So, it seems to be quite popular these days to travel to Budapest. We just did and I have several friends who have been there in the last few months as well. One thing I highly recommend taking advantage of while you’re there is the Thermal Baths. What are they? Well, giant indoor and outdoor swimming pools, saunas, hot tubs, cold tubs and more, most built atleast 100+ years ago. Some of them were even built by the Turks.
When we visited Budapest at the beginning of June, Summer was already in full swing and it was about 80 degrees Farenheight every day (that’s about 27 Celsius). After taking a look at all the various bath options in the city that were recommended in my Lonely Planet Budapest (Travel Guide)we decided to visit the Szechenyi Baths because they not only have 20+ pools, they have 3 outdoor pools.
Even though we’ve been around the world and I’ve been to alot of places, I still get a little nervous when it comes to new experiences. I’ve been to the pool in the States, so I know the general locker room experience. But in the U.S.A. we’re generally prudish about men & women changing clothes together… Funny. I read the web site for the Szechenyi Baths cover to cover and they had some great advice which was very accurate and quite came in handy for us newbies.
The web site offers reservations, not only for a ticket to the bath, but also changing closets, spa treatments and more. We didn’t actually bother making a reservation online as the city wasn’t super busy with tourists just yet and we didn’t think we’d have any issues getting in. (In my guidebook, it actually doesn’t even recommend to go to Budapest in June as it’s sometimes rainy then. I highly recommend going in early June when there are less people to contend with.)
When we walked up to the lobby, there were several different windows with people sitting at them just waiting to take your money, give you a wrist band and a ticket into the baths. I didn’t realize that certain windows were actually for different languages and lucky for me, the girl at the “Russian” booth also spoke excellent English. We walked up and paid a bit more than 8,000 Forints for two of us to enter the baths for the day and also get a changing room. (The changing room is about the size of a very small walk in closet.)
At the entry point, you show your ticket to another nice young lady and she gives you a map of the baths and points you to the general area of your locker. Your wrist band, that looks like a little watch, gets you into the baths and also locks and unlocks your locker door. (Genius!)
One thing I should point out, swim shoes or flip flops are a must. The baths are very clean and the floors are actually quite nice. I just find that wet floors are slippery and it’s so much easier to get around if you have some flip flops to put on in between pools. Most everyone had them. We actually bought a pair at a store in Budapest on the way to the baths that ended up costing us just about $8 USD each. Well worth the investment.
I’ve heard that there are some baths that are clothing optional and also only male or female on specific days. At Szechenyi we did not run into either of these situations… we wore swim suits and my husband and I spent a fantastically relaxing day together.
After you change into your swim suit, it’s off to explore the pools. We first walked through the interior to see the various rooms and types of pools. All varied in temperature from about 40C down to 24C. (That’s 104F – 75F.) I don’t have a recommendation on exactly where you should start your journey. But we actually jumped into the warmest outdoor pool first. There were all kinds of people of various ages and body types enjoying the water and the sun.
We plotted the day and committed to swimming through every pool on the premises that we were allowed in. There are a few pools that are reserved for physical therapy and require a doctors notice to use. There were more than enough ways to get wet so we certainly didn’t miss the couple we couldn’t use. Strange the aroma of the waters in some of the pools were quite medicinal. When you read the brocure for the baths, it talks about the theraputic waters being recommended for curing all kinds of various ailments from sore muscles, to rhumetoid arthritis, to kidney disease. I can’t quite explain the smell, cause not all of the pools smelled the same, but it was a bit like mentholyptus or vicks vapor rub. But not so strong that it was a turn off. It was very soothing.
After we spent between 15 and 20 minutes in each of the various pools, we headed back to our closet to collect a bit of money. There is a little buffet line and a beer stand near the outdoor pools. We picked a table with an umbrella, had a couple beers and split a kolbash (sausage). Another 20 minute interval to let our stomachs settle and we went back into the last outdoor pool.
The most fun by far, this pool has several water jets located in various places around the edge of the pool. It also has a round whirlpool in the middle. At different times, either the jets or the whirlpool are working. In the whirlpool, it pushes you around in a circle. Loads of laughing adults and kids alike were enjoying this feature.
I wish we had more photos, but I didn’t take the GoPro to Hungary and we don’t have another under water camera. If you have a chance to visit Budapest, please make visiting one of the many Thermal Baths a part of your trip. It really is a must to relax and heal your tired bones from traveling.