Bathing is one of my favourite hobbies, so when I heard that Budapest was the spa capital of Europe, I was excited. The Contiki tour I was on had scheduled the two best thermal baths in Budapest into our itinerary – the fancy Gellért Baths and the no-fuss Széchenyi Baths. Both bathhouses come with your usual spa treatments and thermal pools, but that’s where the similarities end.
The Gellért Baths
On the Buda side of town is the famous Hotel Gellért, a beautiful art nouveau style building and home to some of Budapest’s most famous baths. Built in 1918, the complex is made up of thermal baths, swimming pools, saunas, plunge pools and even an artificial wave pool.
Unfortunately on the way to the baths we got distracted by the hotel’s amazing restaurant and spent our forints on champagne and deliciousness, not realising that we needed a fairly hefty cash deposit to hire a towel and change room. Next thing I know I’m attempting the impossible by trying to change out of a playsuit and into a bikini discretely without flashing Hungarian society folk.
We hit up the indoor and outdoor pools, but swapped the massages and manicures for chilling in the sun.
The Széchenyi Baths
In Pest you’ll find the Széchenyi Baths, one of the largest public baths in all of Europe. This is where the locals go when they want to get their spa on. During the day you’ll find old men playing chess, immersed up to their chests in steaming water. But when the sun goes down, it’s a whole different story.
In summer, Széchenyi Baths hold special ‘sparty’ nights where the massive complex is transformed into a dance party. Hungary’s top DJs play for a 2,000 plus crowd with the walls of the complex turned into interactive canvases. Now I love cool tunes, bikinis, baths, chilling with my buddies and dancing with strangers, so the idea of partying in waist-deep thermal waters to thumping beats sounds like my kind of party.
There weren’t any sparties on while we were in Budapest, but they are definitely worth checking out if you’re there over summer.
We travelled through Europe as guests of Contiki. The trip we were on usually starts in Berlin then heads to Prague and Vienna, finishing up in Budapest. We were on a tight schedule so we went the other way around and skipped Berlin. If you’ve been inspired to visit Budapest, check out Contiki Berlin to Budapest. We’ll definitely be coming back for more bath time.