The Gellert Baths of Budapest

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Image: chop1n

One of the nice surprises about Budapest is that you’ll find thermal baths all over the city!  The baths are built around natural hot springs, and because there are so many establishments throughout the city, most of them are a bargain to visit.

My friends and I knew that we had to go.  We chose the Gellert Baths, part of Budapest’s luxurious Gellert Hotel.

If you really want to assimilate into a city, there are few better ways than public bathing!  In many cultures, bathing together is a fun and social activity, free from the shame you’d feel in America.

Soon I was in the hottest of the series of saunas, chatting with an American woman who fell in love with an Austrian man and moved on a whim to be with him.  They had since married and settled in Vienna, and they were in Budapest for a romantic weekend away.

The hottest sauna was the end of a four-room maze, and it must have been at least 120 degrees.  Sitting on the wooden chairs was a whole new level of pain!  There’s no way this would be legal in the United States.

Image: SpirosK

The Gellert baths also feature thermal baths of varying sizes and temperatures, private spa facilities, a full salon, and a large pool in a gorgeous, opulent room.  All but the pool and salon are segregated by sex.

But most memorable part of Gellert, for me, was the massage.

15-minute massages cost under 10 Euro.  Today, the price hasn’t increased much!

If you get a massage at the Gellert Baths in Budapest, know this:

1. You have to go topless.  They prefer full nudity, but toplessness is the bare minimum.  And there is no sheet — it’s you, naked on a table, in front of everybody.

2. There may be a language barrier. Whenever Helga wanted me to scoot down, she would tap my arm and say, “Downstairs, downstairs.”

3. No body part is off-limits. Have I mentioned that the massage is done in front of the entire room?

After my massage, I rejoined my friends, who were relaxing in a warm bath the size of a swimming pool.

“Wow, she really doesn’t shy away from your chest, huh?”  I joked.

They stared blankly.  “Huh?”

Oh, Helga!  You’re saucy.

Between the massage and my entrance fee, I spent less than 20 Euro that day.  Thanks to the great price, the relaxation, and the cultural experience, this is the one activity that I will always enjoy in Budapest!

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12 thoughts on “The Gellert Baths of Budapest”

  1. This is the second post I’ve read recently on the baths in Budapest! Budapest (and many other cities in mid- and Eastern Europe) has been on my “must visit” list for some time now. It sounds like a trip to the baths is an essential!

    And, I loved your comments about Helga… hahaha!

  2. Definitely one of my favorite parts of Budapest! I went to one of the public baths as well, which was super cheap and awesome. Didn’t try a massage–but the sauna was enough for me! Great post 🙂

  3. “Oh Helga! You’re saucy.” hilarious. That looks like it was an awesome experience that I somehow managed to miss (haha I meant the place, not that particular encounter…but you knew that?) I was only in Budapest for two days though. The hostel I stayed in (which was *amazing* by the way) was overbooked and I was excited to head off to Vienna anyway.

    I wish I had stayed longer. I can’t count how many times I’ve said that in my life. I think on this trip – which is only 3 days away now – I will linger more. Yes, I shall.

    Enjoyed the post 🙂

  4. Hi Kate,
    Your article about the Gellert baths brings back memories from when I did my post-college backpacking tour of Europe. I had the same experience (but with Viktor, not Helga)! I was recently in Istanbul, Turkey and went to a hammam there. It would be interesting to compare and contrast the experiences. Safe travels!
    Michael

  5. Thanks – the nudity bit is *exactly* the info I was after, as I experienced something similar last year in Switzerland and really don’t want to bounce around in public! Looks like it’ll be a foot massage for me instead. :O)

  6. I can’t see how anyone could get relaxed in front of the whole room. Were they Single Sex only or both male and female in the room?

    1. Only the pool was coed, and bathing suits were required there. The other parts were single-sex. It’s funny that you’re commenting now, as I just spent a week in Finland, where nudity is extremely common!

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