People travel for miles across Europe to partake in Budapest’s thermal waters. The locals all recommended the Széchenyi Bath & Spa, in City Park, so that’s where I headed.
The elaborate statues at the entrance are a preview of the playful neo-Baroque architecture inside. The mineral springs were discovered here in 1881, and in 1913, this elaborate, sunny-yellow building was constructed.
This was one of those situations where you just go with the flow. I had no idea what to expect…inside the door, in a fanciful yellow and white lobby, a plastic “watch” is strapped to your wrist and you are given a locker number. The watch has a computer chip that gets you through the door into the pools, and then opens your locker.
I wandered down the long, curved hallway to find my locker, where I changed into my bathing suit and left my clothes. Aside from the computer chip lock, the hallway and lockers have not changed since 1913.
I think I expected the baths to be dark and dank, with old Hungarian men sitting silently in cloudy water. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Walking outside, I was spellbound by the scene in front of me.
Where to begin? I couldn’t resist the pool with the circular tiled section where jets propelled you around the center. Laughs and languages from all over the world filled the air as people swam over and under and around each other at breakneck speed. At times there was a pile-up, but everyone just roared with laughter as they struggled to keep up with the manufactured waves.
There’s three pools outside, and more inside. Also inside was a sauna, and, just outside the door of the steaming hot room, a freezing cold pool of ice-water…it takes a lot of will power, but it’s worth it to plunge in for the refreshing feeling.
The pools inside were filled with water from the thermal springs that contained a variety of minerals. I can’t say that the water felt very different, but it certainly smelled different, and the atmosphere was very “old world.”
This one was downright murky…I didn’t go in.
The tile was art nouveau, and an enameled sign listed the minerals in the water.
I loved the signs all around the pools. It must shower, no cake in the pools, and bathing caps required in the lap pool.
This pool was bath water hot, and had a quirky statue.
As the sun began to set, the scene became even more magical. The light in the sky changed from a pink glow to startling blue that was stunning as a backdrop to the yellow buildings.
Ironically, in this place of healing water, I slipped on the wet tile and broke a toe. Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time, and went off to the subway with a smile.