Did you know that Budapest has no less than nine thermal baths and a staggering 123 thermal springs? When planning our mother-daughter-weekend in Budapest, visiting one of those thermal baths was top of our itinerary. And with so much choice, we decided on a visit to the Szechenyi Baths. But is this the best thermal bath in Budapest? Or should we have gone to one of the others? Well, let me tell you all about our afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths and you can decide for yourself.
When it comes to mother-daughter-weekends, our usual time slot for years was the August bank holiday weekend (ok, with the exception of visiting the Vienna Christmas markets obviously, not many of those around in August). But when it came to planning our Budapest weekend, we also decided we’d rather not go in August. As visiting a thermal bath in Budapest (or anywhere really) in the height of summer didn’t sound much fun. Much more appealing when it is cold outside (maybe even with a little snow on the ground?). Therefore, we settled for a weekend in November instead.
Not sure if the one we chose was the best thermal bath in Budapest, but we had heard good things and were very much looking forward to a relaxing afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths.
Visiting the best thermal bath in Budapest. Which one should we pick?
Deciding which of the thermal baths to visit wasn’t easy. There are nine thermal baths in Budapest after all. And they all looked great. However, since we were only spending three days in Budapest, we knew we wouldn’t have enough time to check them all out. So, instead we decided to go for the biggest one, the Szechenyi Baths. Built in 1913, the Szechenyi Thermal Baths is actually the biggest medical bath in Europe, not just in Budapest.
Located in the Budapest City Park, the Szechenyi Baths might not be as central as some of the others (Gellert Bath is right next to Liberty Bridge for example). But it is convenient to get to via the M1 underground and is only a short walk from the station.
What to pack for an afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths
As we had pre-booked our tickets before even going to Budapest, we knew for sure that we would go and spend an afternoon at Szechenyi Baths. And could pack for it accordingly.
In addition to your swimming costume (no nude bathing allowed here) you will need to bring bath slippers and a towel. I would strongly recommend you also bring a bath robe, especially when visiting in winter. As you will have to step outdoor to walk to and from the changing area and if you want to use the outdoor pools, if can get a bit chilly. I didn’t pack one (since I don’t actually own one), but mum luckily packed one. Which I shamelessly borrowed when I decided to have a walk around (and take photos). No worries, no mums were harmed, I left her in the warm water meanwhile.
Should you wish to do some actual lane swimming, you will also need to bring a swimming cap. The Szechenyi Baths has one outdoor swimming pool. But access is with cap only and they check frequently that no one is in without one. Good thing I read that a few days before our Budapest trip and could quickly order two caps.
If you forgot anything, for your afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths, you could easily rent it at the entrance, not a big deal. But if you want to save yourself some money (and the hassle of queuing upon entry), it is best to come prepared.
Oh, I would also recommend you pack yourself some snacks and maybe some water. All that bathing in hot water sure left us hungry and thirsty.
An Afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths – How much does it cost?
When we visited in November 2019, we paid 22 Euros per adult. This was for the actual ticket, fast entry (to avoid the long queues at the ticket counter) and a cabin (changing room). If you only want a locker, the price will be less.
Current ticket prices (February 2021): A day ticket with cabin is 22 Euros during the week and 24 Euros on weekends (prices are actually a little cheaper when you book in Hungarian Forint rather than Euro but check if you’ll have to pay extra exchange rates on your credit card).
Please note, the pool is not suitable for children under 14.
How much time should I allow for a visit to the Szechenyi Baths?
That’s the big question. Is an afternoon really enough at the Szechenyi Baths?
Well, your ticket is valid all day, so in theory you could go first thing in the morning and spend the entire day hopping the various pools.
As we knew we had limited time and obviously wanted to see plenty other things beside the best thermal bath in Budapest, we decided to spend the morning exploring Budapest and the afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths. Our entry slot was booked for 4 pm. Since the pool would be open until late, that should give us more than enough time.
That being said, we ‘only’ spent about 3 hours in there in the end. But it was good to know we could have stayed longer if we wished.
What to expect at the Szechenyi Baths?
Now that I’ve told you what to pack for the Szechenyi Baths, how much a trip to Szechenyi Baths will cost and how much time you should allow for your afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths, how about we finally get to the actual visit. For you to know what to expect, I’ll just tell you about our experience (in as little or as great detail as I can remember… I really shouldn’t have waited 15 months before finalising this post).
Mum and I had booked our tickets for entry around 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. We deliberately picked the afternoon, as we figured we’d be too tired for any sightseeing after a few hours in the Thermal baths. So instead, we explored Budapest in the morning, before spending the afternoon and evening at the Szechenyi Baths. As already mentioned, we booked fast entry (so no queueing upon arrival) and a cabin.
