Soaking at the Szechenyi Baths

Picture this: Baroque-style baths, filled with thermally-heated water, that are outdoors and open year-round.

If you’re a Midwesterner like me (or just anyone not from Europe, really), chances are you can’t picture this scene. Because we simply don’t have places like this at home.

Which is perhaps why I was so taken with the idea of visiting the Szechenyi Baths and Spa while I was in Budapest.

These famous baths were the first such thermal baths built on the Pest side of the city, opening in their original incarnation in 1881. Located within City Park, today Szechenyi makes for a great place to escape from the heat that descends upon Budapest in the summertime — at least, that’s why I decided to go.

That, and because the neo-Baroque buildings (erected in the early 1900s) look like this:

Yeah, I could definitely spend a few hours here.

Visiting the Szechenyi Baths somewhat reminded me of visiting the Blue Lagoon in Iceland earlier this year. Except on an even grander scale.

Szechenyi has 15 different pools, a mixture of both indoor and outdoor, hot and cool. I stuck to the outdoor pools on such a warm Saturday afternoon, and even the crowds couldn’t keep the smile off my face.

There’s the swimming pool — the largest of the three outdoor pools — with a summer water temperature of about 79 degrees F (26 degrees C). I spent most of my time sitting on the steps here, soaking my legs in the cool blue water.

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

The swimming pool

There’s also a smaller pool with hot-tub-like jets and a true whirlpool, with a summer temperature between 89 and 93 degrees F (32-34 degrees C).

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

The whirlpool

And there’s a thermal “sitting pool” with a temperature of about 100 degrees F (38 degrees C) — far, far too hot to stay in on a summer day. I got in, and immediately got back out. Signs recommended you not spend more than 20 minutes here.

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

The “sitting pool”

Like at the Blue Lagoon, the waters in Szechenyi are said to have healing powers thanks to their mineral content — things like fluoride, calcium, magnesium, hydro-carbonate, sodium, sulphate and more are in abundance here. The waters are so rejuvenating, in fact, that there’s actually a physiotherapy “hospital” on-site, offering up treatments and therapy for all sorts of ailments.

Szechenyi’s website also mentions a drinking well that is supposed to cure all sorts of digestive and respiratory disorders, but I didn’t notice it while I was there. But, then again, I didn’t go exploring very much beyond the outdoor pools (there are a whole host of indoor pools, saunas, and massage areas that I didn’t even see!).

I was perfectly content to just soak in the cool water and enjoy the fabulous people-watching that a place like this always offers up.

Things to Know Before You Go

Some things worth noting if you’re thinking of visiting:

  • Szechenyi is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday.
  • The Bath is located in City Park on the Pest side of Budapest, and is easily accessible. You can reach it using the yellow metro line (M1), or you can walk up Andrassy Boulevard like I did, making a pit stop at Heroes Square along the way.
  • A daily ticket with a locker will cost you 3400 HUF ($14.90 USD) on a weekday, or 3550 HUF ($15.50 USD) on the weekend. With this option, you’ll get an electronic, waterproof bracelet to wear that locks and unlocks a locker of your choosing, giving you unlimited entry.
  • The Gellert Baths are similar to Szechenyi and also popular in Budapest, but I was told they were slightly more touristy (and more expensive) to visit. There were certainly plenty of tourists at Szecehnyi, but also a lot of local Hungarians.

Tips For Visiting Szechenyi

If you’re thinking of visiting the Szechneyi Baths while in Budapest (which I highly recommend!), here are some practical tips to consider:

  • Go early, or go late. I arrived a bit before 1 p.m. on a toasty Saturday afternoon. I didn’t really have to wait in line, and was able to find an empty locker easily. If I had wanted to sun myself on a chair by one of the pools, I would have had no problem finding an empty one of those, either. However, when I left Szechenyi after 4 p.m., there was a line around the corner of would-be bathers eager to get inside.
  • Leave the modesty at home. This is Europe, which means open changing rooms and less of an obsession with nudity than in some other parts of the world. When I visited, there were separate locker rooms for men and women, but no enclosed changing rooms or private shower stalls. (This may not be the case in winter, however, based on Christy and Kali’s visit in January).
  • Bring flip-flops. I only brought my hiking sandals with me, and tucked them safely away in my locker before heading out to the pools. Poor decision! The stones around the pools were almost unbearably hot underfoot, and I was longing for a pair of flip-flops before long.
  • Bring a towel. I didn’t see any options to rent a towel (though you could buy one), so bringing one of your own is a good idea.
  • Bring a swim cap. If you actually want to swim in the cool-watered outdoor swimming pool, you’ll need a swim cap/shower cap — you aren’t allowed to fully get into the pool unless your hair is covered. There are lifeguards stationed at each end of the pool to enforce this rule.

All in all, I was very happy to pay $15 to spend a few hours here, even on my own. It’s the perfect place to relax, or to recover from a night of Ibiza-like partying on Margaret Island (where all the locals go, I was told).

If you have some free time in Budapest (at any time of year), I highly suggest “taking the waters” at Szechenyi.

——

What do you think? Would you visit these baths in Budapest?

 

47 Comments

  • Joseph says:

    The Szechenyi Baths are the ones I’ve experienced a couple of years ago – it was a lot of fun, it wasn’t so warm (it was around Easter). There is an indoor pool with powerful jets and when you are in it, it’s like being in a washing machine. Glad you enjoyed it. Gellert Baths are indeed more touristy and expensive, though I really love the design of the hotel/bath complex!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I think it’d be fun to go back to in the winter, when the outdoor pools are all steamy! I’d definitely have to check out the indoor pools then, too.

