If there’s one thing you have to do whilst in the amazing city of Budapest, it is to visit the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. They are not only the largest baths in Budapest (and probably the most photographed and well known) but also the largest medicinal baths in Europe and a must-do for every visitor. It was definitely at the top of our list of places to go when we visited Budapest last December.
The Széchenyi Thermal Baths are located on the Pest side of the city and are easily accessible by foot as well as public transport. From our hotel in Erzsébetváros, we walked along Andrássy Avenue towards City Park. The walk took us about thirty minutes and we also were able to see Heroes’ Square and Vajdahunyad Castle on the way. You can also take the M1 Metro Line to Széchenyi Fürdő which is located right outside the baths – a single journey Metro ticket currently costs HUF 350 (£1).
There are several entrances to the baths but we used the one on Állatkerti Körút opposite the circus – this is the entrance closest to the outdoor pools. Once inside there were two desks at either end of the foyer where we could buy our tickets and credit cards as well as cash were accepted.
There are numerous ticket options available which are listed on the official website. With a locker ticket you will have to change in the main changing rooms then use a locker to store your belongings whilst a cabin ticket gives you your own personal lockable changing room where you can leave everything whilst you are there. Two people can share a cabin so we purchased one locker ticket which cost HUF 4900 (£14) and one cabin ticket which was HUF 5400 (£15).
We were each given a wristband that we used to get through the turnstile – the cabins are located on this floor whilst the changing rooms are located downstairs in the basement.
To get a cabin number you simply hold your wristband over the sensor on the wall and a number will be displayed. You also use your wristband to open and close your cabin/locker.
The cabin was big enough for both of us to get changed at the same time. We had not brought our own towels with us (as we did not want to carry them around Budapest that day) so we headed downstairs to each rent one. To rent a towel costs HUF 1000 (£3) and you must also pay a HUF 2000 (£6) deposit which is refunded to you once you return the towel after using it.
If necessary, you can also rent swimwear (I’m guessing that some people assume they can be naked – you cannot and must wear appropriate swimwear at all times) and turn up without bathing suits. I saw some people wearing them and they could hardly be described as fashionable – men are given beige Speedos (they might have had shorts as well but I cannot remember) and women an unflattering beige swimsuit so remember to bring your own.
As it was December, it was freezing outside and had already been snowing that day so the hardest part of the day was leaving the building and heading outside to the pool. Remember to bring flip flops with you to wear as depending on the time of the year, the ground will either be freezing or boiling hot – you can leave them at the side of the pool where you get in and out of the water. There are also lockers outside which I used to store my camera and spare batteries when I was not using it.
The first pool we went to was the Outdoor Whirl Pool which was heated to 34 degrees Celcius. Getting into the warm water felt heavenly and instantly relaxing. There were also water jets all around the pool. In the centre of the pool was a jacuzzi where you could sit and there was also a mini “lazy river” around the edge of it with strong currents that was great fun to float around in.
The large rectangular outdoor pool is for people who want to swim lengths but you must wear a swimming cap to use this pool – they are not needed anywhere else.
We decided to head inside to try out all the different pools, saunas and steam rooms – there were so many to try. They all have the temperature they are written next to them and some are a lot hotter/colder than the others and even the colours of the water look different. I only managed a few minutes in the steam room as it was so hot. It was much busier inside than it was outside so once we had tried everything to offer, we headed back outdoors.
We quickly got into the Outdoor Thermal Pool which was heated to 38 degrees Celcius and it felt a lot warmer than the Whirl Pool – there was definitely more steam rising off the water. It was a lovely pool and it was great to stand under the waterfalls but as it was so cold in Budapest that day, it was the busiest pool so after a short time we made our way back to the Whirl Pool which we both loved. Just sitting on the steps in the water whilst watching the world go by was incredibly relaxing and a great way to take your mind off everything going on in the world.
The baths started to get very busy later in the afternoon so after nearly three hours in the water, we decided to call it a day just before 4:00pm. There are showers available but we did not use them as we were going straight back to our hotel. My towel was cold and damp after getting out of the pool and you cannot exchange them to a dry one without paying for a new one so I dried myself off as best I could before getting dressed.
We dropped our towels back off and collected our deposits back. I did notice there were hairdryers available but they did not look very powerful – they definitely would not have dried my hair. I put a woolly hat on over my wet hair to try and stay warm on the way back to the hotel.
You drop your wristband off as you exit through the turnstile. We took the M1 Metro five stops back to Oktogon station before walking the last ten minutes back to our hotel.
If visiting the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, I would definitely recommend going in the morning or early afternoon as it did get much busier later in the day. Remember to take a few things with you – namely swimwear, a towel (if you do not want to rent one), flip flops, a bottle of water, toiletries for the showers and a waterproof camera if you want to take photos whilst in the pool. You will also need a swimming cap if planning to swim laps in one of the pools. Another great thing to bring is a large ziploc bag to carry all your wet swimwear after leaving the baths.
If you’re planning a trip to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, let me know in the comments below and have a great trip!