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BlogTravel tipsYour official guide to visiting Budapest’s thermal baths & 8 trips that’ll take you there
Travel tips

Your official guide to visiting Budapest’s thermal baths & 8 trips that’ll take you there

Mar 14, 2023 by Emily Houston

Picture this: You’re sitting in a steamy outdoor bath surrounded by stunning architecture. Nope, it’s not a dream. You’re at one of Budapest’s thermal baths—and visiting these culture-rich spots just so happens to be the perfect way to spend a day in Hungary’s capital. Here’s our guide to the city’s thermal baths, complete with the eight best Budapest trips to book so you can visit them on tour.

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a public bath filled with people, next to a yellow building, seen from behind a bush of red flowers

Fun facts about Budapest’s thermal baths

Any good travel experience begins with a bit of background and history. Here’s a quick introduction to the baths in Budapest.

  • Budapest’s baths are heated by geothermal energy. The city is ripe with natural hot springs thanks to the area’s topography. In total, there are more than 100 springs around the city, though many are tucked into hillsides and nestled within caves. Geothermal energy heats the water and creates natural bathing areas, many of which have been turned into stunning centerpieces in the city, beckoning travelers to Budapest.
  • The water provides temporary pain relief. Thanks to the abundance of minerals in the water, the thermal baths can help alleviate pain caused by achy muscles and arthritis. While the water won’t heal any ailments, the baths provide temporary relief as well as a place for people to relax and socialize.
  • The baths date back to the Roman, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian empires. Budapest’s bath culture can be traced back to the Roman empire, but the hammam-style architecture and experience came about in the 1500s when the city was under Ottoman rule. The most popular thermal baths in Budapest, like Széchenyi and Gellért, were built in the early 1900s, and their styling is reminiscent of trends made popular during Austro-Hungarian times.

a room in a public bath house filled with water, with brown dots and aqua tiles covering the walls

What should you know before visiting the baths in Budapest?

Whether you’re spending 48 hours in Budapest or plan to be in the city for a bit longer, Budapest’s baths should make an appearance on your to-do list. Here’s what you need to know before booking your ticket.

  • Visit during the week for fewer crowds and discounted rates. Budapest’s baths aren’t just for visitors. Locals love them, too! Go during the week to beat the crowds and pay a lower, off-peak entry fee.
  • Do as the locals do and go in the morning. Popular baths in Budapest like Széchenyi and Gellért get quite busy. Come right when they open and you’ll have more space to yourself.
  • Rent a cabin instead of a locker. Cabins are a locker and private changing room in one, whereas the locker is just a space to store your belongings. Cabins cost a little more than the locker, but are worth the upgrade if you want your own spot to get in and out of your swimsuit. “Adding our Budapest Bath & Spa Visit excursion means you’ll get a cabin, which is much nicer than the locker rooms,” said staffer Jen after her time on our Budapest, Vienna & Prague tour. “It’s a dressing room, and you leave your belongings in there. When you get your ticket upon arrival, you also get a wristband that locks and unlocks your cabin.”
  • Széchenyi Thermal Bath only offers massage appointments on a first-come-first-serve basis. We’re crossing our fingers that someday they’ll bring back pre-booked appointments, but for now you’ll have to roll the dice. The massage services are quite popular, so come to the thermal baths in Budapest first thing in the morning to have the best chance at scooping up an open time slot. You can ask the attendant what the availability is like for that day when you check-in. Interested in going to a different bath? Check their website to see how their massage booking system works.

a statue of a cherub riding a fish, blowing into a conch shell next to an image of an indoor public bath, covered by a glass ceiling and walls

What are the best bathhouses in Budapest to visit?

Budapest is teeming with steamy bathhouses. Here are the top three baths you should visit on our Budapest tours.

  • Széchenyi Thermal Bath. This is the largest and most popular of Budapest’s baths, and you may have seen a photo of it set against a bright yellow, Neo-Baroque building. Lucky for you, this is the thermal bath you’ll visit when you book the Budapest Bath & Spa Visit excursion offered on many of our Budapest tours. On the excursion, you’ll have free time to bathe in any of the three toasty outdoor pools and 15 indoor thermal baths.
  • Gellért Thermal Bath. This thermal bath is located just a 20-minute walk from the hotel we stay at on many of our Budapest trips. The Art Nouveau architecture is what sets the indoor Gellert baths apart from the other ones on this list. “It’s like bathing in a museum,” said staffer Jen. “Every room has diverse architecture and intricate sculptures. Not only can you relax, but you can view beautiful mosaic tiling as well.”
  • Lukács Baths. One of the reasons to visit Budapest in the winter is to take advantage of the outdoor baths. This indoor-outdoor complex delivers on that experience. There are three thermal baths, one cool pool, and two swimming pools to choose from. Want a break from the water? The Lukács Baths also have a dry sauna and a steam room. While not quite as centrally located as the other thermal baths on this list, their location means you may see more locals here.

a black bikini top, black flip flops, and two white bottles

What should you bring to the thermal baths in Budapest?

The best way to truly relax in the baths in Budapest? Come prepared! These are the essential items you should pack in your day bag.

