Budapest’s baths are a hot topic, literally. Thanks to geothermally heated, mineral rich water, these soothing spas are an international hit, and a great place to relax. After a day of exploring both the Buda and Pest sides of the city, we took a rejuvenating pit stop at the Szechenyi Baths.
As one of the largest public baths in Europe, located in the peaceful and impressive City Park, Széchenyi was a must do stop for us.
When we walked into the entrance, colors and dazzlingly decorated ceilings immediately drew our attention. Bright red and yellow flowerbeds highlight the front of the building and once inside the doors, a grand dome entry way greets the visitors. After purchasing tickets, there are many doors which all lead to different thermal baths. Eventually all paths funnel to the outdoor pools. As we walked the many rooms in this building, it was hard to believe Széchenyi is more than 100 years old.
The way the thermal baths work is a natural process. Water comes from a well dug under the baths, which taps into a thermal spring. Hot water gushes upwards, and then is later mixed with cool water to reach an appropriate bathing temperature. Some pools are luke-warm, while the hottest we experienced was 38°C (100° F).
There is a lap pool that is cooler than the rest of the baths. However, it is a rule at Széchenyi to wear a cap in this pool.
Not only is the water warm, it is rich in natural minerals such as sodium, sulfate, magnesium, calcium, hydro-carbonate, fluoride, and metabolic acid. We immediately noticed a difference in the smoothness of our skin, and that feeling of refreshed skin lingered for the day.
The indoor facilities host many separate pools, including small Jacuzzi-esque pools that were quite warm as well. Of course, there were saunas and the accompanying pools of cold water to jump in after sitting in an oven-like room.
There is affordable food and drink that you can buy at Széchenyi, but we were allowed to bring our own food in as well.
We spent most of our time outdoors as the weather was fabulous, and they allowed food outside.
We arrived right when the baths opened to experience Széchenyi with less people. As the day went on the baths quickly began to fill with more crowds, but our time there was still peaceful and pleasant.
One of the outdoor pools has a spot where a waterproof chess board was set up. Brooks challenged an elderly man who had taken up residence at the board to a game. Due to the language barrier the interaction took place through some motioning and confusion, but the man caught on and gladly accepted the challenge. The two enjoyed a thought-provoking game. Were appreciative for this unlikely connection. We had nothing in common with this man, except that we both were at the baths, he like to play chess, and had a board. Its inspiring to think sometimes being in the same place is all it takes to make a connection with someone.
We highly recommend this as a stop for anyone visiting Hungary’s capital. They provide lockers with your day ticket, so all you need is swimwear, sandals, sun-lotion, and a towel. Check out the bath’s website, to see prices, events, and special offerings.
A word of caution however, the day tickets are 1 time entry only; although the wording makes them sound like you could leave and come back in the same day, you cannot.
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