The Széchenyi Bath is largest the thermal spring bath complex not only in Budapest, in but whole Europe as well. It’s also the first thermal bath of Pest. The bath owes its existence to Vilmos Zsigmondy, a Hungarian mining engineer; on his initiative, successful deep borings had been performed in the City Park, where later, in 1881 already an “Artesian bath” was in operation. This well was drilled 970 meter deep (0.6 mile), in a way so that the underground waters rich in minerals would be flowing spontaneously from the great pressure, like a fountain. The first well was supplying the baths until 1938. It gave 525 liters of water per minute. Nowadays the well is out of use (it is under Arpad Chieftain on the Heroes’ Sq). It took 10 years for Zsigmondy to find the waters under the City Park!
The Artesian Bath building was so popular that by the end of the 1880’s the city councilors decided to build a bigger and nicer palace for bathing and relaxation. The present Széchenyi Thermal Bath was built in 1913 in neo-baroque style on the basis of plans composed by Gyozo Czigler. Beautiful stuccos and statues – depicting the allgories of bathing and greek heroes – decorates the facade of the bath. Inside you find the same luxury: mosaic, statues, carvings , ornamental stuccos, wich remind to a ball room instead of a bath. At that time it had private baths, separate men and women steam-bath sections, and different men / women “public baths”.
The original building of Széchenyi Baths opened in 1913 was considerably smaller than what you see today. The bath was expanded in 1927, and currently has 3 outdoor, and 15 indoor pools. After its expansion, the thermal artesian well couldn’t fullfill its purpose, so a new well – called Stephen well – was drilled. This second thermal spring was found in 1938. Its depth is 1256m (4 120 ft), and its temperature is 77 °C (170.6 °F) and it supplies 6.000.000 litres (1 585 032 US gallons) of hot water daily. Needless to say, the hot spring waters are cooled with fresh cold water to provide an ideal temperate in the thermal baths, and a pleasant cooler water in the swimming pool. In 1939, the heating system of Szechenyi Baths was using the heat of the geo-thermal waters (77 °C / 170.6°F). In the glass pavillion near to the bath one can even taste the cooled water, or drink it as a cure for problems of stomach and liver.
The popularity of the baths were increasing year by year. While in 1913 there were 200,000 people visiting Széchenyi bath, by 1919 there were 890,507 bath guests enjoying the pools in the bath palace. But despite the huge success of Széchenyi Thermal Baths, the bath was not profitable. On the one hand, WWI presented a tough economic situation in Europe, on the other hand, the planned Széchenyi Bath Spa Hotel was not realized.
During the World War II, one fifth of Szechenyi Baths were damaged (the Siege of Budapest was one of the worst city sieges in the history of WW2). In March 1945, the male baths in the right wing were used by the Soviet soldiers, while the left wing pools in the former female baths, were used by the local citizens of Budapest.
In 1981 Szechenyi Baths became fully mixed, all of its 18 pools for bath guests and the additional 3 hospital pools turned into co-educated. Still beforethat in 1963 Széchenyi Baths remained open for the winter season, and since then it has proven a huge success. The bath is operating on Chrismas and New Year’s Eve as well, and famous about the regular cine- and spaparties. For people, who come here to heal, Szechenyi bath operates as day-hospital, with addditional 3 pools for treatments.