  • Bathing suit. None of the baths in Budapest allow bathers to be nude. If you book a cabin, you’ll have a private space to change. If you’re opting to only book a locker, you’ll change in public, gendered locker rooms.
  • Towel. You’re responsible for bringing your own towel. It’s not included in the price of your entry ticket and rentals are currently unavailable. We recommend bringing two towels—one to bring out to the thermal baths and another to leave in your cabin to use when drying off and changing.
  • Flip flops. It’s customary to wear waterproof shoes while walking around the cabins, locker rooms, and thermal baths. Just be sure to remember where you placed them so you can easily find them when you exit the baths.
  • Waterproof phone holder. Protect your phone by zipping it up in a sturdy plastic cover. This will make sure your phone’s protected from the water and steam while you’re snapping pictures.
  • Shower supplies. If you’re heading back to your hotel after visiting a thermal bath in Budapest, you may prefer to shower there. But, if you’re going to continue exploring the city, bring your shampoo, body wash, and face wash so you can rinse off in the public showers around the facility. They also have hair dryers available for use.
  • Shower cap. This one’s only necessary if you’re planning on using the lap lanes in the pool section of the bath—swimmers are required to keep their hair covered.
  • Packable tote bag. You’ll want somewhere to store your belongings as you walk or take the metro to and from the baths. Toss in a plastic bag to wrap up your wet swimsuit and towel after your visit.
  • Sunscreen and a hat. If you’re visiting the baths in the summer, bring these essentials to protect your skin from the sun’s rays.
  • Cash. There are grab-and-go restaurants on the grounds, but they may only accept small bills. If you think you’ll want a snack or water, bring some Hungarian forints along with you. Just note that you can’t eat or drink in the thermal baths or on the pool deck.

The big yellow bath house and public bath at Széchenyi Spa in Budapest

8 tours you can book to visit Budapest’s thermal baths

Whether you’re looking to celebrate a special event on tour or soak up the energy of everyday life, these Budapest trips include free time or excursions when you can visit the city’s thermal baths.

a women with her head tilted back, floating on top of the water

1. Budapest, Vienna & Prague

Why you should book this tour: This 11-day trip is one of our most popular Budapest tours and offers a Budapest Bath & Spa Visit excursion that takes you right to the historic Széchenyi Thermal Bath in Budapest.

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Széchenyi Spa's yellow bath house facing the pool

2. Highlights of Eastern Europe

Why you should book this tour: If you want to see all of Eastern Europe in one fell swoop, this two-week tour is for you. With two days in Budapest, you’ll have plenty of free time to pop over to the thermal baths.

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a wooden sauna room with a basket of rocks and a rock wall

3. A Week in Eastern Europe: Prague, Kraków & Budapest

Why you should book this tour: Use your free time at the end of this weeklong tour to fit in a visit to the thermal baths in Budapest. Want the logistics handled for you? Add our Budapest Bath & Spa Visit excursion offered on the extension.

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the pool of the Gellért Baths, under a glass ceiling, seen from the balcony with palm trees poking out, supported by decorative columns

4. Oktoberfest: Germany, Switzerland & Austria

Why you should book this tour: After relishing in the magic of Oktoberfest in Munich, extend your trip to Budapest to relax during your free time at the Gellért Thermal Bath. It’s only a short walk from the hotel you’ll likely stay at on this Budapest trip.

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steam coming off the pool with the yellow Neo-Baroque style building in the background next to an image of rum being poured over a sugar cube into three clay mugs

5. Christmas Markets of Germany, Switzerland & Austria

Why you should book this tour: See Central Europe at its most festive, then tack on the extension to enjoy two extra days in Budapest. You’ll have free time on the second day to squeak in a visit to one of the bathhouses in Budapest.

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a women, photographed from behind, looking at the Szechenyi Spa baths and yellow bath house

6. Christmas Markets of Budapest, Vienna & Prague

Why you should book this tour: This trip combines the magic of our Budapest, Vienna & Prague tour with visits to Christmas markets and the Budapest Bath & Spa Visit excursion. What more could you ask for on a Budapest tour?

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a women wearing a white terrycloth headband laying down with her eyes closed

7. Christmas Markets of Eastern Europe

Why you should book this tour: If you like our Highlights of Eastern Europe itinerary but want to loop in a special event, check out this Budapest tour. It includes visits to multiple Christmas markets and the opportunity to add our Budapest Bath & Spa Visit excursion.

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The sun shining on people sitting in the pool and lounging outside the bath house of Széchenyi Spa

8. New Year’s Eve in Lucerne: Germany, Switzerland & Austria

Why you should book this tour: Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Switzerland and ring in the new year by checking another country (Hungary!) off your bucket list. Add the extension to Budapest, as well as the Budapest Bath & Spa Visit excursion, to begin the year with a bit of rest and relaxation.

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Ready to bathe in Budapest's famous thermal baths? Check out our tours to Budapest

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About the author | Emily Houston
Emily loves the simple travel moments—like watching hours pass by in minutes while sharing a meal and a laugh (or many) with her friends and family. Outside the office, you'll find Emily listening to anything and everything John Mayer, attempting to cook a New York Times recipe, or dreaming up her next trip.

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