Is it Worth Visiting Széchenyi Thermal Bath Budapest Hungary?

széchenyi thermal bath budapest

Visiting one of the thermal baths in Budapest is an absolute must when you come to Hungary. Hungary is the third most thermal country in the world (after Iceland and New Zealand) and Budapest is the only capital in the world that has rich thermal waters with healing properties. Hence why Budapest is known as the City of Baths. As Széchenyi Thermal Bath is the most famous and won a Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor, it's on a lot of people's Budapest bucket-lists. But does it deserve to be on there? Is it worth the hype? We went to the Széchenyi Budapest Thermal Baths for the day and this is what we thought! [Note: this post was updated on the 5th June, 2023.]

Table of Contents:

Széchenyi Thermal Bath Budapest Review: First Impressions

They say that first impressions are the most important, luckily that wasn't the case here as our first impression left something to be desired: the ticketing process was slow, despite there being four ticket booths, and exacerbated by the fact that we were put in the wrong queue. Visitors are given special bath wrist bands that you use to get through the gate, and to open/lock your lockers. We've seen this system before in Germany but there you can buy your band from a machine. This kind of system would probably speed things up here. However, this was only a minor setback, the room was so pretty and once we finally got through it was even more beautiful and we were excited to explore more. Important note: you can avoid our mistake by skipping the queue at Széchenyi!

széchenyi themal bath

There are a number of refreshment options available at Széchenyi thermal bath, including BBQ, pancakes, canteen food, juice, beers & ice cream. We went for canteen food: veggie burgers and chips. It wasn't the best food we've ever had (or the cheapest) but you couldn't beat the location. Now I'd recommend you go for a pancake - the Hungarian 'palacsinta' is famously tasty (it's similar to the French 'crepe')! There are many drinking fountains dotted around the site with natural thermal water from underground. Make sure you try some of it: it's some of the freshest water we've ever tasted.

Thermal Bath Széchenyi Budapest: Outdoor Pools

Outside are three giant pools. Two are shallow and very warm, about 35 degrees Celsius. The third is a swimming pool and is presumably colder. I say presumably because we didn't actually go in as swim hats must be worn and we didn't have any with us. They were for sale at the entrance, but we weren't really there for swimming, we were there for relaxing.

budapest thermal baths

Well, relaxing and for taking Insta-good photos... I tried and failed to take so many half under water half over water photos with my GoPro before I realised you need a GoPro Dome this was the first place I used it:

best hungarian baths

If you don't have a Go Pro, I recommend getting one, we used ours loads - and not just for water/snow sports, they're great for taking selfies too!

budapest thermal baths

The hot water of the two other pools was definitely relaxing, but as it was a hot, sunny day it quickly got too hot. We bet that it must be absolutely superb on a cold winter's day, with the added advantage that there are fewer tourists in winter. This would be great, as by midday it was packed! [Update: I went in the winter, the outdoor pools are amazing! It's so nice to sit in boiling water with your head all cold. It stopped me from feeling faint and was a great way to warm up in the winter. Highly recommended.]

We also made a video about our time in Széchenyi thermal baths, in case you're interested :)

Széchenyi Thermal Bath: the Indoor Pools

Back to the summer, we escaped the heat and the crowds by heading inside, which is where we found the highlight of our day: the indoor pools. I say highlight partly because the architecture was beautiful! Széchenyi thermal spa was built between 1909 and 1913 so it is over a hundred years old and you can really see this in the interior design:

terme budapest szechenyi

There were many pools inside, some shallow, some deep, some long and thin, others square. All beautiful, all different temperatures - some freezing, some boiling and everything in-between. It kind of reminded me of the Wood Between the Worlds in the Magician's Nephew book: 'a quiet forest dotted with many pools, each of which were portals to a different world.' Except there was no forest and the pools weren't portals... Unless you count the fact that they transport you onto a different plane of relaxation. Yey Széchenyi!

budapest thermal baths

The hottest pool was 40 degrees Celsius and the coldest 20. Relaxing in a hot pool before submerging into a cold one feels fantastic - like taking cocaine. Presumably. Our skin tingled and we felt incredible! The architecture was absolutely beautiful too, each room was slightly different with the most darling, ornate tiles and high ceilings.

hungarian baths szechenyi

Inside Széchenyi thermal bath there were also a number of steam rooms and saunas. These were mixed and you have to keep your clothes on (of course). We enjoyed trying the different rooms and then plunging into the cool pools. And we really liked how each sauna was slightly different, our favourite was one had red glowing lights. Make sure you don't do what we did and miss the entire ground floor - there's a sauna there with an ice bucket for you to douse yourself in first/afterwards/both.

