidaymakers.

As well as outdoor and indoor pools to dip into, you’ll also find steam saunas for lounging and treatment rooms inviting you to savour a soothing massage. Then finally, there’s the large outdoor terrace – the perfect place for a spot of sun worshipping during the summer months.

How much does it cost? Admission starts at 6,600 HUF (approx. £18), with weekend entry setting you back an extra 200 HUF (50p) more.

Where is it? Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4, 1118 Hungary

Opening times

Monday to Sunday: 6am to 8pm

Did you know? Budapest has held its world-famous title, the ‘City of Spas’, since 1934.

Rudas Baths

 

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Dating back to the 16th century, this is one of the city’s longest standing bath houses. Back when it was built, Budapest was under Ottoman rule and its Turkish traditions have not waned as the years have gone by.

One foot inside the octagonal pool chamber is all it takes for you to be transfixed by the ancient atmosphere embedded into its stone walls. All that’s left to do is find a spot and look up at the impeccable stained glass decorated dome. Another unique feature is the drinking hall, where you’re inviting to taste the mineral-rich waters for yourself.

But wait… there’s more! Thanks to a renovation in 2017, other highlights include spic and span treatment areas and an onsite restaurant. And there’s of course the ace card placed up the sleeve of this alluring complex. This trump card comes in the form of a modern rooftop pool that offers captivating views of the Danube. With the ‘Pest’ skyline at your disposal, an Instagram shot here will make you the envy of all your followers.

How much does it cost? It’ll cost 4,000 HUF (approx. £11) for full access to the pool and thermal baths, with a weekend visit coming at 400 HUF (£1) supplement.

Where is it? Budapest, Döbrentei tér 9, 1013 Hungary

Opening times

Sunday to Thursday: 6am to 10pm

Friday to Saturday: 6am to 4am

Top tip: If you’re looking for a laid-back bathing experience then avoid going on the weekends.

Not surprisingly, an early morning visit to the baths is your best chance of dodging the big crowds. Aim to arrive between 6am and 9am for your dose of thermal serenity!

Széchenyi Thermal Baths

 

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Every must-see city boasts its own tourist mecca and this world-famous capital is no exception. Just like Times Square in New York City, Széchenyi Thermal Baths is where the crowds are flocking to.

As the largest spa complex in Europe it has enough room to accommodate them all but be aware, its colossal size can make navigating it a daunting prospect. Thankfully, there’s maps spread across the site to help you find your way around. Located in Budapest’s sprawling City Park, you’ll be drawn towards the yellow walls of a Neo-Baroque palace and glistening blue waters.

On the outside it’s seriously impressive but once you’re inside, there’s plenty more that will catch your eye. Steam rooms, whirlpools and a huge sauna can be found at the relaxation area while the trio of outdoor pools are heated up to 38 C (100 F). Meanwhile at the water’s edge, you’ll come across locals playing chess on floating boards. And we can’t forget about the beer spa, where you can sink pints whilst you bathe in malt, hop and barley infused mineral water.

How much does it cost? 5,800 HUF (approx. £15.50) will get you full access bath access and a locker. Weekend visits come at just a 200 HUF (50p) supplement.

Where is it? Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146 Hungary

Opening times

Monday to Sunday: 6am to 10pm

Did you know? No stranger to glitz and glamour, Budapest’s baths have welcomed some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Madonna shot scenes for her 1996 big screen hit, Evita, in Széchenyi, while Gellért played host to Ryan Gosling’s iconic GQ photoshoot.

Where to stay

    • Marmara Design Hotel: Bringing you closer to Budapest’s major attractions, the Marmara Design Hotel is just moments from St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Hungarian Parliament Building and River Danube. Alongside its stand-out location, the establishment’s 4 star facilities ensure a fantastic stay. Start your day with a buffet breakfast and end it in your modern room on your super comfy bed for pure rejuvenation.  
    • Royal Park Boutique: Providing only the highest standards and quality, this hotel deserves all of its fancy 4 stars. Greeting you with modern decor and a serene ambience, you’ll instantly feel at home. Rooms are equipped with all the essentials and Royal Suites come with additional perks. You’re also within walking distance to downtown Budapest.
    • Museum Hotel budapest: Awarded a Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor, it’s safe to say you’re in the best hands. Home to 104 soundproof rooms with contemporary interiors, a lobby bar with an extensive cocktail list and a wellness spa with a treatment list a mile long. When it comes to location, you’re in the centre of it all.

