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In my many road trips to Vienna, I never passed Budapest without a sigh. I had been hearing so many good things about this city, that visiting it became one of my biggest wishes. The same applies to Prague, which is also pretty close to Vienna. Unfortunately, I had to travel for business, so whether I wanted to visit Prague or Budapest, I had to schedule a separate trip. Eventually, I’ve made it to Budapest. As strange as it may seem, I’ve spent one out of my four days in Budapest in a swirling pool with warm water. Once you’ve experienced the thermal water of Szechenyi Furdo (the Hungarian for Szechenyi Bath) in Budapest, you are going to dream about coming back for more.
Szechenyi Baths, Love at First Sight
The first time I set my car wheels in Budapest, I was overwhelmed by its beauty. Driving was much easier than I had imagined. People were polite, signs were clear and roads were good. Parking was easy to find and fairly inexpensive.
This trip was a birthday present from my friend. The gift was cool, but I had to drive us there, as she didn’t have a driving license. We found cheap accommodation somewhere in the city center and we spent a few days exploring the streets, citadels, churches and even a cemetery nearby the Fisherman’s Bastion. We just let ourselves guided by intuition. We did what any other tourist would have done in a wonderful city, full of history and good food. Walk, eat, sleep and repeat is an accurate description of the time spent there. If you don’t know where to start your food tour from, you may want to take a look at this guide of the best Budapest restaurants. In the meantime, try a goulash, my favorite Hungarian traditional dish.
The Second Date Was Hot!
I would have never believed I could go to a dream city like Budapest and spend most of my time there in a pool. Yet it happened. It was winter and I was heading west from Bucharest, searching for a new country to move to. Hungary was only a one week stop on the way to my new life. What a relaxing stop that was! If we were to put Budapest on a virtual spa map, it would need to be one of the most important such points in Europe. According to this website, Hungary’s capital city boasts no less than 15 public thermal baths. I’ve tried two, so I have to go back for the rest.
Szechenyi Bath was the first Hungarian spa I’ve been to. Although it was love at first sight, I wanted to see more options, so Gellert Baths were the next in line. The spa of Gellert Hotel was neat, but it had fewer pools, all of them indoor. Besides, by the time of my visit, only the central swimming pool was common for men and women, the thermal sections being completely separate. This made it less entertaining, but gave me the comfort of the “naked” dress code. Nonetheless, I’ve heard they turned into a mixed spa meanwhile, so you won’t be able to roam around the pools and saunas of Gellert Furdo without your swimwear anymore. I happen to know a good place in Austria where you can do that in mixed company. Just leave a comment if you’re interested, and I’ll share the secret.
18 Pools and Only One Body – Life in Szechenyi Baths Is Not Fair!
I’m usually happy with my body. Nonetheless, in Szechenyi I was sorry for having only one. There are no less than 18 pools in the spa complex. Add the three or four saunas and try to figure out how to split your time and your only body between all these. A good method is to take them one by one. Start with the outdoor ones and work your way to the hottest indoor pool which is so hot that your vision gets blurry, wiping off the beautiful details of the neo-baroque pillars around the room. There would be lots of locals, but also travelers in the pools, most of them willing to socialize. You can even play chess while bathing, just like Hungarians do.
For about USD $16 per day, you get one full day access to all pools and saunas, from 6am to 10pm. If you get there after 7:30pm, you can enter for the rest of the evening, and pay less.
If you have the chance to visit Budapest, take your swimming suit with you and don’t miss the opportunity to relax in Szechenyi Bath. You’ll feel decadent and spoiled, an ancient Roman accidentally traveling through time. Some say it’s a great way to kick a hangover. Perhaps they are right.
*Photos courtesy of Pixabay.