Which Is the Best Thermal Bath in Budapest?

You have to visit one (or more) of the thermal baths when you come to Budapest: Hungary is the third most thermal country in the world (after Iceland and New Zealand) and Budapest is one of the few cities in the world with so many healing thermal baths!

budapest baths szechenyi

What they all have in common: the layout is kind of similar (an outside pool or two, lots of inside pools of different temperatures and lots of saunas and steam rooms). Also in all of them, the layout is super confusing and you could easily miss an awesome room or two. Try and get your hand on a map and don't be surprised if you walk towards something to find you can't go in that way and you have to turn around and go another way.

In all of them you must wear a swimming hat in the deeper and cooler swimming pool. You can bring one with you or buy one there. We just didn't bother going in the swimming pools, there are enough other pools, baths and saunas to keep you occupied, and frankly after an hour or two in those relaxing pools, you're not going to want to go swimming. Saying that though, I was super jealous of a few ladies who had the most beautiful flowery swimming hats.

Essentially no mater which bath you go to, you're going to get to try out some awesome baths and saunas, and you're going to go back to your hotel feeling as soft as a baby's bottom, but, despite their similarities, each bath still had something unique.

#1. Gellért Thermal Bath, Our Favourite

Gellért was the second bath we went to and our favourite one over-all. Their outside pool has a wave machine (which Tanbay loved) and it was a much more reasonable temperature for a hot summer's day (i.e. it was cold).

széchenyi baths

We also loved the decor of Gellert - it was so pretty inside! It was built between 1912 and 1918 but in a different style to Széchenyi: Gellért spa is a masterpiece of Art Nouveau architecture and interior design (see our photos and video below). If (when) you come to Gellert spa make sure you go to the pools on both sides of the swimming pool, we nearly missed the pools on the right-hand side and they were the prettiest! We really loved the saunas and steam rooms here too.

budapest baths in winter

Here are some more photos to show you how beautiful Gellert is:

budapest baths in winter

some of the decoration

budapest thermal baths winter

this is the backside of the building with the outside pool of Gellért and my good friend Flo :)

spa bath budapest

a beautifully carved drinking water fountain with natural thermal water - amazing!

budapest turkish bath

this is the entrance hall at Gellért thermal spa with a café, Viennese style

széchenyi baths budapest

one of the inner pools with old ladies and their fancy swimming hats :)

thermal bath budapest szechenyi

If you only have time/money for one pool we'd definitely say go to Gellért!

Above you can watch our video of our time spent in Gellért thermal spa, enjoy :)

#2. Rudas Thermal Bath

Rudas was the third and final pool we went to. We were a little disappointed with the size of their outside pool (it's tiny):

best turkish bath in hungary

But the temperature was perfect for the summer (not too hot like Szechenyi and not bordering on too cold like Gellert). This outside pool got extra points because it was the only one with cool views of Budapest:

best turkish bath in budapest

Here are some more photos of Rudas:

best hungarian turkish baths

this is some cool old water fountain

top turkish baths in budapest

this is what it's like to hang out in the top pool of Rudas, taking in the view of Pest (for those who do not know: Budapest is the combination of two cities, Buda and Pest, which were unified in 1873)

best turkish baths in hungary

Rudas has one section of baths of different temperatures which is nice, but most of it is very modern and not that aesthetically pleasing. No, what we loved about Rudas was the other section of baths which are super old and gorgeous, so important note: make sure you don't miss the old section! The thermal springs that provide the water for Rudas spa have been known and used since at least 1292, this is probably the oldest thermal spa in Budapest!

And this is our third video of Budapest turkish baths, this time documenting our time at Rudas spa :) We hope you find it useful and informative!

#3. Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Szechenyi bath is probably the most famous bath in Budapest, with its iconic outdoor pools and neo-baroque style architecture. These outdoor pools are pretty big and very warm, which was disappointing as we went on a hot day, and felt like lobsters. It's also magical in the winter! We enjoyed the inside a lot more, where there are lots of baths of all different shapes and temperatures.

best thermal bath in budapest

Out of the three we went to, we found Szechenyi to be a bit 'lads on tour' like. There were lots of 'lads' there buying beer at 11am and vegging out. Perfect if you're a lad on tour, but if you're a young couple it might not be your favourite pool. We still recommend going though as it's still a beautiful place.

