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Budapest: Soaking Away at Széchenyi Baths

Hurry up and grab your togs, towel and thongs!  Ready?  Great!  Because no visit to Budapest is complete without a visit to one of it’s many thermal bathhouses.  Abound in natural springs and wells Budapest is often named the city of healing waters because of the number of spas and thermal baths the city offers.  These thermal springs were enjoyed by the Romans as early as the 2nd century, but it was really from the 16th century during the Turkish occupation that Budapest’s bath culture really started flourishing.  Now there are over 118 springs, 15 public thermal baths and not to mention countless of private spas.

Soaking away our aches and pains in a hot spa after two months of bike touring sounded amazing.  We picked Széchenyi Baths, the largest spa complex in Europe who’s water is supplied by two geo-thermal springs flowing under City Park.

Walk in the front door…

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And be wowed by the ceiling…

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A lady with a clipboard will greet you and reel off a billion spa packages. If you just want to swim your options are a cabin (4,600huf/$21AUD) or a locker (4,100huf/$19AUD) per person.  Lockers are only big enough for a bag/s and you change in the women/men bathrooms.  If you get a cabin you get a private changing room and a secure place for your belongings.  We picked a cabin as it was definitely easier, not that much more but a lot more fun!

You’ll get a silicon wristband, which is not only your ‘ticket’ but also your key for your cabin.  Hold the wristband up to the number machine on the wall and it’ll assign you a cabin number.  You can swipe in and out of your cabin all day.

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The building is an enourmous maze of pools, saunas, steamrooms, cabins and massage rooms.  Take a moment to find your bearings.  Little map plaques are on the walls if you need to check where you are.  Find your way outside to the three heated outdoor pools surrounded by the yellow and white Neo-Baroque walls.  One is for laps and two are for relaxation with waterjets, whirlpools and built-in chessboards.

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You can bring food and drinks in and having snacks while you lounge about on the warm concrete is so satisfying.  Remember to drink lots of water to stay hydrated.

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Sauna! Don’t mind if we do! Széchenyi Baths has 10 saunas/steam rooms of varing temperatures and a line of showers at each to rinse you off.

There are 15 indoor baths from 17°C to 30°C, with different mixes of minerals and salts, massage jets and tiled ledges to lounge on.  Sit back, relax and soak it up in quiet contemplation.  We spent hours there soaking and snoozing, slowing dipping in and out of different pools and making our way across the complex.  We left at sunset, blinking in the gold light with wrinkled rasin fingers, loose limbs and happy.

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