Why visit: thermal baths, Art Nouveau architecture
A Brief History of Gellért Baths
The world-famous Gellért Baths, located in the same building as the Hotel Gellért, was built between 1912 and 1918 in Art Nouveau style. Ever since its opening in 1918, Gellért Baths remains one of the most beautiful baths in Budapest. References to healing waters in this location can be found from as early as the 15th century. The hot springs that feed the thermal baths rise from deep within Gellért Hill, and the Turks used them during the 16th and 17th centuries during their stay in Hungary. Today, Gellért Baths shines in its former glory after recent renovations and restorations carried out in 2006 and 2007.
Visiting Gellért Baths
Wow! No wonder that Gellért Baths is the most photographed spa in Hungary. The Art Nouveau style is mastered here in every aspect. The mosaic floors and walls of the main entrance, hallways and surrounding the pools, made by the famous Zsolnay factory, the stained glass windows and the wooden structure of the changing rooms are beautiful down to the finest detail.
The entrance to the baths is separate from the hotel's entrance and is located on Kelenhegyi út, a small side street on the right side of the building. A plastic armband, provided with your ticket, grants access to a cabin or locker and all of the indoor and outdoor pools, saunas and steam baths. The armband opens and closes the cabin/locker by simply touching the lock with it. Private changing cabins (two people can share one cabin) or lockers, which costs a little less, are available. From the main entrance, an underground corridor leads to the changing area.
Gellért Baths is partially coed, meaning that from the 13 pools, 3 thermal pools are located in a women-only area and another 3 are in a men-only area. Although most people wear bathing suits, clothing is optional and some people put on only a vestige of cover, while others opt for their birthday suit. The outdoor pools, the indoor, Roman-style swimming pool and the thermal pool next to the swimming pool are all in the coed area and swimsuits must be worn here. Swimsuits are also mandatory on Sundays, which is 'family day' and all areas are open to everyone.
My recommendation would be to start your experience in the thermal area. Just follow the signs (everything is written in English too) or ask the attendants if in doubt and they will direct you to the women-only or the men-only sections. Check out one of the warm pools first, where the temperature is 36°C/102°F or 38°C/106°F degrees. After 20 minutes or so head to the steam room (40°C-50°C/110°F-130°F) or one of the saunas (60°C-80°C/150°F-190°F), then take a cold plunge (19°C/68°F) followed by a dip in the warm water once again, then repeat. Each pool, sauna and steam bath has signs showing the temperature and there are showers everywhere to cool down and refresh.
Bring two towels (towels are not provided, so bring your own or buy them in the lobby), take one with you as it will come in handy when you go from pool to pool and leave the other in the cabin or locker to use at the end. Bring flip-flops and a swim cap if you fancy a swim, as swim caps are required in the swimming pool. If you visit in the summer, be sure to take some sunscreen with you.
The hot springs feeding the thermal pools are rich in calcium, magnesium, hydrogen-carbonate, sulfate and sodium, with a significant content of fluoride ions. The waters are recommended to cure degenerative illnesses of joints, chronic and semi-acute arthritis, and spinal problems. Other services include mud packing, tub bathing, dry and steam saunas, and massages. There are also trained instructors who offer physiotherapy and a series of balneal therapies, such as underwater gymnastics and weight baths. Gellért Baths is wheelchair accessible.
Visiting Gellért Baths is a truly unique experience. It combines two of the city's specialties, the healing waters and the Art Nouveau architecture. After all, it's not every day that you can relax and bathe your cares away in beautiful, original Art Deco surroundings.
A day pass with a locker costs HUF 4,100 during the week (HUF 3,000 after 5 pm) and HUF 4,300 on the weekends (HUF 4,000 after 5 pm).
A day pass with a cabin costs HUF 4,400 during the week (HUF 3,200 after 5 pm) and HUF 4,600 on the weekends (HUF 4,300 after 5 pm).
A 30-minute aroma massage is HUF 4,200.
6 am to 8 pm, daily
Getting to Gellért Baths:
Take streetcars 19, 47 or 49 to Szt. Gellért tér station.
New: As of January 1st 2013, Gellért Baths has become fully coed and all areas are open to everyone.