Soaking at the Szechenyi Baths

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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.

Szechenyi Baths, 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 weather, whether it's the cold Budapest winters or the heat that descends upon the city 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:

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

Yeah, I could definitely spend a few hours here.

Going to the Szechenyi Baths in summer

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

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

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!).

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

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 to the Szechenyi Baths

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

  • The Szechenyi Baths are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day in the summer.
  • 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 full-day ticket with a locker will cost you 5500 HUF ($22 USD) on a weekday, or 5700 HUF ($23 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.

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

Tips for visiting the Szechenyi Baths

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.
  • 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. Pick up a quick-dry travel towel before your trip.
  • 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.

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

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.

IF YOU GO

Want to head to the Szechenyi Baths in Budapest? Here are some tour options to check out:

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

 

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Visiting the Szechenyi Baths in Budapest

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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49 Comments on “Soaking at the Szechenyi Baths

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  1. Unfortunately I have no time to stay for one day in this nice Thermal Bath , Do they allow a visit to watch the facility for more or less 15 minutes during My Business Visit to Budapest , So next visit to Budapest will spend a day there during my personal Vacation ???

      I’m honestly not sure – you would need to reach out to them to check on that.

    […] long ago harnessed these and built a handful of beautiful thermal baths. I personally recommend the Szechenyi Baths near Heroes’ Square — the beautiful 100-year-old bath house has 15 indoor baths and 3 […]

    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…

      I hope you enjoy it! I had a really nice day there.

    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!

      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! 🙂 )

    […] in the world where you can experience traditional Turkish baths dating back to the 16th century. Szechenyi Baths is Budapest’s largest medicinal bath located in the beautiful City Park. It boasts 18 indoor and […]

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

      I loved the architecture – and the bright yellow color!

    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!

      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!

    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.

      It just proves that it’s a year-round destination!

    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.

      It was a warm Saturday in June, so I assume that explains the crowds! But I still loved it.

    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?

      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!

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