  • Christine says:

    Ahhh I loved the baths while I was in Budapest! The indoor bits are the best part–I had so much fun going from hot to cold to hot and then people watching outside! I went to the Gellert baths as well–definitely a bit fancier, and it has this awesome wave pool! Good fun, both of them. Glad you enjoyed it–ps look for fruit soup while in Budapest, best chilly snack on a hot day!

  • Fred says:

    I love the baths. Heroes Square + Szecehnyi is about as cool of a sightseeing day as you can have anywhere.

    BTW, your pics are great. The colors of the water and buildings are beautiful!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I totally agree – this was such a perfect day of sightseeing (I did the Danube and Buda Castle the day before) with a nice relaxing ending.

  • This is one of my favorite experiences in Europe. I went to the Szechenyi Baths 5 years ago and LOVED it. It’s definitely an experience unlike anything we have here in America. The best part about it is that most of the people there are locals.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      We definitely don’t have anything like this in the U.S.! Which is perhaps why I enjoyed it so much.

  • Very interesting! Such a picturesque place. I really must get to Budapest next year.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Yes, you should definitely go! It’s a much cooler place to visit than most people realize (I finding that to be true about a lot of Eastern Europe, actually!)

  • Candace says:

    Wow, Amanda – I’m not sure what I would’ve loved more… the pools themselves or those gorgeous buildings surrounding them. Your photos are so vibrant and capture their color and design really well. Great post!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I couldn’t stop taking photos (both real and mental). The yellow buildings paired with the blue water were just amazing.

  • Curt says:

    I spent an afternoon at these baths back in 2006. After arriving in Budapest with a nasty cold and spending the first day or so in my hotel room, the baths were a great way to feel normal again. Lovely photos!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      It was the perfect way to spend a warm afternoon, though I’m convinced you could enjoy this place in any kind of weather!

  • It looks like a resort pool somewhere in the Caribbean until you see the obviously European palace in the background. My brain can’t quite figure out the contrast and realize that these are thermal pools, not chlorinated swimming pools.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I know, right?? It’s crazy. The bottoms are just painted that blue, I think. And the perfect blue sky helped too, I’m sure!

  • Emma says:

    I’m going to Budapest this fall, and I wasn’t sure which baths I should visit. Definitely picking the Szechenyi Baths so I can admire that architecture — your photos are stunning!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Definitely go to Szechenyi! Though, I’ve heard the architecture at Gellert is also pretty amazing (but that one, I’m told, is more expensive and more touristy).

  • Wow! This looks really cool Amanda! It seems like you had a great time. 😀

  • Angie Yim says:

    The saunas are unbearably hot I don’t understand how some people can stay there longer than 10 seconds. Love the pics, lost all of mine due to my faulty phone camera :(

  • Arti says:

    What I loved the most about this post or rather about the place is the most beautiful combination of the colors, yellow colored building and blue colored water… Such a sight to the eyes!
    Have a happy week ahead Amanda:)

  • That looks like absolute paradise! Amazing photos.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Will. And on that particular day, it was indeed paradise. I’m actually still thinking about it daily as I travel through scorching Eastern Europe.

  • Wow! We went in January and it looked like a completely different place, surrounded by snow. he hit water was certainly welcoming at that time of year. Looks lovely in the sun too though.

  • I smile everytime I see pictures of this place. it is so beautiful. If I visit Budapest, I will make a stop here. That is for sure.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Good to hear, Ruth. I’ll definitely be suggesting it to anyone going to Budapest from now on!

  • What’s up with all that European nudity? I remember you told a similar story about Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. In any case, it looks like a great place for time spending, and I was happy to hear there are cooler pools. Did you feel it was easy to manage through the city without speaking the language?

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Haha, yeah, it reminded me a bit of the Blue Lagoon in that respect. I kind of like it, though – the fact that people aren’t so self-conscious here. It’s refreshing.

      And yes, Hungary and Romania were both super easy to navigate only speaking English!

  • I spent lots of time here many years ago while backpacking through eastern Europe with girlfriends. It certainly wasn’t as crowded as when you went. Your images captured the colors beautifully.

  • Oh, how I miss Szechenyi!! How funny that you went to beat the heat while we visited the baths to warm up a little! It definitely looks more crowded in the summer, but I would imagine it’s a bit more pleasant.

  • Kieran Chapman says:

    Blue sky, beautiful yellow architecture and glistening blue water make for some incredible pictures. The crowds look manic, but at least this place comes highly recommended. Great tips and a great little guide to perhaps sometimes uncommon tourist destination. If I’m ever lucky enough to be passing through Budapest I’ll be sure to check it out!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      The place definitely was crowded, but I think that’s to be expected on a gorgeous Saturday in late June. Despite the crowds, it was well worth the time and money!

  • Interesting architecturally…
    They hold cultural events and even concerts there.

  • Sher S says:

    Amanda, I LOVE your blog. I love the header art; it so aptly describes your travels. I LOVED spending a day at the baths! I could have literally been there all day. I loved one of the indoor pools which had these amazing jets that converted the pool into a “merry-go-round” every half an hour :) I cannot wait to go back in the winter!

    • Amanda says:

      I would love to go back in the winter, too! Probably would be a bit chilly if you wanted to get to the outdoor pools, but I think it would be so worth it!

      (And thanks! So glad you like my blog! :) )

  • Kristoffer says:

    Thank you for these great tips! I’m going to Budapest later today and wasn’t sure if it was worth going to the baths, but your post have persuaded me 😀 It’ll be 24 degrees tomorrow so I guess it’s the perfect setting…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge