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After experiencing Iceland’s famous lagoons, I couldn’t wait to try the famous Budapest thermal baths. The baths are based on the historic baths started by the Romans and made famous by the Turks centuries ago. So pack your bathing suit, swim cap, and slippers to enjoy the baths!
Budapest is famous for its thermal baths, and they are an essential part of the city’s culture and relaxation scene. Here, I’ll describe and compare three of the most famous baths in Budapest, followed by a brief description of additional options. I’ll even recommend how to visit them if you want to try to see all of the Budapest thermal baths during your Budapest trip.
The Three Most Popular Budapest Thermal Baths
Széchenyi is the largest and one of Budapest’s most well-known thermal baths. It is located in City Park and is distinguished by its beautiful Neo-Baroque architecture.
The bath complex offers indoor and outdoor pools with varying temperatures, ranging from cold to hot. The outdoor pools are especially popular, allowing visitors to enjoy a relaxing soak while surrounded by stunning architecture and greenery.
Széchenyi also features saunas, steam rooms, and various wellness services. Due to its size and popularity, Széchenyi can get crowded, especially on weekends and during peak tourist seasons.
Gellért is another iconic thermal bath on the Buda side of the city, near the Gellért Hill and the Danube River. The bathhouse is part of the Gellért Hotel and features an impressive Art Nouveau style. The main hall, with its colorful mosaics and stained glass windows, creates a unique and visually appealing ambiance.
Gellért offers a mix of indoor and outdoor pools with different water temperatures and mineral compositions. It also provides various spa and wellness treatments, making it an attractive choice for those seeking a more luxurious and tranquil experience.
Rudas is one of the oldest baths in Budapest, with a history dating back to the Turkish occupation in the 16th century. Located at the foot of Gellért Hill, Rudas offers a more authentic and historic bath experience.
The central octagonal pool, covered by a stunning dome, is the main highlight of Rudas. It retains its traditional Turkish architecture and atmosphere, providing a unique glimpse into Budapest’s past.
One of Rudas’ distinguishing features is the availability of night baths on certain days, where visitors can enjoy the thermal waters under the stars. Rudas also offers a rooftop pool with panoramic views of the city, making it one of the best places in Budapest to enjoy the sunset.
Comparing the Three Most Popular Budapest Baths
Size and Crowds
Széchenyi is the largest and most famous bath, meaning that it can get crowded, especially during popular times. Gellért is also popular with tourists but gets less crowded than Széchenyi. Rudas is smaller and generally less crowded, though the rooftop pool is often crowded, and there is not much room on the rooftop for lounging.
Indoor and Outdoor Pools
All three locations offer both indoor and outdoor pools. Széchenyi’s outdoor pool area is large and a beautiful setting often used in movies. Gellért’s elegant outdoor pools showcase fantastic decor. Rudas’ outdoor pool is smaller and a no-frills experience, though it offers stunning views.
If you’re looking for varied and unique spa treatments and wellness services, opt for Gellért. Rudas offers essential spa services, like massage. Széchenyi, due to its larger size, offers many spa and wellness services, including a beer spa.
A ten-minute walk separates Gellért and Rudas baths. If you’re planning to go to Budapest thermal bath hopping, you could easily schedule a visit to these two back-to-back.
Other Budapest Thermal Baths
Budapest has several more to offer if you prefer a less popular (and less touristy) thermal bath.
Located on the Buda side of the city, just north of the Margrit Bridge, Lukács is open daily from 7 am to 7 pm. The bath hosts parties at night. One of the unique features is the Drinking Hall, where guests can purchase healing water to take home or consume on-site. The healing water is calcium-magnesium-hydro carbonate and sulfate-chloride thermal water containing sodium, which has a significant fluoride ion content. It is recommended for people suffering from gastric issues.
This co-ed bath focuses on its traditional Turkish roots. One of the unique features is that the cafe is accessible from the baths. Irgalmasok is open from 3 pm to midnight most days. Tickets can only be purchased from the cashier.
Both Lukács and Irgalmasok are steps away from each other, so if you’re looking to go Budapest thermal bath hopping, plan to visit them on the same day.
Family Friendly Options
The following Budapest thermal baths are more family-friendly with either dedicated hours or children-friendly areas:
Budapest Baths Etiquette
Like anywhere else that includes saunas, pools, and steam baths, Budapest’s thermal baths have etiquette rules that all visitors should follow.
- With few exceptions, children are not permitted in the baths. Generally speaking, unless there is a medical necessity, visitors to the Budapest thermal baths need to be over 14 years old to enjoy the springs.
- Several of the facilities have hours designated as single-sex. During the single-sex hours, many patrons will be in the nude. Swimsuits are required if the hours are set as open to both sexes.
- Like most places where people enter communal waters, guests are expected to shower before and after enjoying the baths using hot water and soap. Showers before soaking help ensure that the mineral spring waters remain clean for everyone. Showers after the baths help wash away the minerals that may sit on your skin.
- Bring your refillable water bottle. Drink from the fountains at the entrances and throughout the facilities. You’ll get dehydrated without noticing it, so water is critical!
- You must wear slippers (flip-flops or slides) when walking around the facilities. This helps to reduce the issues of foot fungus. You’ll be required to purchase some if you don’t bring your own.
- For guests with long hair, hair must be kept out of the water, usually using some elastic tie. The mineral waters can damage your hair, so you’ll want to abide by this rule! If you plan to do some laps in the swimming pools, you must wear a swim cap.
Most facilities have items for purchase or rent (think towels, bathrobes, slippers) but check on their websites in advance if in doubt.
Final Thoughts on Budapest’s Thermal Baths
Each bath has its charm and character, catering to different preferences. For a grand and social experience, Széchenyi is the most popular choice for visitors. For a touch of elegance and luxury, Gellért is a popular pick, especially for those staying on the Buda side. And for those seeking a more historic and intimate atmosphere, Rudas is an excellent option. No matter which one you choose, enjoying Budapest’s thermal baths is a must-do experience.
Check out these other Budapest posts:
- Best Places to Watch the Sunset in Budapest
- 15 Best Souvenirs From Budapest
- 10 Hungarian Foods (+ Drinks) to Try
Annick, The Common Traveler