Széchenyi Baths

Állatkerti körút, Városliget [map]
Pest, XIV, Széchenyi Fürdő (M1), 1 min

The prospect of a trip to the baths tends to conjure mixed feelings. It’s certainly quintessential Budapest and those who don’t try it will surely have a niggling regret. But most people also find it a pretty daunting experience, especially if they’re already aware of the level of customer service in the city, i.e. zero. So the trick is to match your expectations to reality and take a few precautions so that you can actually relax.

Széchenyi baths is a great option for the first-time bather. It's frequented by a lot of tourists, so you needn’t feel like you’re the only one who has no idea about what you’re doing. That’s not to say that the staff will be eager to help you but it’s comforting to know that other people aren’t being helped either. It’s also architecturally outstanding – turn of the century neo-baroque – so the chances of you leaving without appreciating something are fairly slim.

The main entrance faces the road, rather than the park
(Városliget) and there are multiple ticket options, which may be a bit confusing. Take the cheapest and you’ll get your money’s worth with three outdoor pools, some pungent indoor pools of wildly varying temperature, and even the use of gym equipment, if you can find it! Should you want to step up the pampering level, the words ‘massage’ and ‘sauna’ should be understood too. For current prices, check here.

Whatever you do, don’t go expecting a pristine health-farm environment, that’s not what this is about, and some parts of the building are looking a little worse for wear. There’ll also be unidentifiable stuff in some of the pools, and you won’t know if it’s something to do with the minerals or not.

Széchenyi’s assets, though, are plentiful. Relaxing outdoors in hot spring water in such impressive surroundings is not something you can do just anywhere. On colder days especially, the steam rising from the pool creates a unique, even mystical atmosphere. There’s a time-stood-still feeling about the place, like you’re part of an ancient tradition, which of course, you are. And no matter how you’ve been mistreating your body, you’ll find some sanctuary here. If you really want to go the whole hog, take a chess set with you and enjoy being tutted at by the locals for making idiotic moves.

General advice:

1) Take a towel, a swimming costume, and maybe some flip-flops. Although you can hire the former, it’s easier and cheaper if you don’t.

2) If you're going to worry about the security of your valuables, leave them at home; the whole point of the baths is to relax. Just take enough money to see you through: 10,000Ft will cover even the most indulgent bather.

The locker situation has really improved recently - find an open one and put the swipe card into the slot on the back of the door. In addition to the standard lockers, there are some pretty insecure ‘security’ lockers, which the baths don't take reponsibility for anyway, (and theft is not unheard of.)

4) Put any ticket-like things that you’re given at the entrance in the same pocket. You get a (small) partial refund if you stay for less than three hours, but the staff can be a bit officious when it comes to trying to claim it.

5) Explore. Don't worry about walking the wrong way - just take a chance or there's a good chance you'll miss half of what's on offer. About a dozen pools, steam room and sauna are all included in the standard ticket.

6) If you want to use the swimming pool, take a swimming cap, since they’re obligatory for anyone with hair.

Széchenyi baths has its own metro stop on the yellow line, M1, “Széchenyi Fürdő.” The huge yellow building with several spires houses the baths.
Szechenyi, Szécheni, Szecheni, Séchenyi, Sechenyi, Secheni, furdo, lido
Andy Sz.



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