Let’s analyze the above shot! You see the group of men on the left side of the thermal pool? They’re gathered around a pair of two men playing water chess. Behind them there are people floating in a state of ecstasy in the warm spring water that claims to have minerals providing restorative powers; not pictured are jet streams of water flowing out at differing intensities from tiny outlets on the floor and walls of the pool! If the water’s too warm for you, lay down on the pool lounge chairs and take in the beautiful Baroque architecture. Really, come here to have a perfect day!
Thermal baths in Hungary originated way back in the 1500’s when the country was a part of the Ottoman Empire. The locals believed in the healing properties of the water originating from earth’s crust, especially in the treatment of bone disease and joint pains! The Széchenyi Baths website states that the water consists of calcium, magnesium, hydro-carbonate, sodium and sulphate, with a significant content in fluoride and meta-boric acid.
I recommend booking a cabin for yourself because you have more privacy to store your things and change into your swimsuit. Once you check-in, they will handover a rubber watch to you with an in-built sensor. To locate which cabin number you’ve been assigned, you have to scan your watch on a tiny box until a number pops up on the screen. You might be able to locate a staff member (usually in all whites) but I have to say that they weren’t very helpful or friendly. Also, they might not speak English so it’s best to be patient when you’re trying to get their attention. I also recommend that you book their aromatherapy massages well in advance. We were not able to book one on the same day, and they tried to sell us $50+ massage packages that we weren’t interested in purchasing.
It was merely serendipitous that we decided to take a dip in one of the larger indoor pools that was filled with cooler water. After a few minutes, we realized that the pool had begun bubbling and had transformed into a wave pool. It was like we had discovered our own play pool! The sides of the pool began pushing out a pretty strong jet stream of water that began churning water making the few people in the pool feel like we were on a merry-go-round – in the water! Best.fun.ever!
Picture of wave pools taken from Szechenyi Baths website
Soon, many people joined in on the fun but it just added to the joy we were experiencing in our own personal play pool. The fun does stop periodically though. There was a lifeguard who would shut down the jet sprays every half an hour for safety precautions, so in the meantime you could go to one of the outdoor pools where there was a smaller wave-pool for your “revolving in the water” pleasure! All in all, it was a very fun and enjoyable day! I could easily have spent all day there, and can hopefully come back here during the winter.
TIPS TO ENJOY THE SZECHENYI BATHS:
1. Book a cabin and private entrance pass from viator or a similar website to skip the long lines in summer. We arrived around 2 pm when there was no line at the entrance but I’ve heard that the longest lines are in the morning.
2. Skip the food. We were there for close to 4 hours and got really hungry. There is beer, ice cream and Hungarian food to order at the cafeteria. When you’re craving a burger and fries, it might be a little disappointing to order a grilled chicken leg in herb sauce, macaroni topped with a white sauce containing peas and croquettes. We did like the fries though.
3. The baths are not located in downtown Budapest. There is a subway line to Heroes Square (Hősök tere) from most touristy areas, but you can take a taxi too! The zoo is also nearby!
4. Bring a towel and flip flops; a swim-cap is necessary if you want to use the larger outdoor pool to swim laps. If possible, skip taking a shower after you are done swimming because there are very few bathrooms. We changed and took a cab to our apartment. If you have to take a shower, bring your own toiletries because all they give you is a tiny body wash/shampoo bottle.