Budapest, A City of Thermal Baths
Since moving to Budapest I’ve wanted to visit the thermal baths. My new city is known as the thermal bath capital of Europe. Over the long winter I was able to spend a Sunday at Szechenyi Baths. Szechenyi is one of several public bath complexes found in Budapest. It is also one of the largest thermal baths found in Europe.
The place seems endless as you walk through and explore it. On my visit I counted 15 indoor pools and three outdoor pools. There were also numerous steam and sauna facilities as well as therapists offering massage treatments. Massages started at just over $13 US for a twenty minute aroma therapy massage. I plan to explore that option on another visit.
Thermal Healing Waters
The outdoor thermal pools vary in temperature. The hottest outdoor pool was around 38 degrees celcius, or 100 degrees. In the winter temperatures, it felt amazing for quite a while. Within this pool is an area where the water streams from a fountain. The entire experience of enjoying the bath in the freezing temperatures felt amazing, and the steamy conditions set a relaxing mood.
When I reached a point of being too hot, I moved on to a cooler pool, which was around 28 degrees celcius or 82 degrees. This pool offered the additional pleasure of a whirlpool that pushed you around a circular ramp, it was both relaxing and fun! It also offered whirlpool vents that periodically released a surge of bubbles from beneath your feet.
Thermal Baths and Beautiful Architecture
One of my favorite parts of Szechenyi Baths is the beautiful Baroque architecture and the statues found around and in the outdoor pools. I was able to take a few photos on my visit, but the combinations of freezing temperatures (32 degrees) and wearing a bathing suit and flip flops made for quick photo opportunities. On a warmer day I will take more pictures of the Basoque architecture.
Pros and Cons of Szechenyi Baths
There are some great features within Szechenyi Baths, but there are also down sides about the baths.
First there are three entrances; and the entire bath complex is interconnected. If you’re like me and you want a bit of privacy and a changing cabin then you need to enter from the rear entrance on Állatkerti körút. This section of the baths has private changing cabins.
Second, the outdoor pools and architecture are fantastic and worth a visit. The outdoor pool area also offers a bar area where you can get hot and cold drinks. No drinks are sold inside the baths, only at the pool bar area. On my visit they offered hot mulled wine, beer, fresh squeezed orange juice and a variety of water and sodas. (Downside) you can’t drink your drinks in the pools. You have to either stand or sit outside in freezing temperatures to drink them, or carry them inside to the indoor seating areas surrounding one of the pools, which is what I did.
Third, the changing cabins are nice and worth the extra dollar or two. They have two doors and a sauna like bench seat slides down into place to lock each door. (Once you figure it out, (a picture is provided) it’s pretty cool.
Fourth, stay as the stars come out, the view of the stars and moon from the outdoor pools make it worth the time.
First, figuring out how everything works with few signs in English takes a little bit of time. The public changing area in my section was also the entrance to the area, so there were both men and women walking through. If you needed privacy you would have had to move upstairs within the changing area (which was easy to do.)
Second, The indoor showers and bathrooms are ancient and hardly acceptable. They seriously detract from the great experience.
Third, the indoor pool complex has a couple beautiful pools, but the rest are basic and nothing special to look at. Their great feature is the variety of temperatures offered from hot jacuzzi like to almost cold. Each pool is labeled with its temperature in celcius degrees.
Fourth, It’s probably best, considering the options to bring your own large bottle of water. I noticed many local Hungarians carrying around their own bottles.
Prices and Hours
The baths are open daily from 6 am to 10 pm, holidays have a special schedule. Szechenyi Baths offer two price choices. If you want only a locker and are willing to change in a public locker room (which appeared to be co-ed) the cost is 4,100 ($17 US) during the week and 4,300 ($18 US) on weekends.
If you would like a bit of privacy with a changing cabin prices are 4,300 ($18 US) during the week and 4,800 ($20) on the weekend. A wrist band that unlocks and locks your locker is provided when you enter and you must wear it while you are in the baths. When you depart you drop it into a bin as you exit.
Getting to Szechenyi Baths
The bath complex is located in the city park and can be reached by taking the Metro to the Szechenyi furdo Metro stop and walking a short distance.