The Szechenyi Baths in Budapest are the largest thermal spa complex in Europe and the most popular baths in Hungary. The vast majority of tourists when visiting Budapest go here, despite the fact that there are even better thermal baths nearby. I’ll tell you all you need to know before visiting these baths. The information will make your travel much easier and will answer many questions.

Széchenyi Baths: a very brief history, interesting facts

Briefly, the most important thing to get a complete picture of this unique place:

  • Construction began in 1906.
  • The baths opened in 1913.
  • Fully supplied with mineral thermal springs on which the complex is located.
  • In 1996, a major reconstruction began as the Széchenyi Baths were in poor condition, including the indoor pools.
  • The renovation was completed only in 2007. There was no renovation after this.
Széchenyi Baths today
There are already places inside that need repair. Some tourists complained about mold (I didn’t see it, but I didn’t look for it either).

Good to know:

Today, some parts of the baths could use a facelift. If you don’t take into account the beauty from the outside, the inside of the baths is somewhat reminiscent of a sanatorium from Soviet times
Relaxation area in the Szechenyi Baths
And this is the relaxation area in the Szechenyi Baths. You can lie on the sofa, why not a sanatorium?

Here are some facts about the Széchenyi Baths in Budapest

  • The largest thermal spa complex in Europe
  • The baths are named after the famous Hungarian politician, reformer, writer István Széchenyi István, who lived in the 19th century. In Hungary squares, bridges and streets are named after him. In Budapest there is the Széchenyi Bridge and Széchenyi Square.
  • In 2010, one of the world’s famous media published a list of the dirtiest places in the world. And the Szechenyi Baths are in the TOP 10. There was a huge scandal. But I’ll tell you about sanitation in the baths later.
  • And the water from the baths goes directly into the hippo enclosure at the Budapest Zoo, which is located right across the road. Since the composition of the water of one of the sources is the same as that of hippopotamuses in their homeland on the Nile River.

What else to see in Budapest: TOP-30 attractions.

General information: how to get there, prices, opening hours

Széchenyi Baths in Budapest
The main entrance to the baths. Parking is paid everywhere (1.2 euros per hour). It’s better to take the metro.

Getting to the baths is easy. Firstly, they are located almost in the center in a popular tourist area. You can even walk from the parliament building, it’s only about 3 kilometers away. You’ll get there in 40 minutes. Secondly, in the city park where the baths are located there are many more attractions. So after visiting the thermal baths, there is somewhere to take a walk.

  • Coordinates of the Széchenyi Baths in Budapest (the link will open a map): 47.51865422480727, 19.0823845770729. The main entrance is from the circus and zoo.
  • The easiest way to get there is by metro. Directly 50 meters from the baths is the M1 yellow line station Széchenyi fürdő (fürdő means baths in Hungarian). By metro you can generally get to almost any point in Budapest.
    • About the metro and buses of Budapest: where and how to buy a ticket, how to validate it, a tourist pass, how to make transfers and much more that a tourist needs to know.

Now the basics about opening hours, tickets, prices:

Szechenyi Baths in Hungary
This is what the main hall looks like, this is the side where you enter with tickets purchased on the Internet. Notice how many people are here
  • Opening hours
    • On weekdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • On weekends from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Important to know:

There are no time-limited tickets or end-of-day discount tickets here. Only full price tickets and no time limit even if you come here an hour before closing. In winter, daily, and sometimes in summer, tickets are available with a slight discount for those who come before 9 am. Hungary in general is a country for early risers. Here at 7 am most shops and markets are already open. All about the time in Hungary.

Prices for visiting the bath:

  • Standard full-day ticket on weekdays – 10500 forints (~27.5 euros)
  • The same ticket on a weekend – 12000 forints (~31.5 euros)
  • On holidays and other events 13500 forints (about 35 euros)
  • You can buy a so-called fast track ticket. It is sold only online, costs a couple of euros more, but you don’t have to stand in a general queue. Especially on weekends it is huge, there are tons of people. This ticket also includes free entry to the Palinka Museum (this is Hungarian fruit vodka) and tasting.
    • Online tickets can be purchased via this link or via this one. On weekends and weekday afternoons, this may save you an hour of time in line, or it may not, depending on your luck 🙂

Good to know:

If you buy a ticket at the box office, they accept cards or cash forints. Cash euros are not accepted yet.
Széchenyi Thermal Baths Hungary
Here is the ticket office where you can buy tickets on the spot. It’s 8-9 a.m. on a weekday, and the line is already out the door. But it’s not much yet, about 15 minutes.

