Soaking in Budapest

Imagine you are in the depths of winter, a gloomy overcast day, patches of snow and ice on the ground. Only here in Budapest, would one, in the midst of a bitter cold winter, slip on swimmers (or the newest release of Budgy Smuggler sluggos!), and walk over the icy ground to an outdoor pool with the towel over the shoulder!

That may be the last thing any sane person wants to do, you think to yourself. But this is Budapest, the City of Spas. Once you plunge into the thermal water, steam rising around you, you’ll see why the locals enjoy sitting around the edge of the pool. We were not in Budapest in the depths of winter, yet the air was a little crisp. The historic bath houses, such as Széchenyi, are among Budapest’s unique attractions. That does not however, diminish lesser known bath houses, such as Dandar.

Attending the baths is a social outing for some and a prescribed medical treatment for others. Slowly, your muscles loosen up, you relax, and your skin will become brighter and softer (I may need to spend a few hours soaking!). Soaking in Budapest’s thermal water feels decadent, and it’s addictive. The mineral-rich water will relax you and make you feel ‘renewed’.

The Széchenyi bath house is probably the ‘grande dame’ of Budapest’s thermal bath houses. This bath house is big and busy. It draws crowds of people, mostly tourists, to its waters probably more for the most magical outdoor thermal baths. This bath house is immortalized on the covers of many Budapest guidebooks and in Instagram portfolios the world over. It is a neo-Baroque  bath house erected in the early 1900’s and is the largest bath complex in Europe. It is a wonderful place to soak in the natural thermal waters and hosts a number of sauna and steam room options.

In sharp contrast to Széchenyi, the Dandar baths are an under the radar no frills bath house, significantly cheaper and less touristic than the larger, better known bath houses. It is also located a little way out of the city area inside an art deco building, next to the Unicum Museum. This bath house probably provides the user with what would be considered a local experience as the visitors are predominantly local residents.

Like Budapest’s elegant coffee houses, poets, composers and the city’s intelligentsia of the halcyon early 1900s era would have flocked to the baths.

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