Bathing in Budapest

If there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss in Budapest, it’s a trip to one of the local baths. There’s an elegance to the experience unlike anywhere else.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Gellert Baths, Budapest

In the past century, the Gellert public baths in Budapest have only ever been closed once – when a major pipe burst. But, other than that, they have opened every single day through winters, wars, bombings and recessions.

And now, in this spectacular old building with so much history and resilience, I am standing naked and awkward.

“Take your shorts off”, the middle-aged stocky Hungarian masseuse had just instructed me.

Gellert Baths, Budapest, Hungary

I had thought a massage would be a good idea and had seen the main carpeted room where other people were getting one on soft beds. But it was apparently full and so I had been to taken to a strange annex.

The room was tiled all over and echoed when my bare feet hit the marbled floor. The air was moist and seemed to drip from the ceiling.

The whole room was quite large – certainly unnecessarily large for just the one massage table – but most of it was taken up with a therapeutic pool that an old man was floating in.

So here I am, naked in a humid tiled room, waiting to lie down on a bed and be kneaded by a Hungarian. This is not how I expected this experience to go.

Gellert Baths, Budapest, Hungary
Gellert Baths, Budapest, Hungary

But experiencing a traditional bath in Budapest is one of the things you should while you’re in this city. Gellert, where I am, is one of the big two – the other being Szechenyi.

There are other famous ones too – Rudas, Kiraly, Csaszar or Lukacs, for example.

Most of these baths are large and have different sections all interconnected with each other. Here at Gellert, for instance, there is a large outdoor pool, a couple of indoor swimming pools, hot soaking pools, steam rooms, plunge pools, and massage areas.

You can (and many people do) spend all day moving between them and sunbaking on the deckchairs around.

Gellert Baths, Budapest, Hungary
Gellert Baths, Budapest, Hungary
Gellert Baths, Budapest, Hungary

If the steam rooms don’t take your breath away, the interior of the buildings will. Officially they are Art Nouveau but throughout are traces of Ottoman elegance or Roman sophistication.

If that all sounds a bit confusing, let me put it another way. It feels fancy.

There’s nothing particularly posh about the baths, though. They are used by people from all walks of Budapest life.

On the weekends, when the families come, they can be particularly busy. Places like Gellert are also popular with tourists.

Gellert Baths, Budapest, Hungary
Gellert Baths, Budapest, Hungary

I’m imagining what it would have been like here before the Second World War, before the tourists, when spending a day in a building so elegant would have been the epitome of social style, when I’m disturbed from my daydreams by the stocky Hungarian masseuse.

Gellert Baths, Budapest, Hungary
Gellert Baths, Budapest, Hungary

“You can put your shorts back on now.” I must have dozed off slightly.

Startled, I look around. We’re alone in here now – the old man in the therapeutic pool has left but the moisture in the air has remained.

It’s quiet and calming. I enjoy the moment for a few more seconds before I slip off the table, pull my shorts back on, and head off back to the pool.


I think the best area to stay in Budapest is in the Jewish Quarter or closer to the Danube.


There are some great hostels in Budapest but Wombats has the best combo of style and location.


The best value hotels can book out early but you can get good deals at Roombach Hotel Budapest Center.


With a cool design, Hotel Memories OldTown has thought of everything – including a pillow menu.


Some of the 5-star hotels in Budapest feel rather dated, but Aria Hotel has a fresh luxurious atmosphere.

15 thoughts on “Bathing in Budapest”

  1. So are the baths unisex, or divided like in Asia? And were swimsuits mandatory? That’s one of the things that always strikes me as awkward when you go to a public bath, figuring out whether or not it’s a bath in terms of nudity.

    • At the Gellert Baths it’s unisex and you wear swimsuits. Most of the baths in Budapest are like that. It’s really got a feeling of a public pool.
      The Rudas Baths have separate days for different genders, though.

    • I think it would be fantastic on a quiet day. It wasn’t even too busy when I went and it felt crowded enough. I don’t reckon I would want to try to go there on a busy summer weekend. It is so beautiful, though, isn’t it?

    • I guess the big difference is that people often go to swimming pools to do laps or get some exercise. The baths are very much about relaxing and soaking. It’s much more of an ‘experience’.

  2. We loved Budapest! While we didn’t have time to bathe, we did drink the spring water. Next time we go we’re definitely hitting the baths! Great article, very informative.


Leave a comment