My wife and I have been looking forward to the Budapest baths for quite sometime and after an overnight train and
a full day of searching for accommodations we were ready and anxious for our first thermal bath experience.  During
our travels, we heard on several occasions that the Szechenyi Baths are the most authentic in Budapest.  So of
course we head to the Szechenyi baths.
The Szechenyi baths are located in a park at the north
end of Andrassy Street.  We arrive at the baths with our
swimsuits, sandals, and some Hungarian Forints.  We
locate a side entrance where people are conjugating.  
Once inside, we see a small glimpse of the outdoor baths
and our excitement grows even more.  Our excitement is
also fueled by our desire to enjoy “spa like treatment”
after a month of backpacking.  After a meager attempt to
read the Hungarian information signs, we impatiently jump
into a long line of people waiting to enter.  After standing
in line for twenty minutes we realize this entrance is for
people who already purchased a ticket.  After we circle the
building Erin and I find the appropriate place to buy
tickets.  There is an English sign that lists the bath
services and their prices. The baths offer every service
under the sun including massages, various therapies,
secured lockers, and many other services.  We opt for the
basic thermal bath service and then proceed to the
Szechenyi Baths Entrance
The entrance is similar to entering an American baseball game as there are turnstiles and attendants to let you in.  
The attendant gives Erin and me a funny look and after a few seconds I realize that this turnstile is for men only.  
I'm making a pathetic attempt to fit in so after proceeding through the turnstile I give Erin the “just go over there
look”.  Erin then responds with her own look of “are you stupid?”.  At that point I realize her new skimpy European
swimsuit is in my backpack.  So, I toss her swimsuit across the turnstile and venture to the men’s dressing room.   I
change into my swimsuit, place my clothes and backpack in a locker, and head to the outdoor thermal baths.  
Now, every guidebook and photograph I have ever
seen of Budapest shows a group of old men playing
chess on the steps of a steaming thermal bath.  
Being someone that enjoys chess I imagine chess
boards lined up in small coves around the pool and
me settling in for a relaxing game of chess with a few
old men.  Well, as I approached the three beautiful
outdoor pools of Szechenyi my first visions and
thoughts were not about leisurely chess games but
instead were “wow, this looks like Wet N’ Wild!”  
People were sprawled everywhere, wading in the
pools and sunbathing around them. There was even
a small lazy river in the middle of one of the pools.
Not the small, intimate experience I had envisioned!
However, the setting was very unique as it
resembled an athletic stadium, but instead of an
athletic field in the middle there were large swimming
pools with billows of steam rising from them.
Szechenyi Baths Outdoor Pools
I finally locate Erin among the masses and we venture into one of the outdoor baths.  I must say that it felt great
as the temperature was around 30 degrees Celsius. (times 1.8 + 32 = 86 degrees Fahrenheit)  After twenty
minutes of pure enjoyment we notice many people strolling in and out of a door thirty feet from us.  We head to the
door hoping to find the indoor thermal baths.  We read that the Budapest baths have 10-20 indoor thermal pools
all at much warmer temperatures.  As luck would have it this door does lead to the indoor baths.  We step inside.  

My first thoughts are, “this looks like an indoor pool at a Marriott Fairfield Inn.”  Picture about 15 indoor pools lined
up down a large hallway, each one a different size and shape and a different temperature. The one in front of me is
at 34 degrees Celsius and there are several others at 36 degrees, 38 degrees, etc.  Let the fun begin!  Erin and I
begin at the lower temperature pools and work our way up.  It’s like bar hopping but with spas.  We got a kick out
of just watching the parade of people come and go—young, old, fat, thin, hairy, bald, etc. After watching this
steady throng of people Erin looks at me and says “do you really think these waters are clean?”.  I try to convince
myself and Erin that the water is being circulated continuously, although I have my doubts too. After forty-five
relaxing minutes in the baths and sauna we finally head back outside, but low and behold it is now raining and
besides a few brave souls everyone else has ducked into the indoor baths or the locker rooms.  Having enjoyed
every bit of our Szechenyi experience we too head to the locker rooms to change back into our street clothes.

For us Westerners used to the tranquility of western spas, complete with a cool glass of cucumber water, this bath
experience is something completely different.  And although western spas are popping up all over Budapest (for
better or worse, you be the judge) I will follow the locals to the Szechenyi baths everyday.
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Budapest Baths