Things to do in Budapest

Szechenyi Bath history: A journey through 2,000 years of Budapest’s spa culture

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Attention all spa lovers! If you're looking for the ultimate spa destination, look no further than Budapest. This city is like the Hollywood of spa culture - it's got the looks, the fame, and the drama. Over the past 2,000 years, the spa scene has grown immensely, with influences from the Romans, Ottoman Turks, Soviets, and now, independent Hungary. But do you know who the real star of the show is? Say hello to Szechenyi Bath.

This place has seen it all and has become a must-visit spot for its grand architecture and healing properties. Stick around, and I'll give you the lowdown on how Szechenyi became the most popular thermal bath in town.

Recommended tickets to Széchenyi Bath

History of Szechenyi Bath

  • 1 AD

    Budapest is a city that’s literally sitting on a gold mine of hot springs - over a thousand of them! The ancient Romans popularized the healing waters almost 2,000 years ago. Then, in the 16th century, the Turks added their own flavor with some seriously stunning Turkish Baths. In the late 1800s, Vilmos Zsigmondi, a mining engineer, decided to drill a massive hole under the Heroes’ Square near the City Park, which would later become the source of thermal water for Szechenyi Bath.

  • 1880

    Back in the 1880s, there was a temporary version of the thermal baths known as the Artesian Bath. This hot spot was on the tiny Nador Island, smack dab in the middle of the City Park lake. In 1881, a stone-walled bath was built along with marble pools. And remember our main man Vilmos Zsigmondi? His 970-meter well was the lifeblood of this place, pumping out mineral-rich water at the rate of 525 liters per minute. The Artesian Bath was such a hit that people were practically beating down the doors to get in. It was clear that Budapest needed a bigger and better spot for thermal baths.

  • 1909

    Enter Gyozo Czigler, a professor at the Budapest Technical University, who designed the Neo-Baroque style building for what would become the Szechenyi Baths. Construction kicked off in 1909, and by 1913, the place was ready. They named it after Count Istvan Szechenyi, aka the Greatest Hungarian.

  • 1913

    Building the Széchenyi Thermal Bath wasn’t cheap though - it cost a whopping 3,900,000 Gold Crowns (Hungary's currency at the time). The original Szechenyi Baths that opened in 1913 was a bit smaller than the one you see today, without the outdoor pool and surrounding area. But that didn't stop people from flocking to it. Fun fact: By 1919, over 800,000 guests had visited these baths!

  • 1924

    In 1924, Budapest's city council decided to level up Szechenyi Baths with some new additions. By August 1927, the outdoor thermal baths and a massive 50-meter open-air pool were ready to make a splash. But that's not all - they also drilled a new, deeper well in City Park. From 1936 to 1938, they dug down a mind-boggling 1256 meters (0.78 miles). The well's daily output? A staggering 6,000 cubic meters of water at 77°C (170.6°F) - that's about 3,500 liters per minute!

  • 1939

    The mayor was so impressed that he ordered the construction of a fountain and drinking well in 1939. Sadly, World War II took its toll, damaging a fifth of the baths during the brutal Siege of Budapest. After the war, Szechenyi Baths reopened as a family-friendly haven, welcoming thousands of visitors daily. During the communist era, low entry prices made the baths a smashing success.

  • 1963

    In 1963, Szechenyi Baths began staying open during the winter months, and it's been a hit ever since. You could now take a dip on Christmas, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day! However, during the Communist era, the baths fell into disrepair due to a lack of funds. Corrosion, fungi, and broken mosaics and statues were common sights.

  • 1981

    For decades, the baths had separate sections for men and women, with a mixed area in the middle. However, by the 1970s, this became outdated. In 1981, all 18 pools for guests and three additional hospital pools became fully mixed. The building's symmetrical structure, originally designed for separate male and female pools, now accommodates everyone. Today, Szechenyi Bath welcomes all visitors, every day of the week.

  • 1994

    In 1994, a new era began for Szechenyi Baths with the introduction of Sparty, a unique nighttime party held in the thermal pools. The brainchild of György Klinkó and Laszlo Laki, Sparty transformed the baths into a vibrant, music-filled venue after dark. Featuring live DJs, mesmerizing light shows, and a lively atmosphere, Sparty quickly gained popularity among locals and tourists alike. The event, typically held on Saturday nights, adds a modern twist to the historic baths, attracting a diverse crowd eager to experience the fusion of relaxation and entertainment.

Széchenyi Baths History