Budapest is famous for its thermal spa baths all over the city, but two in particular are popular with tourists: Szechenyi and Gellert.
I’ve written about both briefly in my post about Budapest, as my friend and I ended up visiting both after we couldn’t choose which would be the best to visit – and while I was researching, I thought it would be handy to have a comparison outlining what the differences are.
For the record, I enjoyed both – and they are very different with unique atmospheres and aesthetics, so I wanted to write about why, and what’s good and bad about both.
Because we liked both, this might not actually end up being the handy guide you need to make a decision, but there are likely to be aspects that you’re looking for or even want to avoid.
Firstly, the price of both is exactly the same, so that’s one thing I won’t be comparing. When it comes to value for money, I think both of them are worth it.
The indoor spa baths
I have to admit, the indoor spa baths were the real draw for us to Gellert. All the rooms have mosaics and different patterns, which was perfect for a bath setting. They are seriously beautiful!
Even the SHOWERS are stunning!
Szechenyi’s indoor baths are plentiful – there are actually more of them overall – but in our experience they were much, much busier than Gellert, and it wasn’t very easy to find somewhere to relax. In Gellert, we had entire areas of a pool to ourselves as we soaked it up – in Szechenyi, we were lucky to get a spot that wasn’t squashed up against a stranger.
Even the setting didn’t feel luxurious at all – Gellert’s indoor baths feel much more traditional and grandiose so this is an easy choice.
The outdoor spa baths
Gellert advertises outdoor spa baths, but we went outside and there was one small bath and a swimming pool. Needless to say, we didn’t spend any time out there.
Szechenyi, on the other hand, has two massive outdoor baths with different temperatures. The setting within the compound is amazing, and the steam rising from the pools as people relax gives them an atmosphere that you don’t get at Gellert. There’s even a whirlpool, fountains and chess boards to keep people entertained – and trust me, locals will regularly be playing chess if you want to challenge them.
This is another clear winner – the other way.
Read more: Three Days In Fairytale Budapest, One Of My Favourite Cities
Oof, now this is a tough one. Szechenyi is very pretty from the outside, and the architecture there is a huge selling point to tourists. However other than that, it’s not really anything special in my opinion. The indoor baths feel more akin to an old sports centre – seriously.
Gellert not only has the mosaic baths and the incredible Roman-esque swimming pool, but the entrance way, shown above, is absolutely stunning!
We walked in and we were wow’d instantly. In fact, we took way more photos of the foyer area than the baths themselves.
Don’t forget to look up, too.
Aesthetically, Gellert wins this one for me!
Oh God, if I told you I’ve got lost both times I’ve been to Szechenyi, you’d laugh. And I’ve been with different people and they’ve got lost too! The changing rooms are an absolute maze. There are signs pointing to various baths, and then suddenly the signs end and we were walking round in circles only finding lockers and changing cabins and more lockers.
We went to the indoor baths first – as above, they were packed. It felt like we were moving through them forever, and when we eventually got to the end, we worked our way back and stopped in a few of the pools on the way. When we were ready to go back outside, though… we couldn’t find the door! We kept ending up in shower areas where all the doors led to saunas. At one point, we walked the entire length of the bloody baths and still couldn’t find it! I have no idea what was going on with our navigational skills. Maybe it was the effects of the water?
I remember ending up in a room where you can get treatments – including a beer bath! That’s right, you can literally have a private bath in beer. In fact, we saw a couple practically having sex in one of them. That was our cue to really find our way out of there. Which we eventually did, perplexed that we had somehow missed the door we left out of.
However, don’t kid yourselves – we got a bit lost while finding our bearings in Gellert too! But once you get to the main swimming pool in the middle, you can basically go in either direction off it, and there’s a row of rooms with different baths where the doors are bloody obvious for idiots like us.
Szechenyi has quite a lot going on – you can get various treatments and have a real spa day out, or you can do something completely unique like soaking in a beer spa (pictured above). They also hold SPArty nights, where they literally turn into a water nightclub and host a bath party. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, but it could be really fun, and definitely a unique thing to do in Budapest.
Gellert has spa treatments on offer too – but that’s about it. You’re there for the baths, really. There is a café upstairs overlooking the swimming pool, which is a nice view to enjoy a cup of tea, and there are loungers around to relax on. It’s part of the Gellert hotel, so it’s pretty much the spa area for guests as well as visitors.
