Why swimming in Budapest spas is so good
The Hungarian capital of Budapest is the epitome of European spa and bath thermal pools and springs. People have been swimming in the spas for hundreds of years. The spa swimming and bathing history goes back into 15th century (500 years old) when the Turks brought this culture into the area. Today, there are over 100 springs in the Budapest area providing thermal water for many to enjoy. People from all over the world come to see and experience this.
We went and explored 3 of the best spas for outdoor swimming in Budapest in the winter months (January 2019).
1) Széchenyi Baths
This spa centre was the best for great outdoor swimming in Budapest during this winter season because Széchenyi Baths is the largest spa venue in Budapest and probably in Europe. The centre offers 21 indoor thermal pools (they call them also bath units) and also saunas with temperatures ranging from 12C-40C and outdoor swimming pools with temperatures ranging from 28C-38C.
While the largest outdoor pool is approximately 50m and offers a great chance for a proper swim session, there were also some just for bathing. We did about 30 lengths in the evening while the steam was rising off the water and the fresh air was about 0C. The water temperature was 28C, which is similar to a normal indoor swimming pool. During the summer months, the water temperature is 26C while the air is a lot warmer. The pool had 3 very wide lanes, so you can comfortably swim with others around. You must wear a swimming cap for this swim!
The other outdoor pools are much warmer (36 and 38C) and are therefore not suitable for a proper swim however they are great for a relaxed bathing time while enjoying the outdoor atmosphere. Many people just sit in the corners and chill out while some join the circling currents pushing you around in a whirlpool.
We have heard that these two warmers pools are often a venue for organised night parties.
Opening times: 6am-10pm all days
Entry fee weekdays: 5,500 Forint (17 Euro) / person. You get a locker and wrist band.
Location: Széchenyi Thermal Bath
Other services are available at this centre: massage treatments, pedicure and restaurant.
2) Rudas Baths
This centre is one of the oldest and most known for Turkish baths. It has a stunning octagonal pool on top of the roof where you can see the Blue Danube river. There are 12 pools and saunas in total of which only one is a proper swimming venue (20m long and 29C) while the rest are for bathing only. We found this venue very clean, less busy than others and consequently mostly visited by local Hungarians. A great place to come and relax in the warm traditional Turkish baths. Above all, the highlight of our visit was the outdoor octagonal pool on the roof, where you can sit in fresh air and enjoy the amazing view on the Danube river. Rudas Baths also offers a nighttime experience on weekends during 10pm-4am. Some days are men only in specific Turkish baths.
Opening times: 6am-10pm all days
Entry fee weekdays: 5,200 Forint (16 Euro) / person. You get a locker and wrist band.
Location: Rudas Baths
Age limit is 14 or above.
Other services are available at this centre: massage treatments and restaurant with view on the Danube.
3) Gellért Baths
Built in 1918 with its own hotel, Gellért is an impressive building located next to the Danube river. We found this building interior very impressive with beautiful art creations everywhere. This centre offers 12 pools of which 2 are outdoors. Water temperatures range from 26C-40C, plus a few cooling baths with around 12C. Two of the best things we would recommend in this centre are:
a) the outside thermal pool (36C) which is next to a finish dry sauna (90C) and a cooling barrel (12C). So you can combine a dip in the warm healthy spa water with a jump into a cold barrel and then back into the sauna.
b) or you go for a swim in the 25m long indoor swimming pool where you can relax and have a decent swim session. Water temperature is 26C. The swimming cap is required.
In the summer months, you can also enjoy the wave pool outside.
Opening times: 6am-8pm all days
Entry fee weekdays: 5,900 Forint (18 Euro) / person. You get a locker and wrist band.
Location: Gellert Baths
Thermal water visit is not recommended under the age of 14.
Other services are available at this centre: several massage treatments.
Swimming in Budapest is easy and accessible. All three thermal bath centres are in the city area. Rudas and Gellért are in the very centre of Budapest next to Danube river while Széchenyi is in the City Park and is easy to walk to, take a bus or underground train.
Health and Wellness
It is believed that the bath activities offer great health and wellness benefits to our body. Aqua therapy in such natural spring water is known to be a good practise and it is usually recommended by medical practitioners. We felt very well for our visit and we look forward to going back again.
We used a car to get to Budapest due to us doing another trip on the way. Public transport in Budapest was easy, so instead of driving ourselves we walked and also used the local metro system. For instance, the city transportation system offers one or more day travel passes. So with these you can travel around as much as you like in the time period. You can also use google maps and navigate yourself around with your smartphone. Overall, Budapest is a beautiful historical city to visit for a few days and we highly recommend doing a spa trip to thermal baths. Swimming in Budapest in the thermal spring water is a great experience, in short you will not be disappointed.
Most of the international visitors we met in the baths arrived by plane from all over the world. Hungary is still a very good value destination to travel to as it does not use Euro. The local currency is Forint and you can use your cards to pay for more or less everything, especially as the conversion rate is very good. 1 Euro buys 320 Forint (January 2019).
Back in 2000 our founders Borut and Martin Strel, swam and kayaked the whole Danube river which also passes through Budapest.
Video clip of swimming at Szechenyi Baths: