In Budapest, the Széchenyi Thermal Baths are a must-visit. The neoclassical building lends it a beauty and harmony unrivalled in Europe.
With its 15 pools, three of which are huge open-air, the Széchenyi spa is one of the largest to be found on the continent. Winter is said to be the best time to enjoy the outdoor pools, which maintain a constant temperature of 37 degrees Celcius – in stark contrast to the intense cold and snow, but the truth is we only experienced them in summer and enjoyed them nonetheless.
The history of Budapest thermal baths
Budapest is the largest spa in Europe. Built over the largest hot spring basin in the world, Hungary’s capital has long known what a treasure it has underground.
The thermal springs in the Danube valley where Budapest is situated today were so many and so good that the Romans called the area Aquinco and founded a city of the same name. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the use of thermal waters fell into disuse and only during the Ottoman Empire, in the 16th century, were they used again.
But it was in the 19th century that a new revitalisation movement of the spas took place, following the example of what happened all over Europe.
The most famous spas in Budapest were built at the beginning of the 20th century. This is the case of the Széchenyi baths, which opened in 1913.
Relaxing at the Széchenyi baths
The Széchenyi Baths have 15 pools, but what delights those who go there are the outdoor pools. There is a swimming pool (the only one where it is compulsory to wear a swimming cap), with a temperature of 26º Celsius, and two others with free access. The small labyrinth is used especially by the younger ones, who have fun finding their way around in 32º Celsius water. Finally, the biggest one has a water temperature of 38º.
Széchenyi is a great place to spend a few hours. It is necessary to bring a swimsuit, towel and slippers (they are also provided, but the price gets more expensive. Prices start at 24 euros and get more expensive depending on what you want. A massage, for example, is 25 euros.
In the big pool, it is usual to see people playing chess. If someone doesn’t have a partner, they can challenge you to a match.
You can easily spend a morning or an afternoon at the Széchenyi thermal baths, just relaxing in the outdoor pools, or trying out the spa, with its indoor pools, saunas and cold-water tanks.