Our personal favourite: Gellert Thermal Bath

Personally, we loved Gellert the best, it's perfect for couples/singles/people who love pretty architecture. Széchenyi is mostly frequented by families and large groups. Rudas is perfect if you are travelling just as girls/just as guys because they do guys only days (Mon, Wed, Thurs and Fri) and girls only days (Tues). Sat and Sun are for all. Important note: Rudas is not only the oldest spa in Budapest, it is also the unofficial gay spa of Budapest! Enjoy, our dear queer friends :) Also, it is important to note that the existence of such a safe place has political implications for the queer community in Hungary at the moment.

budapest thermal baths szechenyi

Another important note: whichever pool(s) you visit you must be brave and do this: relax in the hottest pool you can find (usually around 40 degrees Celsius) and then slowly submerge in the coldest one you can find (usually around 20 degrees). You won't want to, but submerge yourself in that cold one and I promise when you get out (which will probably be immediately whilst saying a couple of swear words), you will feel like you SPARKLE!

Best Time to Visit Budapest and Hungarian Baths & Tickets

In my opinion, Széchenyi thermal bath Budapest and indeed all the other thermal baths in Budapest that I've visited are much better in winter: it's far, far less crowded and that joy of sitting in hot steaming water with your head up in the cold can't be beaten.

best thermal spas in budapest

But if you've already decided to visit Budapest in the summer, don't despair - the thermal baths in Budapest are still awesome in the summer, and you can sunbath outside (which you can't do in winter). Looking for more things to do in Budapest? Check out this extensive 50 things you must do in Budapest guide! When it comes to tickets, there are a few different options:

Where to Stay in Budapest?

If you're planning to visit Szécheny Thermal Bath, be prepared to check out Városliget which the public park Széchenyi thermal bath is located in (you can see some of the architecture in the park, right opposite the thermal bath, in our photo below). There are several hotels near Széchenyi thermal baths, here are some of our recommendations:

széchenyi thermal bath

  • Mirage Medic Hotel is the closest you can get to Széchenyi thermal bath, which is perfect, you can relax all day knowing that your hotel is nearby and you won't have to stress about getting there. Added bonus: beautiful views of Hero's Square from the roof. Best rates can be found here.
  • Apartments Rippl Rónai: renting an apartment in Budapest, either through a hotel website or via Airbnb is popular and cheap. Rippl Rónai is beautiful and is also very close to Széchenyi. You can find the best rates here.
  • Baroque Hostel: if you're travelling on a budget, opt for a hostel, but be careful - most accommodation in Budapest is budget (at least for Westerners), so if it's really, really cheap, there's a reason for it (like I stayed in one place for £6 a night but didn't sleep at all). Baroque Hostel is one of the good ones, and again: near Széchenyi. Best rates can be found here.

Important note: don't get Széchenyi thermal bath (Google Maps link) and Széchenyi Bridge (Google Maps link) confused, they're not very close to each other!

Wrap Up: Széchenyi Thermal Bath Budapest Hungary... Is It Worth Visiting?

Is it worth visiting Széchenyi Thermal bath Budapest Hungary? ABSOLUTELY! Despite the annoying ticket-booth and the disappointing food, I would definitely recommend that you visit Szechenyi spa (or 'turkish bath'). It's a relaxing, beautiful way to spend the day! There's a reason that this place is so popular: relaxation, architectural beauty, culture and history all go hand-in-hand here. Tickets include either a locker or a cabin, you could easily spend a whole day here, and I recommend a minimum time of 2 hours if you're in a rush - this will give you enough time to try everything out, without rushing too much. Towels and bathing costumes can be hired/bought on site, though we recommend taking your own if possible.

Also, If you have the option, visit in winter - it's beautiful and quieter, but if you can only visit in summer, don't worry, it's still awesome! Have you been to Széchenyi thermal bath? Did you think it was worth visiting? We also made a vlog about our time at Széchenyi spa - enjoy, we hope you find it informative and useful! :)

More Blog Posts from Hungary:

P.S.: If you're interested in a way of travelling and getting accommodation cheaply, you might wanna check out house sitting. was kind enough to provide us and our readers with a 10% discount, feel free to click on the link to use it :)

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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