I am often asked about children: children of any age are allowed into the Széchenyi baths. If you have a very small child, they will come up to you and explain that small children are not allowed to be in the thermal baths, even if they have a special diaper. For those who are older, from 6-8 years old, it is possible, but not for long. Thermal water can adversely affect the body of a small child. And keep in mind that the pools are deep – 130cm deep.

My opinion: this is not for children, they have nothing to do here and will be very boring and uninteresting. There is no playground here. This is a place for relaxation and rest; you cannot run, jump, or frolic in the water here, and this is monitored by lifeguards with whistles.

What to take to the Szechenyi Baths?

Let’s start with the fact that the 30+ euro ticket for the whole day to the Széchenyi Baths does not include anything other than a bracelet. Take everything else with you. From the required ones:

  • Towel
  • Flip flops
  • Washcloth, soap, shower gel, etc. This is not the case here and nothing is given for free.

Good to know:

And you can’t rent it, you can only buy it. Here are the prices: towel – 17 euros, disposable flip flops – 11 euros. Those who are in Budapest for a short time (between flights) and immediately go to the baths from the airport are forced to buy flip-flops and a towel at an expensive price if they don’t have their own.

Also advice from me personally. A robe would be a good idea for those planning a visit in the cooler months. Walking between outdoor pools, and indeed walking without a robe in general, is only comfortable in the summer, but in winter it is uncomfortable.

Baths of Hungary and Budapest
The two ladies who were in the frame came with their robes. It’s immediately obvious who knows and who is a tourist. Don’t look at the number of people yet, don’t get upset ahead of time.

Map, locker rooms

Let’s move on to the baths specifically. What you need to know about this:

  • Separate locker rooms for men and women, on different floors.
  • You can choose any free locker, it is included in the price of any ticket. Close and open using a bracelet.
  • You can additionally purchase an individual cabin with a locker. This is a 2×1 meter room, a personal locker for belongings and a couch. This is convenient for families with children; others don’t have to bother.

Good to know:

Easy navigation is a weak point in various Hungarian baths. Those who have been in others understand what I mean. Sometimes these are just labyrinths, such as the Gellert baths. In general, everything is fine with this in Széchenyi. There is nowhere to get lost. 3 large outdoor pools and about 10 inside in one line, you just go straight from one room to another and there are baths in each. And all this on the same floor. Only women’s locker rooms are on the floor below.
Széchenyi Baths map and pool temperatures
With this map everything will be much clearer then. Pools 1-2-3 are outdoor. All others are indoor.

Pools, temperature: general points

The water in the thermal baths is hot and contains a lot of sodium and chloride and a little sulfur. The water in the Széchenyi baths has a slight smell of hydrogen sulfide. But in Hungary there are baths where this smell is much stronger.

If you look at the map above where I’ve marked the pools, here’s what you need to know:

  • 1 – 25m outdoor swimming pool. Water +26 degrees. You can only swim with a cap. Lifeguards walk around and constantly whistle and kick out those who entered this pool without a cap. You can enter all other pools of the complex without a swimming cap.
  • 2 and 3 – outdoor thermal pools. 38 and 34 degrees respectively, even in winter.
hot springs of Hungary Széchenyi Baths
From this angle you can clearly see pool No. 1, which is a swimming pool, and No. 2, which is a thermal one. They differ in water color. And No. 3 is the same as No. 2; it doesn’t fit into the frame further. By the way, the photo was taken at 10 am.

