If your are a first time visitor in Budapest, you may wonder which bath is better: Szechenyi Bath of Gellert Bath? The quick answer is that Szechenyi Baths gets more votes from visitors, but Gellert Bath is often considered more top notch. So as usual, it depends.
Comparison of Szechenyi Baths and Gellert Baths
One of the questions we often get at Top Budapest.org is about Budapest baths, that is, which is the best thermal bath and why. Right after this comes the next question: Gellert Spa & Baths or Szechenyi Bath, which is better?
Now, first of all, the question is where your accommodation is in Budapest (and if location of the baths matter for you or not), how you travel, who you travel with, what your preferences are, let’s see why.
Mixed Baths or Women-only / Men-only Baths
This used to be a really decisive feature, but not any more. Szechenyi Bath has been a mixed thermal bath complex for many years. Gellert Spa Baths has recently become mixed every day (on Jan 1, 2013).
It does not matter if you are a solo traveller, or you are with a mixed group of people, you may find both Szechenyi Bath and Gellert Bath a good option for you.
Szechenyi Bath is mixed every day, all year – warm thermal baths and cool pools alike, with the one exception of the rooftop sunbathing terrace.
Gellert Spa, used to have women-only and men-only thermal baths from Monday to Saturday, but now the whole bath complex is co-ed all week.
So if you have a mixed party you can enjoy the warm waters tin either thermal bath in Budapest. Please note that some of the smaller Turkish baths are also mixed like Kiraly Baths and Veli Bej Baths, and the only bath that is not mixed, where women and men bathe separately on certain days is Rudas Baths
Quality of Thermal Waters in Baths
If we are to compare Szechenyi Baths and Gellert Baths, we must point out that both are excellent thermal baths with professional thermal spa baths (naturally warm spring waters with lots of minerals for soaking and healing coming forth from the karst caves under Budapest) and pools (modern cool water pools for swimming). Both baths have good healing properties and professional massages, saunas, etc.
Location of Baths in Budapest
Neither Szechenyi Bath nor Gellert Bath is in the city centre, but both of them are close to the heart of Budapest.
While Szechenyi Bath is on the Pest side of Budapest, by the City Park and the Heroes square, Gellert Bath is on the Buda side, along the river Danube, at the foot of the Liberty Bridge and the Gellert Hill.
Both thermal baths are within easy access of the city centre (which practically equals with Deak square – Deák tér in Hungarian – where all 3 metro lines meet).
You can get to Szechenyi Bath a tiny bit more easily, as it is right next to a metro station (called Széchényi Fürdő, which is Szechenyi Bath in Hungarian).
So even if there is a big congestion and traffic jam in Budapest, the metros will take you to the bath in no time (approx. 15 min from Deak square). And the three metro lines in Budapest is covering the city, which is quite spread out as are its attractions, pretty well. Now, that being said we can equally argue that the tram line from Deak square (trams number 47 and 49) is not really affected by the traffic, and you can get to Gellert Bath in 15 minutes too.
Attractions by the Baths – Szechenyi and Gellert?
Another approach to location is which attractions you would like to see and maybe find a bath, which is closer to those Budapest sights.
Attractions by Szechenyi Bath
For instance, if you love art, and you would want to go to the Museum of Fine Arts on the Heroes square (Hősök tere), you could easily end up in Szechenyi Bath, which is 5 min away from the museum. Budapest attractions close to Szechenyi Baths are (about 5-8 min walk): the Museum of Fine Arts (which is like a little sister of British Museum), the (contemporary) Art Hall, the Millennium Monument on Heroes square, Vajdahunyad Castle (where the Museum of Agriculture resides), the City Park, the Museum of Transport, the open air artificial ice rink, etc.
Attractions by Gellert Bath
Gellert Bath is in the neighbourhood of some fine Budapest attractions too, like the Central Market Hall (5 min walk across the beautiful Liberty Bridge), the Cave Church (a still functioning church in the caves of Gellert Hill), the Citadel on top of Gellert Hill (great panoramic views over the Pest side of the city). A bit further off, about 10-15 minute walk are the Gellert Monument by the Elisabeth Bridge, the Rudas Bath (which looks neglected from the outside as only the interiors have been restored), the Elisabeth statue on Dobrentei square
Which Bath is less Touristy?
Now this is not an easy question. Szechenyi Bath is more popular, so there are more tourists per square feet than in Gellert Bath.
As an overall impression, however, Gellert Spa Bath might seem a bit more touristy due to the fact that its admission fees are higher (which are usually OK with travellers, but locals prefer cheaper ticket prices).
Another reason is that Gellert Bath is located in Danubius Hotel Gellert, even though the bath itself has its own entrance open to the public, not only spa hotel guests.
In contrast, Szechenyi Spa Bath is a stand alone thermal bath (mind you, contracted with several Budapest hotels) with somewhat cheaper entrance fees, more people to attend (more locals too).
Which Bath Building is more Beautiful?
Although both bath complexes are located in beautiful buildings close to nature – Szechenyi Bath in the City Park is in a Neo-Baroque palace, while Gellert Baths at the foot of the Gellert Hill resides in a world famous, fabulous Art Nouveau building with Art Deco motifs, decors and exquisite mosaic details. Overall, we think, Gellert Spa Bath is more appealing.
On the other hand, Szechenyi Baths has fantastic mosaics in its indoor pools, marble columns, beautiful statues. Hard to choose, unless you know which appeals to you more: Art Nouveau or Neo-Baroque mixed with neo-Renaissance? The former is Gellert Baths, the latter is Szechenyi Baths.
Which Bath is Cheaper, Szechenyi or Gellert Baths?
Szechenyi Spa Bath is usually slightly cheaper than Gellert Spa Bath: bath tickets at Szechenyi are usually slightly cheaper than the bath tickets at Gellert Baths. However, it all depends on when you can go: on a weekday or a weekend day, morning or afternoon or evening, or for a full day. See the Szechenyi Bath prices here, compared to Gellert Spa Prices here.
Which Budapest Bath is Better for Families with Children?
As thermal baths are only recommended for children aged 14+, we can only compare the cold water pool sections.
That said, you will see the Gellert Spa Bath has children tickets, while Szechenyi Spa Bath does not!
If you travel with children younger than 14 in summer time, Gellert Baths with its outdoor pools for adults and children might be a better choice for families with kids.
Children under 2 can enter for free, but are not allowed in the pools (only dry and clean, potty trained kids can be in the pools, who do not need a swim nappy any more).
The wave pool is the shallowest of the pools at Gellert Spa & Thermal Bath – on one end 40 cm (on the other end 275 cm, and regular artificial waves are generated in the pool, which means you will need to keep your little one in your hands so he/she could not be swept away by the waves). The outdoor pools of Szechenyi are too warm for the kids whose cardiovascular system are not as developed yet as adults’.
Which Bath is Better for Couples?
Both Budapest baths are great for couples who love to relax, refresh, explore a palace, and appreciate architecture and spa treatments. As a couple you can reserve a double massage room for couples in Szechenyi Baths or Gellert Baths too. Couple massages are somewhat cheaper than massages bought separately: you will share a room, and have the massage at the same time:
Szechenyi Bath Massages: massage treatments for couples in Szechenyi Bath with massage deals
Gellert Bath Massage: massage treatments for couples in Gellert Spa with massage deals
Nevertheless, if you want to enjoy something like a time travel and get romantic in Budapest, you can check out Gellert Baths for its recently restored and re-opened Gellert Spa private bath section, which can be hired for couples (with champagne, fruit bowl, etc.) for a few hours.
Related Budapest Spa Info
Last updated: May, 2013