If you’re visiting Budapest, one thing that you have to do is spend some time at one of the many thermal baths! Halfway through our two-week Eurotrip this spring, we arrived in Budapest, Hungary, and our relaxing visit to the baths could not have come at a better time after all of the walking we’d been doing.
There are several different bathhouses that you can visit in Budapest and they are all different. We did some research before we left, which I definitely recommend to make sure you’re going to one that you’ll enjoy. There are more traditional baths, like Rudas, where the weekdays are single-sex days (and bathing-suit-optional on those days) and then mixed on the weekends. And then at the other end of the spectrum there’s Szechenyi, where during the day you can have relax in its many thermal pools, but it hosts Bath Parties at night on the weekends. The bathhouses also offer a variety of spa services so that may be another thing to consider when choosing one. Lonely Planet and BudapestbyLocals.com had helpful articles to decide which one to visit!
We decided to go to St. Gellert Thermal Baths, as it was pretty middle of the road in terms of how traditional it was. We didn’t want to go to a single-sex, swimsuit-optional bathhouse but still wanted a relaxing atmosphere over a party atmosphere. Plus we had heard that Gellert was beautiful!
When we got there, we had to decide if we wanted cabins or just lockers, which cost a little less. We didn’t know what to expect so when the girl at the ticket sales recommended that we get two cabins between the four of us, that’s what we went with. The cabins turned out to be stalls that were just big enough for one person to change in. In hindsight, we didn’t need both cabins and could have gone with just one. But the cabins were convenient, we were able to store all of our stuff in them and they gave us waterproof wristbands that unlocked them.
Once we dropped our stuff off in our cabins, we headed to our first pool. We started indoors in the swimming pool section, which was an incredible room intricately carved columns leading up to high domed ceilings with skylights. We didn’t have swimming caps which were required for the actual swimming pool so we relaxed in the 97 degree F thermal pool for a while first. Then we went outside, where there was an outdoor thermal pool and a sauna (plus a wave pool that wasn’t open because it was too early in the season when we were there in early April).
We had read that the best way to relax in the baths was to go from hot to cold back to hot, so we first tried it out between the sauna, the thermal pool and an immersion pool right in between them that was a cool 66 degrees F. The first time I tried it, I couldn’t dip more than a toe in the cold pool! But then we went back inside to more thermal pools ranging from 96 to 104 degrees as well as steam rooms (which were not quite as hot as the sauna at 194 degrees F which we could barely stay in for a whole minute!) and I finally got the hang of the hot-cold-hot thing!
We stayed at Gellert for a few relaxing hours which was just enough time for us to feel re-charged and refreshed for the second half of our trip!