A Guide to Budapests' Thermal Baths.
My guide to Budapests' Thermal Baths will help you choose which baths to visit and ensure you get the most out of your visit. A must do experience when visiting Budapest but it's very easy to end up going to the wrong one at the wrong time, getting completely overwhelmed and not fully enjoying or getting the full benefits from your visit. I've been lucky enough to have experienced most of the thermal spas in Budapest and have put together some of my tips plus extra information on prices and opening hours. It's pretty much everything you need to know about Budapests Thermal Baths.
Bathing in thermal waters has been part of everyday life in Budapest for centuries. Officially named "The City of Spas" Budapest sits on a patchwork of about 120 thermal springs. These waters have created a unique culture based on bathing and swimming and Hungarians credit them with physical and meditative healing. The restorative practice of balneotherapy, or “taking the waters,” has for centuries been touted as the cure-all for poor circulation, muscular aches, psoriasis, insomnia—you name it.
Budapest's love affair with medicinal water and therapeutic spas originated with the ancient Celts and Romans, continued with the Turkish occupation, and survived both world wars and soviet occupation. Today the baths continue to play their part in the social life of Budapests' residents, where friends and families meet to spend hours soaking in the hot pools while catching up. These days a visit to the city is not complete without experiencing one or two of these baths for yourself.
No baths operating date back to Roman times but some are a legacy of the Turkish occupation, others are Art Nouveau marvels and some are modern establishments boasting all the mod cons.
Which bath you choose is a matter of taste and what exactly calls to you. I've been to Budapest a few times now and each time I try out a different bath. They can be confusing so to get the full benefits here is my guide to Budapest's thermal baths.
Visiting the thermal baths - a couple of tips before you even get in the water
- When you arrive, the amount of entrance ticket options can be overwhelming but really you only need to make two choices.
- Do you want a locker or a private cabin? - A cabin is slightly more expensive.
- Do you want any treatments? - Massages tend to be really good value.
- After you have decided what you want and have paid you will be given a plastic wristband that looks sort of like a watch. This is to stay on you at all times as it pretty does everything.
- You then scan this at the turnstile to get in.
- Follow directions to either the lockers or cabin, find a member of staff, who will scan your "watch" and give you your locker or cabin number. Sometimes you can't see any staff, if this is the case, there should be a device on the wall which you hold your "watch up to and it will flash your assigned number.
- To open and lock your locker or cabin, you use your "watch" again by holding it up the locking device.
- You can rent towels, swimming hats, swimsuits, and flip-flops. All of which require a deposit and most of the baths only accept cash. You will need to scan your "watch" again to load the rental on to it. Make sure to get your towels etc before getting changed into your swimsuit as sometimes there is a bit of a queue.
- It’s a good idea to get 2 towels so you can leave one in your locker or cabin and have one to bring with you as you visit the different pools.
- I always recommend bringing or renting flip-flops, if you can, try and bring a bright coloured (and cheap) pair that you will recognise. You'd be surprised by the number of people who can't remember which ones are their own!
Széchenyi Thermal Baths
The Széchenyi Baths are, by far, the largest and the most famous of the Budapest thermal baths. The opulent Neo -baroque building was opened in 1913 and offers 3 outdoor pools, 15 indoor baths and 10 different sauna and steam rooms complete the huge complex.
Visiting the Szechenyi Baths
Located in the city park due to its size it has more a few entrances, don't worry too much about what entrance you use as everything is connected. On entering you will see a lot of options for different types of tickets and It will also be busy no matter what time you go at making it quite overwhelming.
If you want to have a private changing cabin, I would recommend using the rear entrance, from Állatkerti körút, as this is where the private changing cabins are located.
Check out the outdoor pools first. In the middle is the large, rectangle swimming pool, here you will find serious swimmers doing laps. Also, swim caps are required. At one end of the swimming pool is a warm pool with a large Jacuzzi in the centre and a lazy river. The water temperature here is 30°C/90°F (34°C/98°F in winter).
At the other end of the swimming pool is another warm pool with steaming 38°C/106°F waters. No matter what time of year you visit, you will always find men playing chess in the steaming water.
When you're ready, go inside and explore the 15 indoor pools, several steam baths and saunas. The indoor pools vary in size and range in temperature from 40°C/110°F down to 20°C/70°F -brave the cold pools, I promise you it's worth it! There are numerous steam baths and saunas located next to the pools.
Each pool, sauna and steam bath has a sign showing the temperature (some are as high as 70°C/170°F) and there are showers everywhere to cool down and refresh. Make sure to keep hydrated, if you can, bring a bottle of water with you but there is water fountains. At some of the fountains you can drink thermal water, but because of the high amount of sulfur chloride in the water, it's not to everybody's taste.
If you are feeling extra adventuress you could attend on of the famous "sparties" where the baths turn into a night club!
