Challenge your stamina by visiting Széchenyi Baths on a freezing winter day. Steaming, thermal water invites you to join locals playing chess or just enjoy the massaging whirlpools while snowflakes land on your bare skin. Before you visit Széchenyi Baths or Budapest’s other thermal baths in winter, check out what to expect and pack, how to skip lines, how many hours you’ll need, and other practical tips. Be ready for a real immersion in the Hungarian spa and bathing culture!

In wintertime, the yellow Neo-Baroque buildings of Széchenyi Baths are wrapped in intense fumes. For us, it was hard to choose which was the best part of the outdoor bathing experience: the fairytale scenery, the simultaneous sensation of hot and cold, or the healthy feeling we got afterwards. After spending a couple of hectic days of sightseeing in Budapest, we just loved wading in the light blue water of Szechenyi Baths, letting the thermal water do its magic for our sore muscles.

What to Expect From a Visit to Szechenyi Baths in Winter?

Budapest is the City of Baths with 118 natural thermal springs. You can’t reach its soul without visiting, at least, one of the world-famous spas or baths like they’re mostly called here. Szechenyi Baths is a good start, year-round. The palace-like building, dating back to 1913, hosts one of the most renown spa baths in Budapest, also scoring among the city’s main attractions.

Even so, the bathing experience remains authentic, probably because Széchenyi Baths is a local favorite, as well. Szechenyi Baths is one of the biggest spas in Europe and can accommodate more than 1500 people, so usually it won’t feel crowded.

The enormous outdoor baths were the highlight of our winter visit in Szechenyi Baths, so give it a try! If you ask me, winter is the best time to soak in the steaming thermal baths. You won’t feel the coldness – it’s bliss! 

Széchenyi Baths is Not Luxurious Spa but a Local Bathing Experience

The heavily decorated, stunning façade of Szechenyi Baths gives a promise of luxurious spa treatment. However, the real experience is pretty down to earth. After passing through grandiose entrance hall beneath the baroque dome, you’ll descent the hallway to the showers and changing rooms. It feels a lot more like visiting a public swimming hall than a spa.

The cheapest ticket (HUF12500 on weekdays, around 32€; Fridays, weekends and holidays are more expensive) provides a communal changing room with a locker for clothes and handbag or a small backpack. If you pay just a couple of euros more, you’ll get a tiny, but private cabin for changing clothes and leaving your valuables behind. We tried both, but for your comfort, I’d recommend the latter. Tip: Nobody will tell you that it’s completely acceptable to share one cabin, although they are extremely tiny, and you won’t fit in together.

The showers, found in downstairs, have more or less public swimming arena feel. My mother, who was traveling with us, described the environment as prison-like, so don’t expect anything fancy. But I’ll promise that you won’t have any regrets after climbing the stairs up to the bathing area!

Which is Better in Winter: Szechenyi Baths or Gellert Baths?

Many people recommend Gellert Baths during the winter since they have even more attractive indoor pools and most foreigners are afraid of swimming outside in cold weather. As said above: Szechenyi Baths in winter is the ultimate thermal bath experienced don’t skip it! But if you’re also interested in visiting Gellert Baths, we’ll list some tips and differences below.

Gellert Baths feels more touristic and usually gets filled up to the utmost. In Szechenyi Baths, you’ll have more elbow room, though you probably still need to squeeze in the smallest sitting pools.

Budapest has more than a dozen bathhouses, each with a distinctive character, so if you linger more than a couple of days, I’d suggest visiting two different kinds of baths. Szechenyi and Gellert are both from the same era; then there are several bathhouses dating back to the Turkish period, some of them a bit ruinous and completely non-touristy. Szechenyi and Gellert are the best thermal baths in Budapest – visit at least one of them, and if you ask me, let it be Szechenyi Baths!

Soaking Through 18 Pools and 10 Saunas of Szechenyi Baths in Winter

We were so excited to try the outdoor pools that we defied the crisp winter weather and hurried towards to steamy outdoor pools wrapped in towels. Dipping into the 38-degree water felt heavenly after shivering from the cold. It’s advised to stay in the hot pool only for 20 minutes, but I’m quite sure we stayed more than half an hour just floating around, watching locals playing chess and admiring the gorgeous buildings through the steam. I felt how my muscle pains just melted away.

