Budapest - worth visiting the baths/spa?

Old Aug 11th, 2007, 12:57 PM
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Budapest - worth visiting the baths/spa?

There wasn't much response on a previous thread so I thought I'd re-post with a different subject line.

My question is: We have a short visit coming up to Budapest. Are the baths in Budapest just for relaxed swimming with both sexes together or like a Turkish bath where you get pummelled and exfoliated and it's all segregated, women to the left and men to the right? Anyone been and was it worthwhile?
Kay

And on the same thread (which I hijacked)-
from roma allen : We have a very short stay in Budapest. Is it worth an afternoon at one of the Baths and if so, which one?

Thanks
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Old Aug 11th, 2007, 01:39 PM
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the szechenyi baths are great...both of you can go in and relax and there's a little mini whirlpool like thing in the middle and some bubblers that go off every 15 mins in different areas of the pool. It's great and is definetly worth a few hours of relaxation. hope that this is helpful.
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Old Aug 11th, 2007, 01:50 PM
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Some of the baths are segregated, some are unisex. You can't go wrong either way...
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Old Aug 11th, 2007, 02:14 PM
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My wife and I spent a few days in Budapest this summer and the guidebooks I had both highly recommended the baths. And so one morning (my wife wasn't interested) I went to the Gellert Baths.

I was a little underwhelmed. I don't know what I was expecting but I don't think I'd go back. Perhaps if I had spent a little extra money on a massage I would have a different impression.

If I had a short stay in Budapest, I wouldn't spend an afternoon at the baths, unless lounging is your object.

Having said all of this, I am still glad I went because now I know what Budapest baths are like.

I would suggest that you consider going early - I think I was at the Gellert by 7 am or so.
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 01:47 AM
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Thanks, this is helpful. Sounds more like a place you'd go to cool off and have a relaxing swim. I think we'd rather be out walking and see some of the other sights, seeing we only have a few days.
Kay
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 03:20 AM
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I agree that the baths (especially Gellert) are for relaxing and doing "nothing." It's good for when you want to do just that; other spa services are optional.

When my friend and I were in Budapest way back when, it was 35+ most days and we couldn't be bothered to go out and see stuff, so we wallowed in the baths and pools during the day and went out for nice dinners and concerts in the evening. It was great for us. But if you're going to prioritize seeing museums and stuff, you may want to skip the baths as you should go there to truly relax, not rush.
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 05:53 AM
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The ornate blue-tiled part of Gellert (the room shown in most guidbooks) is supposed to be the men's thermal baths and normally segregated. However, this year, while the women's section (plain and unattractive according to reviews on another forum) is closed for renovations, the beautiful blue room is open to everyone. So, for female Art Nouveau fans who want to see that, now is the time to do it.
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 06:01 AM
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If you're interested in architecture, walk around to the BACK (south side) of Szechenyi Baths. That's a separate building for the medicinal baths, and it's gorgeous-- you can just wander in to look at the Art Nouveau tiled lobby. Completely different from the yellow main building which looks kind of gaudy and Vegas-ish.
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 06:39 AM
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Thanks so much. The Art Nouveau tiled area of the medicinal baths sounds wonderful, I'll make a note to try and visit there for a look. I don't know where all these places are yet but will get a good map and do some more research. I've read that Budapest is quite walkable, which we always enjoy and we've used public transport in other European cities so I'm sure we could manage in Budapest - although most of the street names etc are unpronounceable!
Thanks again, Kay
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 06:59 AM
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Budapest is quite walkable, but also large. You will want to use the metro and bus and tram system at some point. It is excellent, but get a good transportation map right away. It's vital.