I guess I’m including this because there is a sizeable (ha) difference in how much is on offer. I reckon Szechenyi and Gellert are about equal on the indoor baths, but the outdoor baths at Szechenyi take up just as much space as the indoor ones put together, whereas Gellert doesn’t really have much outdoors. Does that make Szechenyi technically better value for money? I don’t know, because that’s subjective. But I reckon you could spend a lot more time at Szechenyi.
(Apparently Szechenyi has 18 spa baths while Gellert has 13 – I’m not sure if that matters though, because some of Szechenyi’s baths are much smaller! See what I mean? There’s no straight cut answer, unless you want to go around measuring all the baths, and I probably wouldn’t get a tape measure out in there or you might get some funny looks. Plus we all know size isn’t everything!)
This is a tough one, because people will have totally different opinions on what makes a good atmosphere, and this could well be the section that cements your decision either way.
Gellert was definitely easier to relax indoors. It felt luxurious and we lounged around in lots of the baths as we worked our way through them. The chaotic atmosphere inside Szechenyi is enough to almost lose them this.
Luckily, the outdoor baths are large enough that you can find your own space, and it was so much more relaxing. There’s one really hot bath (38 degrees) which we spent some time in while watching people play chess, and the other slightly cooler bath (30 degrees) has a whirlpool (like a lazy river) which was so much fun! Szechenyi is noticeably busier, but I loved the mix of relaxation and fun, and everyone else was having a great time too.
Winner: Szechenyi (my friend would probably disagree on this one!)
The only thing with the Szechenyi baths is that they’re one of the few attractions that aren’t really within walking distance of the city centre. You can get the metro there really easily, but it does mean a journey to get there. From the metro station, it’s only a couple minutes walk. It’s set within a park so it’s in a nice setting overall, and the park backs on to Heroes Square, but other than that (and I was a bit underwhelmed by Heroes Square), there isn’t a lot else around there.
Gellert Baths, on the other hand, is just across the bridge from the Central Market Hall, though despite its name, it’s not right in the city centre. It was about a half hour walk, if that, to get back to the Jewish Quarter, and it’s just along from the main attractions of the Buda side of the city too. There’s also Gellert Hill right next to the baths, with great views over the city, as well as Gellert church which is uniquely set in a cave!
Overall, it’s in both a better and much easier location to get to from the city centre and the Jewish Quarter.
As you can see, it’s really hard to choose a winner – because it’s a tie!
My friend Kerry preferred Gellert. I preferred Szechenyi.
For me, Szechenyi has more to offer and is a must-visit in the city. But overall, Gellert was more relaxing because it was quieter, and the indoor baths are much nicer.
If you want outdoor baths, go to Szechenyi. If you prefer indoor baths, go to Gellert. (You only really needed to read the first two points of the post to realise that was obvious.)
Of course, if the two most popular baths don’t appeal and you want to find somewhere a bit more off-beat, there are plenty of other thermal baths dotted around Budapest. Rudas Baths is another one that looks great – a more traditional Roman-esque bath with a unique outdoor pool with a view.
I think the real point is – you can’t go too wrong with spa baths in Budapest.
So yes, perhaps this guide isn’t helpful at all, and you’re still wondering which of the two you’d really prefer.
But then, you could be like us and go to both.
You can buy tickets online and view all the services for both baths here:
Szechenyi | Gellert
Have you been to both? Which one do you prefer? Or which one do you think you would prefer if you haven’t been?
5 thoughts on “Szechenyi Vs Gellert: Battle Of The Budapest Spa Baths”
We’ve only been to Szechenyi, but we loved it so much we returned the next day for more! We’ve often said we want to return to Budapest, and Szechenyi is a large part of that.
I think I’d like to try both, but pass on the beer bath!
I’ve only been to thermal spa baths while on a vacation in Turkey and I loved it. It’s so much fun to sink your body into the steaming baths. It’s a sensation unlike no other
oh they both look amazing it would hard to pick one. Better just enjoy them both over and over to really get a good opinion 🙂
I’ve only been to Szechenyi, and the baths were gorgeous, inside and outdoors! The water was nice, but the crowds of people (even pre-COVID) gave me a bit of anxiety to fully immerse myself and enjoy it– didn’t help that a random patron tried to hit on me (uh, no thanks)! I admit, though, the baths are definitely worth a try at least once while in Budapest, so I definitely recommend people to visit!