I should have been more excited, the sun was out and despite the hours of walking the previous day we had actually made it out of bed at a reasonable time. Giving ourselves another full day to explore Budapest before a late flight home that night.
Deciding how to start our day didn’t take much thought…
The Szechenyi Baths are on of the first things that will come up if you look for visitor attractions in Budapest, I know they were the first thing Kirsty mentioned when planning our trip to the city. After stuffing ourselves with a buffet breakfast at the hotel, the idea of relaxing in natural thermal baths while our bodies recover sounded like a great idea, or at least to most people it would…
I was expecting a crowded pool, the odd kick in the ribs and some suspicious floating objects, but that’s just me. If it’s a popular tourist spot, well known and guaranteed to busy then I naturally expect the worst, I can’t help but think, “Isn’t there something else we could be doing instead?” You know, something with less… people?
I’m slowly coming to learn that these places are busy for a reason, sure there is still the odd place that is surviving on reputation alone but with everything (EVERYTHING!) being shared on-line these days it doesn’t take long for word to get around when something just isn’t worth the effort any-more.
Luckily for us (and our full bellies) the Baths were very easy to reach. Situated at the edge of the city park, a lovely area in itself to have a wander around on a nice day, all you have to do is jump on the metro. Take line one heading out of the city and get off at the second to last stop ‘Széchenyi fürdő’. From there it’s just a quick walk round to the entrance on the roadside.
Handy Tip: There are a number of entrances to the baths, but many of them can be confusing, make sure you head towards the rear entrance which is located opposite the circus, this is the closest entrance to the outside pools and changing areas.
Once inside you just need to buy your ticket and you’re in. There are two types of storage available, locker or cabin, we chose to store our stuff in a cabin (or as we would call it a cubicle) which was large enough for two people and secure enough to happily leave our camera and other items whilst we enjoyed the pools.
There are options for all sorts of extras when buying your ticket but if you’re not sure at the time of entering there are plenty of staff around the pools offering massages etc so there’s no need to decide right away.
The most important bit… How are the actual pools?
If you’re lucky enough to walk out of the changing area to the outdoor pools on a gloriously sunny day like we did then it’s impossible not to be happy right away. The pools were busy but calm, with people sitting with water up to their shoulders playing chess or simply enjoying each others company. There’s two outdoor pools for relaxing, each at slightly different temperatures so be sure to try out both (not that you would ever dream of not) and a large swimming pool for those weird people who like to keep active, or those who maybe didn’t eat quite as big a breakfast as us.
Once you’ve had your fun outside it’s time to head inside and check out the 15 indoor pools, steam rooms and saunas, plus there’s also an ice cold plunge pool next to the hottest pool allowing you to take it from one extreme to the other. All of the pools have the temperature written on the walls beside them so you always know what you’re in for. We spent a while wandering through the building spending a few minutes in each pool, some of them are in quite grand looking rooms and worth a quick dip just for a chance to take in your surroundings.
Other than just relaxing we enjoyed what is described as a lazy river in one of the outdoor pools although when we were there the water jets must have been fired up because it was anything but lazy. We spent perhaps a bit too long being carried round in circles giggling like little kids while trying to avoid a pile up with the many other people having just as much fun.
Despite my fears about overcrowding (I didn’t get kicked in the ribs once) it wasn’t an issue in any of the pools. They’re still recommended today by local doctors for medicinal use so the locals happily share the pools daily with tourists which probably helps keep the atmosphere nice and relaxed.
Having such an action packed weekend we were only able to spend a couple of hours at the baths but given the sunshine and surroundings we could have happily stayed much longer (I even played the role of stubborn child refusing to get out of the pool at one point). Food and drink is available and from what we saw looked pretty good so if you’ve got a few hours to spare it might be worth hanging around a little longer and making the most of your visit.
So despite me feeling a bit negative about the baths before visiting or as I prefer to call it ‘Typical British Scepticism’ we actually had a very good time just as the internet said we would, who the hell am I to disagree with the internet?
Have you been to any of the baths in Budapest? Where you disappointed?