When we arrived, at first it was a little confusing where we actually needed to go. There was a queue at the tills to our left, but since we already had pre-booked, we figured we could ignore that. Eventually we spotted the counter at the right for pre-booked tickets. Showing my printed-out order confirmation, mum and I both received a chip bracelet that would give us access to the Thermal Baths. And that would also open our cabin (or at least one of the bracelets would, the other one was only for access to the bath).
We went through into the changing area and to our little cabin. The cabins are cute, but they sure aren’t roomy. With the two of us it was a bit of a faff to get changed at the same time. But we could manage. The changing rooms are actually divided in women and men’s sections, so if you visit as a couple or family, you should probably allow for separate changing bags.
For security purposes, we had already left any jewellery, passports and valuables back in the hotel and only brought a limited amount of cash (and my phone obviously, how else would I be able to take photos). Once changed, we left all our stuff in the cabin, locked it and went off to explore the Szechenyi Baths.
The spa pools are in a separate building, opposite the changing room wing. We had to go outdoor and across the courtyard (we would come back later, as this is where all the outdoor pools are located) to get to the bath house.
The layout of the pools is actually quite clever. As you can go from one pool to the other and eventually exit at the other side of the bath house (and back into the courtyard with the outdoor pools). Making it easy for you to explore all pools. And that is exactly what we did during our afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths.
Hopping from one spa pool to the other, gradually making our way through the indoor pools until we eventually made it to the other end.
Sunday afternoon was a rather popular time to visit the Szechenyi Baths and some of the pools (especially the warmer ones and large outdoor pools) were rather crowded. But we could still enjoy all the pools. When we got to the middle of the indoor pools, there was a semi-circular pool with some relaxing sun loungers around. Perfect opportunity for a little break before continuing with the other half of the indoor spa pools.
Whenever we entered one of the pools, we would leave our slippers on the side, hang up our bath robe and towel and go in….
Pro tip: bring shoes that are easily recognisable. Nothing worse than trying to work out which of those 50 pairs of black flip flops is yours.
But having done the round through the indoor pools, we could certainly understand why it was mandatory to bring slippers. The floor can become very slippery with so many people going in and out of pools. And the last you want to do is fall flat on those tiled floors. In hindsight we regretted not bringing more sturdy slippers rather than a rather flimsy pair of flip flops. Learn from our mistakes and come prepared.
Once we tested every indoor pool, we went back out the other side and straight into the outdoor pools (let’s not forget, it was the middle of November, so not really very comfortable hanging around outside the water for too long whilst soaking wet).
After a quick dip in the outdoor pool, I ‘parked’ mum there for the time being, got my swimming cap and went into the outdoor swimming pool for some lane swimming.
With some of the warm pools being super crowded, it was a really pleasant change to have the lane swimming pool almost exclusively to myself. I think the most ‘crowded’ it became during my hour of swimming was five people. There were a few occasional swimmers that entered without a cap, but they didn’t even get to the end of the lane before being reminded that access was solely with swimming cap.
All in all, our afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths lasted around 3 hours. After that, we were well soaked and a little hungry. Time to head back to the hotel, get changed and go and find some food.
Which pools are available at the Szechenyi Baths?
In total the Szechenyi Baths consist of 18 different pools: 15 indoor and 3 outdoor.
The indoor spa pools range in temperature from 28º C to 40º C (that is 82 to 104 Fahrenheit) with a cooling pool at 20º (68 Fahrenheit).
The outdoor pools vary from a ‘cool’ 26º to 28º C (78 to 82 Fahrenheit) for the swimming pool to 30 to 34º C (86 to 93 Fahrenheit) for the activity pool and a very warm 38º C (100 Fahrenheit) for the Thermal pool. With a temperature of just above 0 outside, it did feel even warmer. And we could see loads of steam coming of the water.
Szechenyi Bath recommends its thermal spa pools for degenerative diseases of the joints, articular inflammation and for orthopaedic reasons. But you obviously don’t need to have any chronic pains to enjoy an afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths. I sure did.
Is the Szechenyi Bath the best Thermal bath in Budapest?
Since we only spent an afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths and didn’t have time to visit any of the others, I can’t give a definite answer whether this is the best thermal bath in Budapest or not. But I can definitely say that we enjoyed our visit. I would happily visit the Szechenyi Baths again and can recommend it to anyone visiting Budapest. That being said, if given the chance, maybe next time I would try one of the others, just for comparison. After all, how else am I supposed to decide with one is the best thermal bath in Budapest?
Tell me, did you spend an afternoon at Szechenyi Baths? Or one of the other Thermal Baths in Budapest? And did you enjoy it?