Our Favorite: Szechenyi Whirlpool Pool

After the hottest outdoor thermal pool, we plunged in the “Whirlpool Pool” at the other side of the inner yard. At the time, the water temperature was just a couple of degrees colder, still delightfully hot. Szechenyi’s Whirlpool Pool has small massaging jets and a waterfall, and a funny adventure pool where a strong whirlpool transports you quickly around a circuit shaped pool, pocketed in the center of the “Whirlpool Pool”. We had a blast floating and swimming through the labyrinth-like whirlpool corridor, avoiding bumping accidentally to other bathers and laughing out loud. After having some fun, don’t skip the small jacuzzi in the middle of the circuit.

“Whirlpool pool” was our favorite, where we kept coming back. I’d suggest starting your bathing experience from it and then move to the even warmer outdoor pool for a soothing bath experience.

After soaking in thermal pools of Szechenyi for more than half an hour, the chilly winter day finally chased us forward. The third outdoor pool is designed for swimming laps, so the temperature is near normal swimming pools (27 degrees), rather chilly in winter conditions. I was happy with a short swim, but Piritta just dipped in her toes, shivering from the cold.

Different Saunas in Szechenyi Baths – Did They Impress the Sauna Loving Finns?

Stone floor felt so freezing that we wanted to run inside, but it’s also so slippery that you have to be cautious when walking barefoot. We were more than looking forward popping in one of the saunas of Szechenyi. At this stage, I have to remind that we come from Finland, the country of sauna culture. We even have a small sauna in our apartment which we use every week, and we have been pampered with wood-fired saunas in the Finnish countryside all our lives. As to saunas, we are hard to please. And that’s why even the much praised Szechenyi Baths failed to prove its saunas to us.

Most of the saunas in Szechenyi Baths are more like steam rooms, or Turkish saunas if you wish. There is one huge Finnish sauna downstairs, but I need to emphasize that Finnish people wouldn’t call it Finnish sauna. In Finland, saunas are way hotter and you are supposed to throw water on the stove regularly to get hot steam. The Finnish sauna of Szechenyi is way too cold and dry to be called a Finnish sauna. Still, it seemed to impress other tourists, as the temperature hovered around 70 degrees. Nevertheless, we enjoyed warming in the saunas and steam rooms between cooler pools – and of course, we had to try them all! Some had aromatic medicinal steam; some were so steamy that you couldn’t see others beside you. Breathing in the steam felt exquisite.

Indoor Pools in Szechenyi Baths Have Water Temperatures from 16 to 38 Degrees (60-110F)

Naturally, we inspected all the indoor pools of Szechenyi, as well. Water temperatures range from freezing to hot (16 to 38 degrees, or 60 to 110 Fahrenheit). Most plunge pools accommodate just a handful of people and are in modest surroundings, but there are bigger pools in attractive halls, as well.

We could easily fit in all the pools though some smallest sitting pools were pretty full. For some reason, the coldest pools were empty all the time. I dipped in all of them, although the 16-degree water felt excruciatingly cold even for me. That’s the normal temperature of Finnish lake or sea water in June, which already entices people to swim. I’ve also done some winter swimming, meaning dipping in a hole in the ice. So I should be more seasoned for cold water than most people. I adore the euphoric feeling after a cold dip; it really gets your endorphins flowing. Challenge yourself and try the coldest pool, located downstairs by the Finnish sauna!

Szechenyi Baths is Not for Kids – Luckily There Are Family-Friendly Spas in Budapest

We loved the fact that the Szechenyi Spa is designed for adults. Kids under 14 are not allowed in the thermal baths for health reasons, and Szechenyi is all about thermal baths. Kid-free (and splash-free) environment adds up to the serene bathing experience if you ask me.

While Szechenyi is not the best bathhouse for families, there are many other alternatives with pools specially designed for kids (with slides and other fun stuff). For family-friendly bathing experience, check out for example the huge AquaWorld Water Theme Park, where you can also stay overnight!

The Healing Powers of Szechenyi Spa

The waters of Szechenyi Baths come from natural hot springs, just like in Iceland or Japan. Naturally hot water is cooled down to suit bathing. Rich in beneficial minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, sulfite, and sodium, these pools are said to have healing powers. You can also recognize the intense smell of sulfur by the inside pools. After a couple of hours in Szechenyi, you’ll feel rejuvenated for sure.

