Best Thermal Baths in Budapest in 2020: which is the best spa?
Built on 123 underground thermal springs, baths with thermal pools are among the top Budapest highlights, you should definitely check them out during your visit. But: in recent years, many have become more and more touristy, so it’s great to know what times are best to visit, the prices and which are the nicest bathhouses.
History of Budapest thermal baths: from Turkish baths to modern thermal baths
Their history is amazing: built during the Turkish occupation, Király, Rudas and Veli Bej are still open today, and have the unspoilt original atmosphere: dim lights, octagonal pools, cool 16th century atmosphere. The two most popular ones, Gellért and Széchenyi, were built in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy era – bigger, more majestic and grand. The thermal water is similar in all the baths, but their architecture and ambience are strikingly different.
Fun fact: the ruins of Thermae Majores (Great Baths), the Roman bathhouse of Aquincum, are still visible in the Flórián tér underpass, at the Buda tip of Árpád bridge. (Walk around the parks nearby to find several more Roman-era ruins.)
Gellért Baths in Budapest
When to visit baths in Budapest
Locals go to the baths to relax and socialize (they also enjoy the hot water, but that’s pretty obvious hopefully!). Old people might play chess on floating boards, many like swimming a few laps before proceeding to soak in the hot water. Nowadays tourists are taking over many of the best-known baths in Budapest, so a lot of locals decide to go to smaller, lesser-known ones to avoid the new crowd.
Thus if you want to meet locals, and not just the foreign crowd, go definitely on weekdays and early mornings if possible. Weekends will be a very different vibe – still fun, but definitely less authentic. Foreigners mostly prefer Széchenyi, Gellért, Rudas and Lukács – so if you’re ready to explore a smaller place like Dandár, you’re more likely to meet the diehard Hungarians there.
1. Lukács Baths: Most local thermal bath of the famous ones
It's one of the best thermal baths in Budapest for locals who still love this place – even though it’s not as pompous as Gellért or Széchenyi baths, it’s really pretty and has an amazing functionality. A bit of a maze – enjoy getting lost, don’t panic. Discover the indoor and the outdoor pools. Tip: Go at 6am, ahead of everyone else, and enjoy the unmatched view from the rooftop terrace. You can take a tram from Margaret Bridge, but it’s best to walk – such a pretty part of town!
Address: 25-29 Frankel Leó utca (Buda side, north of Margaret Bridge)
2. Király Baths: Small but cool!
When the Ottoman rulers decided that they want to be able to bath even when they were under siege, they created this little beauty away from the thermal water source, very close to the Danube (inside the old city walls). Part of me says this place needs urgent renovation, but the other half is happy with the run-down charm vibe it emanates. Check out the outdoor part in the warmer seasons!
Address: 84 Fő utca (near Batthyiány)
3. Gellért Baths Budapest
Opened in 1918 at the foot of leafy Gellért hill, Gellért is undoubtedly one of most popular baths for tourists. What makes it of such high touristy interest is especially the hot healing spring, followed by its Art Nouveau decor, its sculptures and its artistic mosaics. The temperature of the water is between 35 °C and 40 °C, and the entrance on weekdays is about 5 900 HUF (17,50 €). It is famous mainly for its bigger pools, and even has a famous outdoor wave pool. Fun fact: it has frequently been used as a filming location.
Address: XI. Kelenhegyi út 4-6
4. Széchenyi Baths
The largest medicinal bath in Europe, Széchenyi conveys amazing architecture and boasts the coolest outdoor swimming pool ever (besides its hot thermal pools), with an endearing charm beyond comparison. It is famous for its smaller pools, and it’s located in the middle of the City Park. As well as Gellért, Széchenyi is among the priciest of all Budapest thermal baths, overrun by tourists – my advice is, go if you’re dying to see the Monarchy-era interior, but otherwise maybe pick a more local one. And if you do go and want to explore around the baths, go on weekdays, in the early morning: it’s not too much fun on a Sunday afternoon :(
Address: Állatkerti krt. 9-11 (on M4 line, next to Szabadság bridge)
5. Rudas: The Budapest bath with men only and women only days
Also, with the rooftop pool for 10 euros extra. Amazing experience! On weekends, it’s mixed, but some weekdays they keep men- or women only. The best thing about it, it’s right on the Danube, so it would be a shame to miss out on the view from the rooftop thermal pool. You do have to wear a swimsuit (aprons are accepted on some of the men’s days) – some older guides might have outdated information on this. Do try the contrast bath (42 versus 14 Celsius, alternating)!
Address: 9 Döbrentei tér (Buda side, by Erzsébet bridge)
5. Off the beaten track: go local in Budapest baths!
To top all this off, a few ideas for smaller but super local options. Dandár – the Hungarian salaryman’s refuge on the Pest side. Veli Bej – the unsung Turkish delight! Palatinus on Margaret island (basically the Central Park of Budapest). Enjoy!!
Palatinus Baths in Budapest
What to bring to a Budapest thermal bath?
Swimsuit, slippers, towel. Swimcap and goggle sonly if you want to use the swimming pool. The entrance fee (10-25 eur usually depending where you go and when) includes a locker for your valuables and clothes. No nudity! Some people say no swimsuit is accepted – it isn’t please prepare to wear one.
Discounts and prices of Budapest thermal baths
Prices vary depending on the bath: from around HUF 3000 (8,87€) for Király to HUF 6800 (20,10 €) for Gellért and Széchenyi Baths. Most places offer discounts for 2-hour stays on weekdays, usually not weekends and holidays. They may offer deals for going in the morning also, instead of the evening/late afternoon.
And there’s more to it: by getting the official Budapest Card you can benefit huge Discounts on all Budapest baths; for instance you will have 100% discount on Lukacs baths and 20% on Széchenyi, Gellért, Rudas and Király baths.
Hostel TIP: Maverick City Lodge is a great choice if you want to be close to the best Budapest baths and right in the heart of the city. Our staff will be happy to help you pick the right bathhouse for you! The closest bath to Maverick Hostel & Ensuites is Rudas, and Dandár is very close to Maverick Student Lodge. Maverick City Lodge is also right in the middle of it all – you could take the M1 to Széchenyi in the City Park, but all the others are within easy reach!