We loved the Szechenyi baths and spent a couple of hours there one afternoon. I have a long report on Budapest which I posted on Fodors last summer!
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 08:39 AM
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Thanks Images2, I found your report and have saved it to read. Do you know if we can get a street map and a transportation map at the airport? Maybe at a tourism desk or similar?
Also we thought we'd get some local currency at the airport, from an ATM. Any thoughts on this?
Kay
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 08:45 AM
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There is an ATM in the baggage reclaim hall; there may be others in the main concourse, but I haven't checked. You can also pick up a tourist map of the city in the baggage reclaim area. Again, there might be other options, but one is enough.

I have a different view of the Szechenyi Baths from Mademoiselle Fifi's: I think of the south as the front!
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 10:21 AM
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There was a huge crowd at the north (yellow building) door, so I assume that's the main entrance. When we went around into the other side, it looked completely deserted.
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Old Aug 13th, 2007, 12:20 PM
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Hi Kay,

The first two things you need to do when you arrive, is get money from the ATM, and buy something in the shop in the terminal so you'll have some coins!

Next you need transportation into Budapest. There is an Airport Minibus with a desk in the terminal to arrange your ride, but do it first thing, because it books up quickly, then you'll have to wait an hour for the service. I believe it's less expensive to book a round trip ticket if you do need to get back to the Budapest airport. Prebooking this is less expensive than calling a taxi when it's time to leave. You'll need to book your pick up for your return at least 1 day before you leave.

We loved Budapest so much! I guess I'm in the minority, but I think Budapest is much, much more enjoyable than Prague, which we traveled to this year. Prague is for tourists, Budapest is for everyone!!

The taxi's waiting at the terminal are much more expensive than calling one to get you. We called Taxi 2000, but needed the coins in able to make the phone call. Once we called, they had a car for us in 5 minutes. They must always have some on hand, waiting for the calls. It was very convienent. There are web sites with the taxi phone numbers.

I never could find a map with the tram routes marked. We needed the trams so this was a problem. Try and find a map, or e-mail the Budapest tourist office ahead of time asking them about it. Also your hotel should have information. For some reason I couldn't get one from our though, and the metro people don't have one either.
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Old Aug 13th, 2007, 12:59 PM
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MademoisielleFifi, I think one's perspective of a building is determined by one's first visit. I first approached it from what you consider the back.

On getting out of and back to the airport: I think the minibus service is good value for the solo traveller, but not particularly good for 2 or more people. The taxi service at Budapest Airport is tightly controlled, with set prices. See http://www.bud.hu/english/transport/taxi They will also take you from the city to the airport for 3500Ft (about €14). Remember, taxi rates are per car, whereas minibus rates are per person.

Several tourist maps show the tram routes. I have one beside me now which I am fairly sure I picked up in the airport. I delved a little further into my heap, and found another (different) that also shows them. You need good eyesight to read them. If I didn't already know the routes, I probably could not interpret the very small print.

I'm with Images2 in preferring Budapest to Prague, for the reasons she or he gives. I would add that I do not get the feeling in Budapest that everybody is trying to gouge me, a feeling that I do get in Prague.
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Old Aug 13th, 2007, 02:59 PM
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"I'm with Images2 in preferring Budapest to Prague, for the reasons she or he gives. I would add that I do not get the feeling in Budapest that everybody is trying to gouge me, a feeling that I do get in Prague"

She says AMEN!
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Old Aug 14th, 2007, 11:34 AM
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Thank you, this is so helpful. Does anyone know how much the minibus costs from the airport to the city? We are staying at Hotel Pest. I was leaning towards the mini bus but comparing costs would be good.

Interesting that calling a cab at the airport to come and pick you up is actually cheaper than just getting one outside the terminal. I suppose very few visitors would think to make the phone call, or would be put off by the thought of not being understood over the phone in English.

I'd be interested to know, from you helpful people who have been there, what was the highlight of your visit to Budapest? What stands out in your mind?

We are also keen to visit Prague but the talk of all the drunken stag/hen parties put us off a bit. We thought if we went there in the off-season it would be cold but maybe fewer tourists!