- Ticket & Locker mid-week - €19
- Ticket & Locker weekend - €20
- Ticket & Cabin mid-week - €21
- Ticket & Cabin weekend - €22
6 am to 10 pm, daily - indoor pools close at 7pm.
Széchenyi Baths, Gyógyfürdő és Uszoda
H-1146 Budapest, XIV. kerület Állatkerti körút 9-11.
Phone: (+36-1) 363-3210
By public transportation: trolleybus routes 72 and the millennium underground train.
The stunning Gellert Baths come very close to rivaling the Szechenyi baths as the most popular tourist experience in Budapest. Built around the same between 1912 and 1918 but in an Art Nouveau style. From the mosaic floors and walls of the main entrance, hallways and surrounding the pools and the stained glass windows, every detail has been beautifully crafted.
Back in the 1920s, Danubius Hotel Budapest and the Gellért pools were popular with the rich and famous, who were eager to discover Gellért’s innovative wave pools, salt water pools, and mud treatments. Today, it is still popular with the elite for their Budapest bathing experience. Some of the famous people who’ve visited include world leaders like President Nixon
Visiting the Gellert Baths.
The baths are located in the Gellert Hotel but have their own entrance to the right-hand side of the building. Make sure you take in the beauty of the main hallway. As there is only one entrance there is usually a queue at the tellers. If you have pre purchased your ticket, you need to show this teller who will give you your wristband.
Once you go through the turnstyle follow directions for lockers and private cabins. Find an assistant to assign you your locker or cabin.
In the centre of the baths is the main swimming pool (which you need a swimming hat for) and at one end a wonderful hot pool. On each side of the main pool are the other thermal pools plus steam and sauna rooms. It is a bit of a maze but don't be afraid to get lost.
During the summer you can use the outdoor wave pool but the outdoor thermal pool is open all year round. It's a cold walk during winter but worth it when you jump into the hot pool! There is also a sauna and cold water plunge.
Don't forget to go up to the second level and take some to time to chill out.
- Ticket & Locker mid-week - €21
- Ticket & Locker weekend - €22
- Ticket & Cabin mid-week - €22
- Ticket & Cabin weekend - €23
6 am to 8 pm, daily - last entrance is at 6pm.
Gellért Thermal Bath
H-1118 Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4.
Telephone: (36-1) 466-6166
By public transportation: underground 4, tramways 19, 41, 47, 49 and 56, buses 7, 107, 109, 133 and 233
The Rudas Baths
The Rudas baths (pronounced Rudash) stands out from among the spas of Budapest, as its various parts were all built during different eras spanning several centuries, with parts of it daring back to the 1500s, making it one of the oldest thermal baths in Budapest. It is divided into three areas, the thermal pools, swimming pool and wellness area.
The main thermal spa area will bring you back in time to the Ottoman era with its charming octagonal pool beneath a characteristic Turkish dome. The slightly steamy interior and the faded light beams filtered through the tiny windows create a truly unique atmosphere.
Note during the week this area is only open for male guests except on Tuesday when it is female only. At the weekend it is open for both.
In the 19th century, various new segments were added to the historic Ottoman-era wing in a classicist style, including The 20-meter-long swimming pool is found in this classicist wing.
The newest addition is the wellness area, opened in 2014. It is a modern state of the art spa facility and includes 5 more pools, one of them being the famous panorama pool on the terrace. It offers a dramatic view of the Danube River and the city skyline, while you bathe.
You'll also find the drinking hall, with water coming from different three springs. See if you can taste a difference between them. Like most of the thermal waters they have a slightly sulpuric taste, which not everyone enjoys… Maybe a glass of champagne in the terrace pool instead??
Visiting the Rudas Baths
Make sure to check to check the schedule, as I previously mentioned they only allow women on Tuesdays and men all other weekdays into the thermal baths and both can visit on weekends. However, the swimming pool and wellness area are mixed every day.
If you visit the thermal baths on your gender day ie if your a women and you visit on a Tuesday be aware that many choose to go au natural. You can wear your swimsuit but most rent an apron style sheet and wear that around part of their body. I didn’t realise this was an option till I walked to into the pool area and most of the women were partly clothed, and I thought it would be too awkward to go back and get changed out of my swimsuit. It didn’t feel weird that I was in my swimsuit, there was other women who were in them as well. So whatever you feel most comfortable in, I say go for it!
I think its best to start off at the thermal bath area, then the swimming pool if you want to get a bit of exercise in, and finish in the wellness area going in and out of the saunas and pools. Don't forget to take in the view from the roof top!
The rooftop pool gets packed at sunset, while it sounds like a nice idea to be chilling in the water, looking out at the skyline, watching the sunset, the reality is, everyone is super jammed in and I personally don't think its worth it. There are many incredible rooftops to watch the sunset from, that don't involve you accidentally putting your hand in someones crotch…
The Rudas bath has a few more ticket options because of the thermal area being separated so it's best to wait till you get there to decide which one you want.
