The city of Budapest sits on top of over 100 natural thermal springs and is thus officially known as ‘city of spas’. With several large public spas located all over the the city, visiting a spa or thermal bath during a city break to Budapest is an absolute must do.
The larger baths usually have a range of facilities for visitors to use such as saunas, jacuzzi’s, thermal hot pools and swimming pools, which can all be used for a single admission price (with extras such as massages at an additional cost). Many locals visit them to ease their aches and pains as the hot waters are known for their healing and therapeutic effects.
The two most popular thermal baths in Budapest are Gellért and Széchenyi. During our recent stay in the city we visited both of these thermal baths and loved our experience at each one. Here is our guide to the best thermal baths and spas in Budapest:
Gellért Thermal Baths in Budapest
These elegant thermal baths shares it’s building with the famous art nouveau Hotel Gellért. Located on the Buda side of the city (just by the river Danube and at the foot of Gellért Hill), the pools use water from Gellért hill’s mineral hot springs. The water contains calcium, magnesium, hydrocarbonate, alkalis, chloride, sulfate and fluoride which are great for medicinal purposes.
The baths opened in 1918 and are famous for it’s classic Art Nouveau architecture. The highlights of the spa are the beautifully decorated indoor thermal pools – the symmetry was on point and it was like stepping into a Wes Anderson film!
Outside there is a huge open-air swimming pool which uses a 1920s wave machine to creates artificial waves every 30 minutes and was really fun. There is also a communal thermal pool and a Finnish sauna with cold pool, plus plenty of sun loungers for relaxing.
Spa treatments and massage therapies are also available but I did not book any of these so cannot comment on them.
I did find the layout of Gellért Spa slightly confusing and lacking in proper signage to guide you around. We had to do a lot of figuring out by ourselves unfortunately but got our heads around it quite quickly! However you can ask for a map when you purchase your ticket or download one and print here.
Gellért Thermal Baths opening hours
Address: Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4, 1118 Hungary
Opening hours: everyday: 6am – 8pm
Entry fee: Prices start from 5 900 HUF
Széchenyi thermal baths in Budapest
Built in 1913, this famous thermal bath is one of the largest complexes of spas in Europe with 15 indoor baths and 3 large outdoor pools. Located in City Park, the baths are housed inside a beautiful and grand Neo-baroque palace on the Pest side of the Danube river. The architecture is pretty stunning and it is a really wonderful setting for relaxing in the baths.
Széchenyi is very popular with both locals and tourists and can get incredibly busy. We arrived at 9am and found it was already starting to fill up, and by 10.30am all the sun loungers had been taken. If you are a early riser then consider heading down when the spa opens at 6am. Massage therapies and beauty treatments are also available but we didn’t book any of these during our visit.
Unfortunately the main central outdoor pool was closed due to refurbishments which was a bit annoying but luckily the two smaller outdoor hot pools were open. We spent 90% of my time in these pools and felt extremely relaxed chilling in the thermal waters, whilst basking in the summer sunshine. We made sure to visit the indoor pools before we left and had a bit of an explore to make sure we didn’t miss anything.
Like Gellért – the layout is rather confusing and there is a major lack in signage or maps. After 10 minutes of searching, we had to ask an attendant for directions to get to the outdoor pools. They do have a map available for you to download and print out if you wish here.
Every Saturday night from 10.30pm – 3am they hold a SPAty (clever!), where they serve booze, play music and light up the pools with colourful laser beams. It looks like so much fun and is high on our list for our next trip back to Budapest!
Széchenyi thermal bath opening hours
Address: 1146 Budapest, Állatkerti körút 11.
Opening hours: everyday: 6am – 10pm
Entry fee: From 4 900 HUF
In summary we had a great time at both, but Széchenyi Baths was marginally our favourite of the two. The reason being is that we enjoyed using outdoor pools more than indoor ones and we thought the outdoor setting was more stunning at Széchenyi then at Gellért.
Tips for visiting the thermal baths in Budapest
- You can pay a little bit extra to have your own private changing cabin instead of a locker. It is a bit nicer to have your own personal space for changing, and you can store your belongings in there.
- Arrive early to avoid crowds in the pools, long ticket queues and to reserve a sun lounger if you want one.
- Bring your own towel and flip flops otherwise you will have to pay to rent some. The grounds can be quite rough to walk along barefoot, and some parts can be very slippery (we made the mistake of forgetting ours both times!).
- Bring your own water bottle as you can refill this at many of the spas.
- Allow at least half a day on your itinerary for visiting each of these baths.
- Massages and spa treatments should be booked in advance to avoid disappointment.
- Admission prices are slightly cheaper if you visit on a weekday rather than a weekend.
- Consider booking an advance skip the line ticket if you plan on visiting during peak hours (midday onwards).
- Download a map of the spa building to your phone so you do not miss anything during your visit (or ask for a map when you purchase your ticket).
- Some swimming areas it is compulsory to wear a swimming cap (you can rent one). These areas include the main indoor pool at Gellért, and the largest of the many outdoor pools at Széchenyi.
Here are some highly rated accommodation suggestions for all types of budget in Budapest.
Hostel accommodations that come highly rated include:
If you are looking for something mid range then these hotels are in excellent locations with great reviews:
Alternatively if you are looking for something more special then treat yourself to a stay at one of these beautiful hotels in Budapest:
Check out our other Budapest blog posts
- Top things to do on a weekend visit to Budapest
- Eating our way around Budapest with Taste Hungary
- Szimpla Kert – exploring Budapest’s best ruin bar
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Photography is by Caroline Keyzor and is copyrighted. Please do not use without permission.