Budapest is considered the spa capital of Europe, thanks to its location on a fault line and the number of natural hot springs that have popped up over thousands of years. Its also famous for its Ruin Bars (kertz), cheap booze and great parties. Naturally the locals decided that what was really needed was a combination, the Spas and the parties. The Budapest Sparty was born and the rest is history!
Where is the Sparty?
Our visit was in Summer so the Sparty was hosted at the Szechenyi Baths. The baths are easily accessible from downtown Budapest by the metro system which runs until just after 11 suits perfectly to arrive fashionably late. If you miss the last tram all the taxi drivers will know where the the baths are too as the Szechenyi Baths are one of Budapest’s biggest attractions.
In winter the party moves to other indoor baths around Budapest, keep an eye on the official Sparty website for details of this as it can change!
How much does the Sparty Cost?
Tickets range in price from €35 for an earlybird ticket up to €160. The most expensive include a private changing cabin and drink tickets and some Sparty merchandise. As you’d expect, we bought tickets well in advance and crunched all the numbers to make sure we got the best value for money. For us that was the early bird tickets – we’re already carrying too much so don’t needed limited edition Sparty Towels and drinks work out cheaper to buy them yourselves.
The total cost of the Sparty will depended on what you drink, and how much of it! Drinks are reasonably priced though, ranging from €3 for a beer to €6 for a cocktail.
Our Sparty Review
The day leading up to the Sparty was meant to involve a wine tasting tour in order to give us a little liquid courage to be able to strip down to our togs and party. Unfortunately the official tour we wanted to do was sold out. Never quitters, we decided to head to the nearest liquor store and do a DIY wine tasting at home. As it turns out we just bought all four bottles of Rose they have and proceeded to drink them in order of most expensive to cheapest. (All four bottles total cost less than €18)
Suitably prepared, we boarded one of the last metro trains and headed to the Sparty!
Ascending from the metro and approaching the Szechenyi Baths we could already hear what was to be the soundtrack to our evening, a constant thudding base. Our tickets were checked, we loaded some money onto our plastic card (they don’t use cash at the bars) and headed downstairs to get changed.
As we emerged from the changing rooms we prepared for the worst. If the TripAdvisor reviews are anything to believe we should have been greeted by an overchlorinated pool full of people hooking up in the water surrounded by floating condoms and perhaps a tampon. Thankfully it was nothing of the sort! Yes there were a few empty cups and cans floating in the water, but what else would you expect!? Its not like you expect the floor of a club to be super clean either…
The drinks at the bar were reasonably priced and again, contrary to TripAdvisor reviews, quite strong! Armed with a beer we headed off to explore.
The Sparty covers two pools, the first being directly behind the first bar at the exit from the changing rooms. The whirlpool is about 32 degrees, which sounds warm but gets cold pretty quickly!
As we started to freeze, and wondering where people were disappearing to we set of exploring and came across the warmer (38 degrees) pool where the party was really happening. This pool was also host to the unofficial kissing corner, the area where couples or new friends could hang out and enjoy each others company. Everything seemed to be pretty tame though and the patrolling security would have put a stop to anything too heavy I’m sure!
Being chest deep in water doesn’t really allow you to dance (not that it stopped us trying) so we spent the night just acting like fools. Soon after entry those four bottles of Rose convinced us that it was a good idea to ‘put out feet up and have a drink’… we decided to use each others shoulders as a foot rest.
Other high-points of the evening where when we gave each other piggy backs, or performed ‘jumpy turns’ with our new French friends. Whilst we probably didn’t look like the coolest people at the Sparty, it was definitely good fun!
The entire evening flew by and before we knew it it was 3am! Chaos reined in the changing rooms with hundreds of drunken Sparty goers tried to find their lockers. Even the official website for the baths admit that its a “huge maze”. Eventually we managed to find our locker and get changed and get out, but did loose marks shirt and jersey somewhere along with way.
Taxis wait in hordes outside the baths at 3am, and dont expect them to use their meters. The law in Budapest requires them to, but they seem to have a pact that none of them do and they charge exorbitant prices to get you home. Split it with a few friends though and its still much cheaper than a taxi back in NZ!
Whilst the Sparty could have had some better music and a dry area outside by the pool, it was still a night we wont forget anytime soon. The novelty factor of drinking in a thermal bath from the 13th century is definitely worth it.
We had much more fun exploring the Ruin Bars that surrounded our Air BnB in the evenings. But do I regret going to the Sparty? No. Would I go again? No.
The Sparty is worth visiting as a one off to say you’ve done it. But the lack of locals says something about the quality of the nightlife elsewhere (read: it’s way better!)