This is where the coolest part of the baths ended. All other pools that are on the map are indoors. From the general points:

  • The pools are very small, there are a lot of people.
  • There are more than 10 pools. But usually a couple are always closed for maintenance.
  • Water in all internal thermal baths is from 26 to 38 degrees. In general, you can easily determine the water temperature by the number of people in the bath. There is no one in the cold ones, everyone is sitting in thermal baths of 35 degrees and above.
  • There are hydro guns, massage showers and a standard set for such baths.
Széchenyi Hot Baths prices where
This is what all the indoor thermal pools look like, which are also marked on the map above. It’s morning, workday, 9:30 am.

Also among all these small indoor pools there are several saunas: 5 or 6. The saunas are small, there are aroma saunas, Finnish, infrared and steam saunas.

Important point:

I often hear that people expect sauna variety from Hungarian baths. In northern Europe there is a tradition of visiting saunas, but not in Hungary. The Szechenyi Baths, and any others, are not about saunas. It is not customary here to visit the sauna, but to sit in thermal water for hours. And don’t forget how many people there are. You relax in the sauna, and every 5 seconds someone comes in or out, and the sauna quickly cools down.

Pros and cons of the Széchenyi Baths in Budapest

I will try to convey the idea without bias, the whole truth, and then you decide for yourself. On the other hand, it’s difficult for me to be objective, since I’ve been to 30-40 thermal baths across the country and have seen much better baths than Széchenyi. But let’s go in order:

Disadvantages of the Szechenyi Bath in Budapest:

  • These are the most expensive baths in Hungary as they are the most popular. All others are cheaper, many much cheaper.
  • There are a lot of people, it will be hard for a social phobia person here. To get at least a little rest and relaxation, you need to come here early in the morning, while tourists are sleeping after a night of hanging out in bars.
water temperature in Széchenyi baths
9am on a weekday. It’s beautiful if you apply the “remove all people” filter. In the evening people sit much more closely.
  • A consequence of the fact that there are many people is long queues at the entrance. And the thermal baths are noisily crowded, with endless chatter and laughter all around. This is a place where you go for relaxation, but you end up like at a market.
  • On top of that, lifeguards walk nearby and whistle. There are a lot of things you can’t do here: you can’t enter the swimming pool without a cap, but there are many people who want to do this. You can’t sit in the bath with a drink, but there are plenty of people who want to buy beer and drink it in the bath. And so on. The Széchenyi Baths are not about silence and tranquility.
  • Regarding the cleanliness that we talked about at the beginning of the article. I come across the fact that especially squeamish tourists say after visiting that the water was dirty. The water in the thermal baths is not dirty, it contains minerals, natural particles, and suspension. It comes from the hot spring directly to these baths. Therefore, the water is not crystal clear, since it is not filtered so as not to deprive it of its medicinal properties.
  • But on the other hand, look how many people pass here every day. Everyone is without caps and walks barefoot. If you look closely, finding someone else’s hair in the thermal bath is not a problem at all.

If you are a squeamish social phobe, this will be difficult for you. Other visitors may not notice the cons. As for me, the Széchenyi baths are generally clean, and other people’s hair does not bother me.

thermal pools in the Széchenyi Baths temperature
There are also such pools inside. No one sits because the water here is cold. This is for those who visit the Finnish sauna

Now about the advantages, there are few of them, or rather more than 0, but less than 2.

  • The most important advantage is that it is really beautiful. It’s a very cool feeling to lie in a hot bath under the open sky, in winter, if it’s raining or snowing, look around, enjoy the beautiful architecture. Aesthetics for the eyes and pleasure for the body.

To sum up:

In fact, all that is worthy of attention and interesting to an ordinary tourist in the Széchenyi baths are two large hot outdoor pools No. 2 and No. 3 on the map above. All other indoor pools are not impressive.

Food and Paid Options at the Széchenyi Baths

Don’t forget that there is a cafe and restaurant where you can have a snack and drink. You can only eat at tables or outside on a sun lounger. You are not allowed to bring food or drinks into the pools.

Prices are slightly above the city average:

  • Cocktails – from 10 euros
  • Hungarian wines – 3 euros 150ml
  • There is not a lot of food, but there are burgers, pastries, and cakes. On average, a small burger starts from 5 euros.
what to eat in the thermal baths of Budapest
There is such a buffet right in the baths, you won’t go hungry. You can bring your own food.