Kay
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Old Aug 30th, 2007, 11:30 AM
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Hello Kay..
First off Budapest over Prague hands down. But than again, I might be picking favorites, I have visited BP over 20 times and lived there for about 4 years, but that was about 5 years ago.
Second: Airport arrival: I googled airport minibus, budapest, under a Malev heading found this add:

"Airport Minibus

The Budapest Airport Minibus operation is similar to that of a taxi service i.e. door-to-door, with the difference that on the way to the airport the 8-11-seater minibuses pick up passengers living in one part of the city while shuttles from the airport to the city also take passengers living in roughly the same area. For this reason it is necessary to reckon on a longer transfer time than a taxi. Within Budapest the Minibus charge is for one way: HUF 2300, return: HUF 3900 and one way with Budapest Card: HUF 1950. Bookings should be made at least 24 hours beforehand on (+36 1) 296-8555."
I don't recall where the ATM is, but there is a booth to change money. By the baggage carousel. The rates are pretty good, for an airport, but only change a little and than change more in the city.

On to #3:
If your time is limited, you might want to skip the baths. Yes, they are wonderful, but so much more to see and do. But if you do opt for the bath, I would pick Szechenyi. They do not have the segregation there as they do at Gellert. And yes, go around back. There are about 6 pools inside and 3 pools outside, granted that is if all are up and running. Wonder and explore the place.
If you are more into nature, just kind of walk around the park surrounding Szechenyi ( it has it's own stop on the yellow (#1) metro line) Surrounding the baths is the zoo, the circus, the Gundel Restaurant Varos Liget (City Park).

#4 You should be able to pick up a map showing the bus,tram, trolley stops at your hotel. If not, any book store should have one.

#5 When it comes to Taxi, have the hotel call one for you to start with and always use the same company. Unfortunately many will try to literally take you for a ride. But the public transport system is so great, I would skip the taxi, and go public. Make sure you have a ticket. It is best to buy a weekly ticket available at almost every metro station. They have undercover patrols at the metro stations and they can get quite rude with people.

#6 Have fun, relax and enjoy. Sit at the sidewalk cafes and just the city go by, I envy you. Have a super trip.









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Old Aug 30th, 2007, 11:58 AM
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We did the Szechenyi Baths. It was our first experience at doing this and it was a good one. The bath includes both sexes and several good sized pools. A plus; it is very handy to one of the metro lines. We caught the metro in front of the Opera House (also worth a visit). It took us directly there and back later that afternoon.
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Old Aug 30th, 2007, 12:33 PM
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Budapest is a beautiful and very tourist friendly city. One of my favourites. Theres lots to see and do (take a 3 hour city tour to catch the highlights and orientate yourself with the city); you can walk to a lot of it and when you canít (or donít want to), using the trams, buses or subway is easy. Yes, spend your mornings discovering the city, your afternoons soaking in a bath and your evenings dining and taking in a concert, an opera or a theatrical show. There are plenty of all of these. See www.jegymester.hu for ticket information.

Of the baths, the 2 most popular are the Gellert (pronounced Gel-LAY-ert with a hard G) and the Szechenyi, I like them both. Gellert is mostly indoor and has more atmosphere as others have pointed out (there are separate bath areas for men and women, a common indoor swimming pool with some sparkling water effects where suits and caps must be worn, and an outdoor sun garden area with a medium size hot water pool and a large wave pool that comes on for 10 minutes at 10 after the hour), while the Szechenyi is more outdoor than in, also has unique architecture and is a lot of relaxing fun. Don't miss the 'whirlpool'. There is a park adjoining it as Shangrila says, and it is located at the Mexicoi subway stop.

The round trip airport shuttle does indeed cost HUF 3,900 and you buy the ticket from the desk in the arrivals lounge after exiting immigration. From the airport to your hotel, you just board the bus when they call out your hotel and you get dropped off along the route. For the return journey, you must have your return stub with you, and from your hotel, call the number on it 24 hours in advance to order a pick-up. Its as easy as that.

Have lots of fun.
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