- For a price guide its about 20 at the weekend for all the areas.
6am - 10pm daily - Swimming Pool
6am - 8pm daily - Thermal Area
8am - 10pm daily - Wellness Area
Night Bathing 10pm - 4am Friday and Saturday
The Rudas thermal bath is situated below Gellert Hill right by the Danube, close to Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd), on the Buda side of the capital.
H-1013 Budapest, Döbrentei tér 9.
Telephone: (36-1) 356-1322, 375-8373
By public transport: buses 7, 8E, 110, 112, tramways 17, 19, 41, 56 and 56A, night buses: 907 and 973
Originally built as monastery baths in the 12th century, the Lukacs baths are one of the longest standing baths in Budapest. Long associated with healing, the walls are adorned with stone plaques displaying the testaments of cured patients. The baths have gone through many revamps and now offers two outdoor swimming pools, a number of indoor thermal pools plus The wellness part of the bath offers a Kneipp pool, a sauna, a sinking pool, a lounge and a Himalaya salt-wall.
Visiting the Lukacs Baths,
Smaller than the Gellert and Szechenzi baths, the Lukacs baths attract more locals but a lot of the visitors are tourists making use of the free entrance that comes with getting the Budapest card. Even so, they are generally quieter than other baths.
The baths can be a bit of a labyrinth as there aren't many signs but that’s half of the fun trying to find all the different pools. Don't be afraid to explore!
Combine a trip to the Lukacs baths with a visit to the idyllic Margaret Island, located in the middle of the Danube river.
- Ticket & Locker mid-week - €12
- Ticket & Locker weekend - €13
- Ticket & Cabin mid-week - €14
- Ticket & Cabin weekend - €15
6 am to 10pm daily
Lukács Gyógyfürdő és Uszoda
H-1023 Budapest, Frankel Leó u. 25-29.
Telephone: (36-1) 326-1695
By public transportation: buses 9 and 109, tramways 4, 6, 17 and 19 and by suburban train HÉV on the line to Szentendre-Békásmegyer, up to the stop "Margit Bridge".
Király Thermal Baths
Built during the Turkish occupation of Hungary, the bath is similar in style to the Rudas baths thermal area. Located near Buda Castle, The Turks built the Bath far from the springs to ensure the opportunity for bathing even in the case of a siege, within the walls of the castle. Its water was supplied at that time, as it is now, from the surroundings of the current Lukács Bath.
With only four thermal pools the baths are smaller and quieter than other baths. The main pool lies under an ancient dome, with holes that sunlight streams through, changing the look and feel of the pool at different times of the day.
Visiting Király Baths
The baths get a mixed reaction from visitors. Some love the history and authenticity of a Turkish bath, while others can't see beyond the need for a much-needed renovation. (Which will be happening in 2020)
As they are smaller, they are a good choice for those who don't have a lot of time but still want to experience an authentic thermal bath in Budapest.
I am looking forward to visiting again once the renovations are finished.
- Ticket mid-week - €9
- Ticket weekend - €10
9am - 9pm daily
Király Thermal Bath
H-1027 Budapest, Fő u. 84.
Telephone: (36-1) 202-3688
By public transportation: tram route nr. 19, bus routes nr. 9 and 109
Some other baths that I havent visited yet but are on my list are
Dandár Thermal Baths
Dandár Baths, is one of the smallest of the Budapest thermal baths – three indoor and two outdoor pools. Locals love it because it's often forgotten about by tourists even its located in the centre of the city.
Monday to Friday - 6am - 9pm
Saturday to Sunday 8am - 9pm
H-1095 Budapest, Dandár u. 5-7.
Telephone: (36-1) 215-7084
By public transportation: tram routes 2 and 24 and bus routes 23 and 54.
The thermal bath is located in the vicinity of the Boráros square.
Veli Bej Thermal Baths
The Veli Bej (Császár) Baths are one of Budapest’s oldest Turkish-style baths and were just recently renovated (2017) They are located at the Hotel Csaszar Budapest, not far from St. Luke’s Thermal Baths. It has 8 pools of different temperatures, with its focal point is a large octagonal hot water pool.
6am - 12pm. 3pm - 9pm
Budapest, Árpád Fejedelem útja 7, 1023 Hungary
It’s quite difficult to find the Veli Bej thermal baths. It is situated on the other side of the swimming complex of Hotel Csaszar.
Budapest has many more modern open-air baths and hotel spas, I'll have to take a lot more trips to see them all!
If your thinking of visiting Budapest I'd delighted to help you out. Visit https://www.fleewinter.com/spa-wellness/thermal-experience-budapest/ for more info.
Have you been to any of Budapests' Thermal Baths? Which ones do you want to visit? Let me know in the comments below!