There is also a choice of paid options:

  • Massage – from 30 euros for 20 minutes.
  • There is a luxury massage for two for 45 minutes – 130 euros.
  • Wraps
  • A few more standard spa procedures
  • The most interesting thing I can recommend from the bottom of my heart is “Beer Sauna”. Sit in a bathtube with hot water and beer wort for 45 minutes, there are no people around, silence. But the most important thing is that the price includes unlimited beer, Czech Euro lager. You can drink as much as you can 🙂
    • The price for one is 47 euros. For two: 87 euros.

You can buy any right on the spot when you are already inside.

paid options in Széchenyi Budapest
I recommend it wholeheartedly: here’s a beer barrel and pay attention to the unlimited beer tap next to it. Have you ever drank beer for speed?

Travel tips

I’ll give you some tips that will definitely help you make a choice, especially if you’re in Hungary for a short time and it’s not possible to visit different baths every day.

  • The bracelet in the Széchenyi Baths only works with the locker. If you want to buy beer or pay for a massage, you need to go to the locker room for a card or money.
  • You can bring your own food and drinks and eat it all at the cafe tables or on a sun lounger without any problems.
  • I strongly recommend going here on a weekday morning, around 8-9 am. By 12 noon there are already a lot of people on any given day. It’s scary to imagine what’s happening here on weekends and holidays; I don’t visit these baths these days.
  • Don’t forget to take the whole set with you: flip flops, towels, shampoo, and preferably a robe, especially if it’s winter.
  • There’s nothing to do here all day, 3 or 4 hours and you’re already tired. Then you can go for a walk around the city.

My personal opinion:

As for me, the Széchenyi baths are greatly overrated, this is pure marketing, and tourists simply don’t know any better. They don’t know that Budapest has 13 large thermal baths. And there are 1,300 of them throughout Hungary! And the Szechenyi Baths are not the coolest. If you have never been to such thermal baths, you will definitely like the Szechenyi Baths. For a first acquaintance with the city, this is great. But if you are still choosing, just look at the photo below.
the best thermal baths in Budapest except Szechenyi
Gellert Baths in Budapest.
Which thermal baths to visit in Hungary besides Szechenyi
Baths in an underground cave in Miskolc-Tapolca. You can get lost here.
Heviz or Széchenyi which is better
And this Lake Heviz is the largest thermal lake in the world. Open all year round, even in winter.

But here are the links to the reviews, just read, you don’t need to buy anything, I’m not discouraging anyone from visiting the Szechenyi Baths 🙂

In conclusion: the Szechenyi Baths in Budapest are an iconic place. An ordinary tourist cannot imagine visiting Budapest without visiting these baths. This is already a symbol of the city. Yes, the architecture there is great, but architecture everywhere in Hungary is great. There are dozens of hot springs in Hungary, there are even entire lakes. Well, the Széchenyi Baths are the most crowded Hungarian baths with tourists; in all other baths there are many times fewer people.

Visit 2 or 4 different thermal baths and you will understand. But if you have never been to such thermal baths, then you need to go to Széchenyi too.

IMPORTANT: Below are useful links that will help organize your trip to Hungary and Budapest:

  • Flight: Aviasales – compares prices for flights among 30+ airlines flying to Budapest.
  • Tours and excursions:
    • Viator and GetYourGuide – the best services for finding tours in Budapest and Hungary with the largest database of activities in Hungary. They offer river cruises on the Danube, tickets to baths, and 1000+ tours (available in different languages).
  • Accommodation, apartments, hotels, hostels:
    • Hotellook compares the prices among dozens of other booking services and offer the best price
    • Booking – the most popular booking platform
    • Agoda – even more accommodation options in Hungary
  • Car rental: DiscoverCars – the leading and largest car rental service in Hungary.
  • Travel Insurance: EKTA.
  • eSIMAiralo virtual SIM card in Hungary.
  • Taxi and airport transfers: Intui.Travel