If you’re going to Hungary’s capital, then you cannot miss the most satisfying and relaxing thing to do in town, the Budapest bath houses. They have been around since Roman times healing ailments through the 125 thermal springs under the city. Some locals still swear by its healing powers, but you’ll more than likely be going there to cure a hangover.
Ironically, the bath houses now actually cause a hangover themselves, with huge parties bringing people from around the world to SPArty the night away. Whatever your reason for going this guide will tell you all the ins and outs of bath house etiquette, prices and how to do it like a local!
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Things To Know Before You Go
To be naked or not to be naked?
Unlike traditional Turkish and Roman baths, the Budapest bath houses are becoming increasingly male and female mixed. Some baths are keeping the traditions and depending on the day could be men only or female only. That means that if you want to get your birthday suit out it can only be those single sex days. Otherwise bring a bathing suit to cover all your naughty bits.
What if you don’t have a bathing suit?
Don’t worry, you can rent all sorts of things from the bath houses;
Bathing suits: if you haven’t packed your budgie smugglers or zungas most venues can rent you some bathers
Towels: some Budapest bath houses require you to use a towel when you’re in the sauna. So if you want to dry yourself at the end of the day you’ll need another towel.
Swimming caps: now, no-one likes wearing a swimming cap, but if you want to jump in the lap pool you’ll need to rent one.
Let us explain the cabins vs. lockers debate
The price lists for the baths can be confusing, with the main culprit being the whole cabins vs. lockers dilemma. Basically, do you mind getting naked in front of everyone or do you want some privacy?
Cabins: a small changing cabin you hire for the day. You store your things in there, get changed in there and who knows what else you do in there 😉
Locker: with this option you’ll have to get changed with everyone around you. The locker is big enough for your clothes and not much else
With both options you’ll get a fancy waterproof electronic wrist band to lock/unlock your things. They should be quite secure, but I still wouldn’t trust them with anything too expensive.
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What’s the layout of the bath houses in Budapest?
All the Budapest bath houses have the same general layout, except some are just bigger and have more pools. This is how most look on the inside;
- 1 lap pool for swimming
- 1 or 2 big outside mineral-rich thermal pools
- 4-15 indoor thermal pools with different healing minerals and temperatures ranging from 16-42 degrees
- Dry saunas (up to 80 degrees inside!) and ice-cold plunge pools
- Steam rooms
- Different massage therapies
- Workout facilities
How much do the Budapest bath houses cost?
We found this to be the most confusing part of the whole bath house experience, so we’ll try and simplify it for you. The best value-for-money option is if you go during the week and get a day pass that uses a locker.
Do you want a cabin or locker?
Cabins are the more expensive option.
How long do you want to be there?
Getting to the baths early and leaving early is cheaper than staying for the whole day. Some places will even put a time limit on how long you can stay at the baths which is normally around 3 hours.
Do you want to treat yourself while you’re there?
Lastly, you can just go to the baths or get a massage included in your price.
Do they have food or drinks at the bath houses in Budapest?
As you would expect, the food is pretty expensive at the Budapest bath houses. Your two best options for cheap food alternatives are;
- Eat up big before you go and leave when starvation is setting in
- Bring a small picnic to eat. Beware that not all the baths allow this option, though. We saw people with whole watermelons and big-scale picnics in Szechenyi.
Make sure you bring plenty of your own water for the day. The price of bottled water is quite high and you’ll be needing it if you’re jumping in and out of that sauna.
What the thermal pools do to help your medical needs
The main attraction of the Budapest bath houses is the thermal waters that contain special healing minerals. According to people that know things, these minerals can heal a bunch of different ailments. There are even plaques at Lukacs Baths from patients thanking the bath house for curing them.
Ailments that benefit from the thermal waters include:
- Joint degeneration
- Protruded intervertebral disc
- Bone system calcium deficiency
- Chronic arthritis
- Chronic and semi-acute arthritis
- Blood circulation problems
- Degenerative illnesses of joints
- Illnesses of the vertebral spine
- Pains of the intervertebral disc
- Aortic stenosis
- Stomach problems
- Kidney stones
How to do the Budapest bath houses like a real Hungarian!
If you want to get rid of your chronic arthritis or just a hangover this is the best way to go about being at the baths;
- Go in one of the big warm pools and relax those muscles
- Jump into a cold pool
- Spend a few minutes in the sauna
- Plunge in the ice-cold pool
- Spend a few minutes in the steam room
- Plunge in the ice-cold pool
- Relax in each of the different temperature thermal pools
- Have a shower
- Play some chess
- Relax by the pools sunbathing till your heart’s content
Or just copy what one of the old locals are doing 😉
Who wants a Budapest bath PARTY!?
Nowadays, the Budapest bath houses aren’t just for day-time relaxing. They have taken a leaf out of the Las Vegas pool party book and started all-night raves on the weekend. Mariana and I didn’t get a chance to go to one, but from what we’ve seen they look insane.
Looks like a big production right? Well, the price of the tickets reflects that. It starts at €35 (early bird) and finishes at €160 if you buy it on the day of the party and want VIP.
They are held at either Széchenyi or Lukacs depending on the time of year. For a list of dates check out the SPArty website for details.
The 6 Best Budapest Bath Houses
Now you know the ins and outs of what to do in the baths it’s time to tell you a bit about the individual baths. There are 50 spas, baths and public pools in Budapest, but most of them you can forget about. Here is the low-down of the 6 biggest and best baths in town.
Rudas Turkish Bath
Rudas Turkish Bath is one of the oldest and most famous bath houses in Budapest. It was recently renovated to keep it up with modern times. The main swimming hall is beautiful and the labyrinth of thermal pools and saunas will keep you happy all day.
Excellent choice if you want to go to a Turkish bath. Just remember there are no outside pools here.
During the week it’s a men-only affair except on Tuesdays where the girls get their turn. On the weekend everyone can party together
6 thermal pools
1 big indoor swimming pool
Saunas & massages: 8 AM – 10 PM
Swimming pool: 6 AM – 10 PM
Thermal pools: 6 AM – 8 PM
Friday & Saturday nights: 10 PM – 4 AM
1,350 – 34,000 HUF
The normal full-day thermal and swimming pool ticket is 3,900 HUF
Click here for a full price break down
Döbrentei tér 9, Budapest 1013
Buda, District 1
Veli Bej Turkish Bath
This is somewhat the hidden gem of Budapest’s bath houses. Tucked away in the corner of a hospital, it was renovated in 2011 and looks amazing. It’s also not part of the Budapest Bath Association making it cheaper than other places in town. There is also a maximum of 80 people allowed inside so it never feels over-crowded.