Budapest is far and away my favourite stop on the Danube. With its crossroads location of eastern and western Europe, it has benefited from the very best of both worlds. One of these very best things is the love of thermal baths. Originally established by the Romans in the 2nd century when the area was first colonized, the thermal baths saw a rejuvenation by the Turks in the 1500 and 1600’s. Today Budapest is known for its natural hot springs and spas. Visiting Szécheny Thermal Baths has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Here’s why:
Visiting Szécheny Thermal Baths has become a popular activity in Budapest partially due to it size. Spread out over 67,000 ft.² and supplied by two thermal springs, Szécheny Thermal Baths is the largest medicinal baths in Europe. Opened in 1913, visiting Szécheny Thermal Baths quickly became a must-do activity for people near and far and quickly attracted hundreds of thousands of guests. Today it remains the most popular spot in town to take a warm bath with complete strangers. With its outdoor pools and Neo-Baroque style, it’s easy to see why.
Getting to Szécheny Thermal Baths
With its location in Budapest’s City Park, visiting Szécheny Thermal Baths is easy. Metro line M1 can also get you there from the inner city as can several bus and tram lines. Another option is to add your time visiting Szécheny Thermal Baths to a day trip hopping on and off around Budapest as the City Sightseeing bus stops at the City Park gate.
Then and Now
My first time visiting Szécheny Thermal Baths was pretty comical. I was backpacking Europe with a fun but a dim guy from Florida. He had gone to the Szécheny Thermal Baths the day prior and raved about it. I was convinced to check it out with him the next day. I had seen pictures online so it didn’t take much convincing.
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We arrived, changed, and took a dip in one of the small pools just outside the change room. While soaking in the bath with a couple of stern looking Hungarian men, my friend let out a very satisfying sigh. ”How great is this?” he asked. I was confused. From the images I had seen, there was definitely more to it than this communal tub. When I questioned my friend he was positive this small pool was all there was to the place, even though we had just gone through a curiously large change room. Not convinced I went for a walk. I opened a door to the outside pools unleashing a beam of light across my friends face. You could hear his jaw drop over the sounds of angels singing.
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That first visit was 10 years ago so on my recent trip down the Danube with Viking Cruises I set out to see if visiting Szécheny Thermal Baths was as magical as I remembered. Although still impressive, the shine had definitely worn off since my last dip. For one, the place was under some renovations which didn’t help the relaxation. Looking at the worn down facilities, this is a good thing. Secondly, I didn’t remember visiting Szécheny Thermal Baths as being so busy. It could’ve been the time of year or rising popularity since my last trip so we’ll leave it at that.
Visiting Szécheny Thermal Baths – Good to Know
Even though this was my 2nd time at the baths, there’re a few things that would’ve been good to know ahead of time. Notably:
- Bring your own towels. Renting them is pricey.
- Buy tickets online and save!
- Don’t miss –I skipped over the interior pools this time and didn’t go for any spa service, focusing my time on the outdoor pools. Don’t miss the whirlpool and if you’re wearing a two-piece, watch your top!
Thermal Bath Alternatives
Although visiting Szécheny Thermal Baths is a must while in Budapest, I will not return for the 3rd time. With 15 public thermal baths in Budapest, I would check out the smaller and less crowded ones next time. Veil Bej bath is on the Buda side and is said to be the oldest and most beautiful Turkish bath in the city and the Lukacs baths are known as a centre for an intellectual and local artists. Next time.
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