Budapest is one of our favorite cities in Europe. This charming and historical Eastern European city has plenty to offer. It has been rightly called the ‘City of spas’ as it is the home to more thermal baths than any other capital city in the world. The city has around 15 public baths and handful of private spas which are fed by 80 geothermal springs that sit beneath the city, forming the largest thermal water cave system in the world.
What is a thermal bath?
A thermal bath is a hot or tepid bath used to treat both chronic and acute diseases and to provide relaxation and stress relief. It improves the circulation of blood and lymph in the body which helps in the delivery of nutrients and removal of toxins from various parts of the body. These baths are believed to cure arthritis, rheumatism, skin complaints, lung disorders, digestive problems, etc.
A hot spring is any natural spring with water temperature above the body temperature (36.7 °C or 98 °F). This water is heated by geothermal heat, i.e., heat from the Earth’s mantle. Because heated water can hold more dissolved solids, warm and especially hot springs also often have a very high mineral content which adds to the medicinal value.
The most popular and oldest thermal bath in Budapest is the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. It is also the biggest one in Europe and is supplied by two hot springs – of temperatures 74 °C (165 °F) and 77 °C (171 °F).
Other noteworthy ones are Rudas, Lukács and Gellért and Király baths.
The present account is of Széchenyi Thermal Bath.
There are three outdoor pools, 15 indoor pools and 10 sauna/steam rooms – all with varying temperatures. We spent a full day here and had a great time hopping from one pool to another. What more? The baths are located in a city park nearby the romantic Vajadhunyad Castle and Heroe’s Square, making a trip to the baths and these sights a full day experience.
Completed in 1913, the complex is gorgeous and boasts a modern renaissance style that makes visiting worthy just to take in the glorious marble columns, statues and archways.
How to get there?
The yellow metro line stops directly in front of the bath house. The actual name of the stop is Szechenyi, which makes it easy to know when to disembark. It takes roughly ten minutes on the metro from Vorosmarty Ter (Square).
What to carry?
It’s advisable to carry swimsuits, towels, toiletries, flip flops and spare plastic bags to keep the wet clothes. You can also carry some drinks as they are more expensive inside. These are mixed pools with both men and women at the same time.
Price: around $15 / 4100 HUF (Hungarian Forints) for an all day pass. Cash or credit accepted.
How does it work inside?
After paying at the front desk, they will give you what appears to be a watch to put around your wrist. As you proceed to the changing rooms, the attendant will activate your “watch” at the turnstiles, essentially, this is your electronic key for a secure locker to store your belongings. Do not take this off or lose it and remember your locker number!
Once you change into your swimsuit and store your belongings in the locker you are good to get to the pools!
The outer pools are mostly for relaxation and fun. There are 3 of them (1 normal swimming pool, 1 thermal water pool and one with airjets / jacuzzis). Don’t forget to check out the in-built ‘chess boards’ in the pools where elderly Hungarian men play chess!
After enjoying the outdoor baths, it’s time to head back inside and check out the various pools and saunas included in your entry fee. For an additional cost various therapeutic services and massages are offered in the complex. We enjoyed the inner pools the most! There are 15 of them with varying temperatures and it’s total fun to hop from one to another and subject your bodies to a surprise each time! It very relaxing too. The water temperatures range from 20 to 40 Celsius. Don’t forget to get into the number of saunas (there is one at 100 °C too!), after taking a shower, of course, and keep hydrating yourself!
We spent almost 5-6 hours here and wished we had more time! It was so perfect to soak away our travel stresses! No visit to Budapest is complete without a stop at its famous thermal baths. We totally recommend it.