Qualities, Conditions and Experiences of living in Budapest city in relation to Water – Alannah Hurley


Fig 1

Figure 1: ‘Vue De Budapest’ taken in the early 20th century.

Photograph Source: Europeana Collections.


This blog will focus on the qualities, conditions and experiences of living in Budapest city in relation to water in the 19th and early 20th century. Budapest is widely known as it is the capital of Hungary. The city was established in 1872 when the right bank (Buda) in between the Danube river were joined with the left bank (Pest). In the early 19th century, geological investigations took place in search of natural filtration to provide healthy drinking water. Budapest often experienced epidemics such as cholera and typhoid due to the pollution of the Danube river and a lack of sewage systems. There are two main water sources in Budapest, one on the northern bank of the Danube and one at the southern bank. It’s apparent that for the inhabitants of Budapest in the 19th century, there was a lack of good, healthy water. This naturally would have hugely impacted on people’s health and their hygiene too.


Fig 2

Figure 2: ‘Children by the Danube’ overlooking a very polluted river in the mid-20th century.

Photograph Source: Europeana Collections.


By the early 20th century Budapest began to plan for what is now one of its top tourist attractions in the city, the Szechenyi Baths. Construction of the baths began in 1909 and it opened in 1913. The Szechenyi Baths were hugely popular and quickly became a social hub whereby locals enjoyed bathing and relaxation. Due to the success of the baths, Budapest City Council decided to expand the baths in 1924 which was completed in 1927. The baths were operated by segregation with males and females being separated. As shown in Figure 3, the building has a symmetrical structure and the same number and type of pools are on both side. This was the segregated structure of the baths whereby women could use the left wing and men the right wing. However, by the 1980s this segregation ended, and the baths were now fully mixed. Urban living in Budapest was changing and there were new ways of thinking for the city and how its people were managed. To compare and contrast, in the 19th century people had no hope in relation to water hygiene and demanded geological investigations. By the early 20th century inhabitants of Budapest had a wonderful area to bathe and relax. One could argue that the City Council were trying to take the lime light off sanitation and social hygiene by constructing the Szechenyi Baths.


Fig 3

                Figure 3: Szechenyi Baths Floorplan.

                                   Photograph Source: Szechenyi Baths.

Fig 4

Figure 4: Segregation no more the baths.

                                            Photograph Source: Szechenyi Baths.



Europeana Collections. (2017). Vue de Budapest : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol]. [online] Available at: http://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/record/9200365/BibliographicResource_3000113650436.html?q=budapest [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].


Europeana Collections. (2017). Children by the Danube. [online] Available at: https://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/record/2048092/Athena_Plus_ProvidedCHO_Schola_Graphidis_Art_Collection__Hungarian_University_of_Fine_Arts___High_School_of_Visual_Arts__Budapest_2015_006_025.html?q=Budapest+Danube [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].


Szechenyi Baths. (2017). Szechenyi Bath History – Szechenyi Baths. [online] Available at: http://szechenyispabaths.com/szechenyi-bath-history/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].


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