After travelling to Budapest three separate occasions, you would think I would have explored more than two of the baths on offer in this historic European city. And yet, I still haven’t had the courage to visit one of the Turkish ones, mostly because I can’t quite work out the men and women only times and naked rules, and so I’ve had a lot of time to explore the two big ones: Gallert and Szechenyi.
The first time we came to this city was for the music festival Sziget and our friends who had been camping for 10 days by then were well accustomed to cleaning off last night’s filth with a bathe in the spas on offer. They’d been around and tried them all, and they advised us to meet them in their favourite; Gallert.
It was the middle of summer and so the outdoor pool was quite packed, but inside I was surprised that it was easy to get around and find a space in the small saunas and spas as well as relaxing in the sun. We did our first spa run, going up a few degrees at a time, then heading for the steam room and finishing up with zero degree water. My skin never felt so refreshed.
The second time I popped into Budapest I wanted to try a new spa, but ended up back at Gallert – it’s what I knew would be good for a recovery session after celebrating my birthday with some of my closest friends. We each booked in for a massage, and one by one everyone came out feeling especially relaxed… everyone except me. I, being very stupid, opted for the full body massage, which is the option I always prefer over a back one. The woman had me strip naked, lie on the bed face up, and she adjusted a towel between my legs so I was basically wearing a nappy. As she worked away at me, and I lay completely naked in front of her for 40 minutes, I spent the whole time wishing I had been less adventurous and just taken the damn back option.
My experiences of Szechenyi are a little different. I first laid eyes on the spa on the night of my birthday, when we attended a bath party. We paid 35 euro each and were surrounded mainly by English people for the night, and while it was fun and a great experience I don’t think I’d pay so much for a party again, particularly as even in the middle of summer it was too cold to get out and get a drink.
The second time I visited the spa was on this current visit to Budapest; after getting my work done in the morning I decided it wouldn’t quite be a trip to this lovely city without making it to at least one spa, so I headed down to the City Park to try it out without the party vibe. The walk was absolutely stunning – seeing the castle to my right and the park to my left, I definitely took my time, even walking around the spa building to admire the architecture. The spa itself was a little less relaxing than I imagined; it seemed more like the destination for a lot of English lads who loved carrying their beers around to the saunas rather than any locals taking a chance to enjoy the serenity. I guess the party vibe from the Saturday night hadn’t quite worn off.
It also felt quite overcrowded – as I expected on a Sunday – but I guess after going to Gallert my expectations over having room in the spas had heightened. After having to stand in the corner of a couple of saunas and squeezing in between couples and big groups of guys in the smaller spas, I decided it was time to call it a day.
So here’s a little summary of what I’ve found with both spas:
- Nice and quiet, the perfect place to relax
- It wasn’t so packed for us during peak times – this included during the weekend of Sziget festival, which is in August, and on a weekend at the end of June
- The outdoor area is lovely and great for sunbathing in summer
- The full body massages – only get if you’re seriously ok with a woman being all over you naked!!
- It is a little bit out of the city I suppose though you could easily do the castle walk in the morning and then go there in the afternoon
- The outdoor area is absolutely stunning, very photo worthy
- There’s lots of choices over the spas, they seem to go on and on!
- The area around the baths is really beautiful and great for a tourist day out
- Seemed more of a tourist spot, particularly for the British, than a place to relax
- Was really packed, making it difficult to find a spot to sit in a lot of the spas and saunas
- Was hard to navigate your way around and there aren’t many people to help you – I got lost three times and the women at the front were laughing at me about it?!
Both are around the same price – give or take 5000 ft – and personally I would go back to Gallert rather than Szechenyi. Give me relaxation at these places any day – particularly if I’ve been out the night before and need to rest and recuperate!
Have you been to the baths in Budapest? Any of the Turkish ones or the not-so-famous ones? Tell me about it, I’m sure I’ll be back and would love to try them out!