The medicinal waters are recommended to joint illnesses, arthritis, and orthopedic injuries. Every pool has a sign telling its temperature and mineral content, but only in Hungarian. If you are looking for something special, just ask somebody. We played it safe and soaked in each and every one of them! No harm in testing all options, if you don’t have any health concerns.

Tips for Szechenyi Baths Visit

I wish that we would have known couple things before visiting Szechenyi Baths, so I’ll share these tips to help you out.

Bring your own towel (or buy one)! Towels are not currently rented in Szechenyi but sold for 6000HUF (around 15€), so it’s super expensive. In winter, I would take 2 towels since one is constantly wet (you walk around with a towel around you and dry yourself repetitively when switching pools). While you’re bathing, the towel is just lying around nearby, so it’s not particularly clean afterwards. By taking your own towel you’ll also avoid the long queues at the cashier. They sell also bathing suits, but you’d probably like to have your own (the stock is also limited). If you feel chilly easily, bathrobes are available for120000HUF – recommended in the wintertime.

Bring (or buy) flip-flops – we regretted not having ones since floors in these kinds of bathing houses don’t feel especially clean and walking outside barefoot feels freezing in winter. There are no soap, shampoo, or facial wash; so bring your own chemicals. There are hairdryers, though. Swimming caps are required in the one and only pool: the outdoor swimming pool where you can swim laps. 

At the cashier, you’ll get a plastic armband, which doubles as your ticket and key. You can open your personal cabin or locker by just pressing the armband against the lock. It’s easy, but most tourists seem to struggle with it. Don’t lose the wristband or any other rented gear, as you’d be punished with a hefty fee.

In Szechenyi Baths, women and men have separate communal changing rooms and showers, but all the bathing areas are mixed. Wearing a bathing suit is compulsory, as it’s also to shower before every pool and sauna. Just watch what locals do if you feel nervous about the bathing etiquette. Leave behind expensive jewellery and watches: thermal water can change the color.

Don’t forget to take a water bottle with you! Hot pools and steam rooms leave you dehydrated. There are water fountains where you can fill up your bottle (or you can buy bottled drinks).

A small kiosk at the inner courtyard, beside the outdoor pools, sells refreshments. It’s allowed to drink alcohol in the baths, so if you’d fancy a hot or cold drink, don’t forget to take some forints with you! There’s also indoor café / restaurant if you’ll get hungry. It’s totally fine to come with your own drinks and snacks, as well. Smoking is prohibited both inside and outside.

One last tip: reserve at least 2 hours for the bathing experience and don’t plan a massive sightseeing tour afterwards. After all the hot pools and steam rooms of Szechenyi Baths, you’ll feel healthy but exhausted.

The Most Important Tip: Book your Szechenyi Spa Tickets Online to Avoid Queues

Luckily we were wise enough to book our tickets via our hotel, so we could avoid the exhausting queues at the spot. Don’t think twice: book your Szechenyi tickets in advance to avoid all extra hassle at entrance, you might lose easily an hour without a pre-booking!

Click here to book your Szechenyi Spa ticket online, so that you enter through a short VIP queue. We had just one couple before us, whereas the regular lines were more than 100 meters long! We strongly recommend to book a cabin (your own changing room) instead of just locker for your privacy and convenience (you can choose a cabin when booking online).

How to Get to Szechenyi Baths in Budapest (Szechenyi Furdo)

Szechenyi Baths lie on the Pest side of the city, by the leafy City Park. Getting there is super easy: take a yellow metro line (M1) to the station Szechenyi Furdo, aptly named according to the bathhouse. When getting out, you’ll see the yellow baroque palace on your right side. That’s the Szechenyi Baths building you’re looking for! Just pass the building until you reach the street; follow it a few steps to the right until you’ll reach the main entrance. You want to use the Szechenyi main entrance since the cashier, lockers, and cabins are there.

Share the fun! Have you visited Szechenyi Baths or some other bathhouse or spa in Budapest during the winter months?

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Challenge your stamina by soaking in the outdoor pools of Szechenyi Baths on a freezing winter day!

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