Veli Bej Baths

 

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Situated on the Buda side of the river, this traditional establishment may not be a draw for the big crowds but that’s what makes up its charm. Since its construction in 1575, Hungary’s capital has undergone mass changes, but this Ottoman gem has stood the test of time and now serves as one of the city’s best-kept secrets.

Budapest’s oldest Turkish bath has undergone a few tweaks over the years to stay in operation. But despite numerous renovations and extensions, its old-world splendour has been preserved. The best example can be found at the indoor pool area, where the dome its housed in still has some of the original stonework (that’s almost 445 years old!). Surrounded by four plunge pools, you’re ensured of a relaxing soak here!

There’s other areas well worth checking out and that includes its newest feature – the wellness section where steam baths, saunas and massage saunas can be enjoyed. And with a Jacuzzi® and hydrotherapy tub also on hand, you can revel in being a part of history while experiencing the very best of what water therapy has to offer.

How much does it cost? 2,800 HUF (approx. £7.50) gets you full day access but three hour tickets for mornings and afternoons are even cheaper at 2,240 HUF (approx. £6).

Where is it? Budapest, Árpád Fejedelem útja 7, 1023 Hungary

Opening times

Monday to Sunday: 6am to 12pm and 3pm to 9pm

Top tip: A swimsuit, a pair of sandals and towel are the essential items you need for a trip to the baths.

And if you want to use the pool, swim caps are mandatory at most places. Your entry price will always include a locker with it.

Lukács Baths

 

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With springs dating back to the 12th century, the site where Lukács Baths stands is steeped in medicinal history. Originally used by the Knights of the Order of Saint John for curing diseases, it wasn’t until the 1880’s that it was transformed into a bath house institution.

As the years have passed, this superb healing complex has achieved legendary status among locals for its extensive array of spa amenities. The number of laid-back locals heavily outnumber the excitable tourists and that’s what makes this haven of tranquility both equally authentic and charming.

Unlike the more popular establishments across the city, you’ll have no trouble accessing all of the facilities – and there’s plenty of them to choose from! As well as the outdoor hot pool, there’s a steam room, Himalayan salt wall and drinking hall that serves up healing water by the glass. Water is supplied by the János Molnár Cave, considered by many to be the highest quality source of H20.

How much does it cost? 3,900 HUF (approx. £10.50) pays for your full day ticket and a locker, while a weekend visit takes the price to 4,100 HUF (approx. £11.50). Splash out an extra 600 HUF (£3) for one use of the sauna.

Where is it? Budapest, Frankel Leó út 25-29, 1023 Hungary

Opening times

Monday to Sunday: 6am to 10pm

Did you know? Budapest is a hotspot for solo travellers – especially among women. Find out why Hungary’s enchanting capital is the place to be for lone female jet-setters.

“This city attracts lots of solo travellers, is incredibly safe and there is plenty to see and do – so you won’t even have a second to feel bored.”

Palatinus Strand Baths

 

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Budapest’s thermal bath scene is not all about time worn traditions and ancient architecture – this spa crazy city is also about embracing the modern world. Located in the heart of Margaret Island – a parkland haven set between Buda and Pest – ‘Pala’, as its known by locals, provides a party atmosphere amid its splendid open air site.

Catering for younger crowds, this waterpark style complex comes complete with 11 outdoor pools, slides and a big wave machine, making it a big hit with families too. And with a great selection of food stalls and bars dotted around the green grass areas, you can quite easily make a big day of it here. Summer months are the best time to make the most of this fun-filled aqua playground.

The recent addition of an indoor section means that visits here aren’t exclusive to the hotter days of the year. Built in 2017, the gleaming wellness area invites you to sample its 36-degree thermal pool, saunas and choice of massage treatments.

How much does it cost? A weekday visit costs just 3,200 HUF (approx. £8.50) while weekend entry costs just an extra 400 HUF (£1). Three-hour tickets are also available and start from 2,400 HUF (approx. £6.40).

Where is it? Budapest, Soó Rezső stny. 1, 1003 Hungary

Opening times

Monday to Sunday: 8am to 8pm

Top tip: Bathing in hot waters can be thirsty work, so it’s always good to have a water bottle on you for endless refills and constant hydration.

So there you have it, that’s everything you need to know about Budapest’s thermal baths. If you’re planning a trip to this European epic, make sure you set aside time to rejuvenate poolside in the city!

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