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Why I Should Have Skipped Budapest’s Szechenyi Baths

(Szechenyi Bath & Spa, Budapest)

(Szechenyi Bath & Spa, Budapest)

After seeing all the neighborhoods in Budapest, Kimmy and I decided to head to the city’s famed Szechenyi Baths.  We had high expectations for this place.  Rick Steves said that this was the one “can’t miss” attraction in Budapest.  Friends had also echoed similar sentiments.  Any search for top Budapest attractions always mentions the Szechenyi Baths as well so being dutiful tourists we decided to save it for one of our last days when we could reward all the walking we did with a nice, relaxing soak in the spa.

The baths were originally built in 1913 and subsequently renovated and transformed over the years. It’s essentially like a big public pool complete with changing rooms, showers, and lockers. The price of admission includes entry to the indoor and outdoor pools.  Ticket prices vary depending on if you go on a weekend or weekday as well as the time of day you go.  The current ticket prices are:

Szechenyi Bath Prices
10 Hungarian forint = 0.05 USD

I’ll do the math for you.  Using today’s exchange rate, you’ll pay anywhere from $17-$22 for admission. If you want to get fancy, you can also pay extra for massages, too.  We opted just for admission and headed there in the late afternoon for some relaxation.

I had visions of us relaxing in the expansive thermal baths surrounded by the beautiful architecture. Apparently, everyone else in Budapest had the same idea.  There were people on beach towels sprawled out on the concrete, people splashing about in the “active” pool, and still more people splashing about in the “relaxation” pool.  There was barely an open corner in the pools to even “relax”. One look at the surroundings and neither of us wanted to go in anymore.

Here’s a picture from when we were there:

IMG_2035

Here’s a picture taken from the official Szechenyi Bath website:

(Source: http://www.szechenyibath.hu/)

(Photo from here)

Did you notice how they couldn’t even get a pic of the baths without the crowds for their own site?! That should have been our first sign of what to expect!

The indoor pool was even worse!  At least the outdoor one didn’t smell of chlorine!  The indoor one was like a community pool – humid and kind of dirty.  Here’s the pic from their site…

(Source: http://www.szechenyibath.hu/)

(Photo from here)

…but it didn’t look anything like that when we were there.  It looked more like a YMCA.  Well, maybe that’s giving too much credit to the YMCA.  Who knew that in comparison the outside pools would have been the best part?

Anyway, because we paid for admission, we sucked it up and hung out for a while in the “relaxation” pool all the while trying to avoid the random sloshes and spatters from the other visitors.  We stayed for a couple of hours reminiscing on our trip before we decided it was time for dinner.

In all, do I regret going?  No…. but did the baths live up to its hype?  Not even close.  If you’re headed to Budapest and are on the fence about visiting the Szechenyi Baths, skip it.  You’re not missing much.

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[…] 3. Budapest – This city has been on so many “must see” lists lately and after visiting Budapest last year, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re going to go to Budapest, go when you haven’t seen much of Europe yet.  Then you’ll be enthralled by the architecture, the Danube that separates Buda and Pest, and the “charm” of the city’s many neighborhoods and pedestrian streets.  If, however, you’ve already seen a fair amount of Europe, Budapest comes off as another European city by the water that’s inconveniently waaaaayyyyy too big to navigate on foot.  Oh, and the Szechenyi baths that’s rated as the #1 attraction in Budapest by Rick Steves?  That was probably the most overrated thing about the city. […]

Sher S - September 12, 2015 - 4:51 pm

Bummer, sorry to hear you had a bad time there. It was pretty crowded when I went too, but we ended up having a great time. Maybe you can try Gellert or the other smaller ones next time?

JustWanderlust - September 22, 2015 - 9:21 pm

Hi Sher – I’m glad you had a good time when you went. Thanks for the recommendation if I’m ever back in Budapest!

Virag Blazsek - May 1, 2016 - 2:38 am

Traditionally going to the baths was an early morning program, this is why Szechenyi opens so early in the morning. If you want to avoid the crowd I recommend you to go early in the morning or at lease in the mornings of working days. Also bathing is an active program. The pools have different temperatures. You will feel very relaxed afterwords, but during your stay you should not spend more than 15-20 minutes in any of the pools, the recommended length of stay and temperature is indicated at each pool. The water smells so strong partly because it is a healing mineral water. A bath is like a ski truck: it is the best in the morning when there are less people and it is still not overused.

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