Need a break from a hot day walking around the city in Budapest? Why don’t you visit the Széchenyi baths situated at the City Park and enjoy the warm thermal waters in beautiful surroundings? If you are up for it, you can play a game of chess, too, while enjoying yourself at one of the outdoor pools.
This summer I found myself trapped inside a stuffy lecture room on a sunny day in Budapest. I had been attending a conference for most of the week, but on this particular day the sunlight filtering through the curtains beckoned me to go outside. I had heard of the Széchenyi thermal baths situated conveniently at the City Park. Knowing that the bath also has some outdoor pools, I decided to visit the place.
I felt slightly guilty for skipping the rest of the conference that day, but as soon as I immersed myself in the hot and healing waters of the Széchenyi baths, all my guilt literally soaked away. The water was nice and warm (between 27 and 38°C) and contained sulfate, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, fluoride acid, and metaboric acid, among other components. It has been used to treat different degenerative joint-illnesses, though the water sure works wonders also in terms of relaxing the muscles and the mind.
The bath was constructed in 1913 and has 15 indoor and three outdoor pools. Its surroundings were beautiful, with pillars and statues in neo-baroque style. Perhaps it was because of the the glorious sunshine that day, but I liked the outdoor pools the best. The middle pool is meant for swimming, and you are required to wear a swimming cap there.
The other two pools are perfect for relaxing and enjoying the sun. One of them has a jacuzzi in the middle if you feel like just lazing about. Or you can throw yourself into the water stream river surrounding the jacuzzi and be whizzed around by the current. It’s a lot of fun, although very hard to get out of thanks to the strength of the current.
You can take advantage of the many fountains that massage achy shoulders when you sit right under the water beam, or discover one of the many underwater jet streams for deep tissue massage. These come on and go off at regular intervals; just look out for the spots where water starts bubbling from underneath. Great for boosting circulation and rejuvenating tired feet if you’ve been walking around the city.
The other pool has steaming hot water and chess boards by the side. Here you will often find people playing chess while soaking in water up to their chests. Some local players are well-known and the games attract a crowd. It is easy to stay a little too long in this blissfully warm water, which can be quite dehydrating. So make sure to bring something to drink with you.
And if you’d like to document your visit without worrying about getting your camera wet, a good idea is to either get ahold of an underwater camera or an underwater case for your camera. As for me, I opted for a disposable one.
Find out more about the Széchenyi baths here.