Bathing in Budapest with sexy Hungarians

While I was in Budapest, I found myself faced with one of those difficult decisions that all travel writers must face on the road: which baths do I visit, Széchenyi Spa or Gellért Baths? The former had fat old Hungarian men playing chess in their skivvies; the latter had awkward massage moments from masseuses who weren’t discouraged by nakedness. (Heard from a friend of a friend of mine.)

Naturally, I went to Széchenyi. The true story is that this was all determined by the fact I was too hungover to stay conscious and didn’t realize everyone had gotten off the bus at Gellért until we rolled up to Széchenyi on the Pest side, with only Natalie and I still on board.

I still have no idea how to pronounce its name and I generally just refer to it as “that ‘S’ place.”
It’s the largest spa in Europe, with three outdoor pools, three sauna rooms, and a bunch of indoor pools at different temperatures.

Széchenyi was opened in 1881 as a temporary bath, and was converted into a permanent bath in 1913. Now it’s got all kinds of modern infiltration systems and fancy shiz, so that you don’t have to worry about catching any weird fungal infections. Budapest is rightly referred to as the Spa City, and other than the traditional public baths, you’ll also find more modern baths around the city and even some off-the-radar, smaller places where little English is spoken (i.e. Király Baths, or Rudas).

If you’re as much of a spa noob as I am, let me tell you how the spa works: you show up, pay an entry fee, pay for a change room, wander around, and either sunbathe or float around hot or cold water pools with a bunch of Hungarians and a scattered tourist. Apparently “that ‘S’ place” is more of a local destination than Gellért, although we did witness three stag parties and some friendly Brits who gave us hugs upon leaving.

Széchenyi is a bit rough around the edges. You get that delightful sulphuric rotten eggs smell inside the building, but then you step out into the bright yellow courtyard and it’s like one big ass pool party with everyone of all ages, from Pampers to Depends. Ladies and gents, no need to be shy about your bodies here.

There’s tons of room for everyone, and when you’re sick of sunshine and merriment, you get to stuff your face with hot dogs or ice-cream. (Here’s where you’ll also find the nearly-nude chess players.) There’s even a fun little whirlpool which everyone swims around in circles.

That’s Natalie throwing her hands up in the air sometimes, singing, “Hey-o, gotta let go.”

Bring sunscreen. Wink at strangers.

This trip was hosted by Contiki, but all opinions are my own unless under spell of hypnosis.

  • July 10 2012

    That looks amazing!

  • July 10 2012

    And here I was thinking I’d be getting some real close up pics of sexy Hungarians…

    I could definitely do with a soak right now. Those waters are callin’ these old bones…

    • July 13 2012

      Hahaha, “old bones.” It was lovely!

  • July 10 2012
    Andrea Mueller

    Ah yes, those sext Hungarian beasts! I actually spotted a couple of hotties when I was there but I think they were a couple….

    • July 13 2012

      Ugh, ain’t that always the way?

  • July 11 2012

    I LOVED this place! In fact, I’ve been having daydreams about it as I’ve been traveling through stifling hot Eastern Europe.

  • July 11 2012

    love the blog! ever considered bringing a Go Pro camera along with you on your travels? SHOP.CA is offering free shipping on all orders right now

    • July 11 2012

      I have indeed considered it, but it’s still out of my price range at the moment! Sadface.

  • July 11 2012

    Hahaha. I am with Marsha. Was looking for some sexy pics of Hungarians. My bad mind.
    Great pics though. Looks like fun.

    • July 13 2012

      Damn! I’ll do better next time…

  • July 11 2012

    I love Széchenyi! The blue water and yellow buildings, the men playing chess like they’re in the privacy of their own home, the awkwardness after you pay to get in and then are not sure of the exact protocol for these kinds of places… :-)

    • July 13 2012

      LOL, there are no words to adequately sum up that awkwardness…

  • July 12 2012

    How did I know I’d be the only one wearing arm floaties.

  • July 12 2012

    Did you do the whirlpool? Its awesome… but after a few minutes you scramble to get out.

    • July 13 2012

      I didn’t! I had my camera with me and was afraid to let go of it. Dammit.

  • July 13 2012

    That’s so crazy… I would not expect a pool in there! Looks like fun!

  • July 14 2012

    Glad someone else went for it in the whirlpools. I was the only non-kid in it when I went.

  • July 15 2012

    Oh yeah I’d totally go there. But I’d lay off the carbs for a few days beforehand ;)

  • July 16 2012

    Oh, I really like Sechenyi Spa… it is a good one, and I have never been to Gellert spa before, so I am sorry you did not experience it, it would have been great to see a comparison of the two.

  • July 20 2012

    Wow, that place is massive! I’ve always wanted to go to Budapest and visit the spas. Hopefully someday soon!

  • August 19 2012

    This brings back some memories!

    “Ladies and gents, no need to be shy about your bodies here.” <- So true!

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