The thermal spas in Budapest are without a doubt, one of the most beautiful experiences and locations that you’ll travel to on your visit. The water is a stunning blue and the regal buildings a contrasting pale yellow and you’ll find that steam rises from the hot water (obviously) which makes the experience that much more picturesque.
But before you go running off to the spa to get your soak on, there’s a couple things that you might want to know. Foolishly, I never plan in advance and make most of the mistakes below. Don’t let it happen to you. A little bit of planning will not only save you some extra money for drinks later, it’ll make the whole experience that much better.
Here’s the 411 on what you need to know when visiting the Széchenyi Baths in Budapest.
1. Visit during the weekday
First things first, it’s cheaper to visit during the weekday for a daily ticket. An all day ticket is £15 (4600 HUF). Prices jump(!) up at the weekends (who knew, not us) by nearly a pound to £16 (4800 HUF). It’s not a massive hike that would deter you from visiting on say, a Saturday morning, but I’d still recommend a weekday visit. Plus, it gets more crowded at the weekends.
2. Pick your timings for either first thing or later in the evening
Again, it’s cheaper to go from 6am-8am. If you’re feeling particularly spritely in the morning, this could be a great idea. Afternoon tickets are also available from 5-7pm. During the week, these tickets are around £12 per ticket. Bargain! Weekends are £14.
3. Pack flip-flops, a bathing suit and towel
Sounds simple enough right? We didn’t even think about bringing flip-flops to walk around in, so we did the whole shebang barefoot. The floor is pretty impeccable, but as a semi-germaphobe, I still would have felt better wearing something on my feet. We packed bathing suits because our hotel had a pool, not because we’d fully planned out our trip knowing we were heading to the thermal spas. I’d recommend bringing both. You can also pay to rent a towel too when you get there. We thought the price might include a towel, but it doesn’t. Bring one from your hotel and save yourself the extra cash.
As a side note, I realize the that cash savings aren’t massively deterring from visiting say, all day at the weekend, but if you’re planning a trip around Europe or have a lot on your planner, saving an extra fiver here and there is a big help.
4. Rent a locker
There are a few locker options. You’ll be able to share one with whomever you go with if you so choose. So we shared a space, the lockers are actually tiny changing rooms. There was a group of girls near us, and some guys who came in too. There’s no such thing as a men’s or woman’s locker room here.
5. Prepare for the maze
Ever been to a field or corn maze in the autumn? Visiting the thermal spas is like getting lost in a maze of blue baths. You take one wrong turn and well, you’re back at the start. Even though you’ll ask the staff how to get outside approximately 10 times, you’ll still end up figuring it out on our own. Take your time, walk through a series of the rooms and take it all in. Eventually you’ll find your way to the cold outside or warm if you’re visiting in the summertime.
6. Time of year is super important
Budapest in the winter time means you’re going to absolutely freeze the minute you step outside. Getting into the hot water is a dream. Be prepared to run from the baths straight into the building and hopping into another warm pool as fast as you can go. It’s cold. Also, be weary of the baths because each has a differing heat level. Some of the pools are cold intentionally. Avoid these! I haven’t been in the summertime, but I assume that this is the time to enjoy the cold baths. Also, if you’re going in the summertime, you’re not likely to experience the steam rising from the water outside. Sounds silly to state out loud, but if you’re after a wintertime experience like we had, you want the steam!
7. Waterproof cameras are a great idea
It’s 100% Instagrammable here. I had my giant Canon DSLR out and about running through the water. This is a TERRIBLE idea. The fear of dropping it was so very real. I also had my phone with me too. If buying a GoPro isn’t up there on your list of priorities however, I have a few recommendations. Take a waterproof bag or backpack if you want your camera nearby the whole time – also good for holding your towel. Or make photos your first priority on your visit. Explore the spas with your camera, take your photos and then pop it back in your locker. This is what I did as I didn’t want to worry about it the entire time.
8. Turn it into a serious spa day
The thermal spas actually have full spa services available. From massages through to manicures and pedicures, you can have a fully relaxed experience. Perfect for if you’ve been busy travelling and need to indulge a little.
9. Enjoy it!
While you’re there, soak in the experience. Relax and sit in the pools. Wander through and explore the building. There’s so much to see and to do and it’s certainly something you’ll remember doing for the rest of your life.