Dutch sauna experience

The Dutch sauna experience

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If you can muster some nude courage among strangers, then hit a soothing Dutch sauna. Expatica offers insight into the group Dutch sauna experience and a list of saunas near you.

The Finnish invented the sauna 2,000 years ago and despite the popularity of saunas in hotels and spas worldwide, going to the sauna on evenings or weekends with company is a typically northern European activity.

For the uninitiated, getting naked to go to a sauna with family members, friends, or even colleagues may seem unusual. Yet numerous Dutch nationals grow up going to the sauna with their families and continue the practice of going in groups the way some of us might go to the movies with friends or colleagues.

As an expatriate who is unaccustomed to the group sauna experience, it may take a few visits to feel at ease.

Sam Critchley, a British expatriate who has lived in Amsterdam for four years, says he was shocked and mortified during his first Dutch sauna experience.

After a game of squash with one of his male Dutch colleagues, Critchley says he encountered several female colleagues chatting, unashamedly, while in the buff in a co-ed sauna.

"Imagine my consternation when out of the boiling fog loomed a human figure, which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be the naked form of one of my female colleagues. She stopped before opening the door and, apparently unaware of this sudden change in our hitherto entirely clothed professional relationship, bent over me to ask whether I would be joining the group in the restaurant afterwards. I somehow managed to find the words and gabble out that I would indeed be eating with them," Critchley says.

"As she left, the door swung open, creating a cooling gap in the mist, allowing me to see to the other side of the steam room — possibly all 4m of it — a further three naked women colleagues and one man. This was too much for my modest British upbringing, and my instant reaction was to panic and cover my nether regions with both hands. This brought hoots of laughter from my visible colleagues."

Critchley says that he has since relaxed about going to the sauna, and has become friends with many of the colleagues from that evening, but he admits it was difficult to look any of those individuals in the eye for the following few weeks.

Not all Dutch like to go in groups however. Some prefer to go alone or with a friend with whom they feel comfortable. Either way, the event is meant to be low-key and quiet.

Some tips to remember before you visit a Dutch sauna

  • Bring a bathrobe for sauntering and at least one big towel and reading material. Although people are open with their nakedness, normally sauna-goers do not hang out in the sitting area naked or exposed. Nakedness is kept for the hot sauna, steam bath and the showers.
  • Always sit on your towel in the sauna. When you go into the steam bath, leave your towel outside.
  • Make sure you give yourself two to three hours at least for the whole process and don’t eat a big meal before going.
  • Plan to do something relaxing or nothing at all afterwards. You will sleep very well after a sauna so hitting the sack is your best option.

Saunas in the Netherlands  

Top saunas in the Netherlands

You can find a guide of saunas around the Netherlands at Sauna Gids or check out discussions on saunas on our forums, otherwise we've listed some below.

Almere

Thermen Lamer
Scoutingpad 3 | Tel: 036 538 6888
Open: Daily 10am–11pm
| Price: EUR 29.50/19.50 children

Amsterdam

Art Deco Sauna
The Art Deco Sauna is renowned for its stylish and opulent interior and is a good choice for your first sauna experience.

Herengracht 115 | Tel: 020 623 8215
Open: Monday–Saturday, noon–11pm, except Tuesday, 3pm–11pm; Sunday, 1pm–7pm
Price: EUR 18–22.50, depending on entry time

Hammam
If keeping your knickers on is more your style, then the Hammam could work for you. It is a women-only, traditional hammam where Arab women come in groups, crossing generations. Little girls with their sisters, mothers, aunties and grandmothers are often out together for a night of chatting and relaxing. Warm and friendly, this is a must with a group of friends.

Zaanstraat 88 | Tel: 020 681 4818
Open: women Tuesday–Friday, noon–10pm, weekend noon–8pm; men Monday 6pm–10pm
Price: EUR 17

Apeldoorn

Sauna & Bodycare
A 'little bit of Finland' in central Holland.

Heemradenlaan 104 | Tel: 055 541 3818
Open: Monday, Wednesday–Saturday, 11am–11pm, Sunday 11am–8pm; closed Tuesday
Price: Sauna EUR 19.50

Den Bosch 

Sauna Devarana
A 'Japanese island of peace' in this south-central Dutch city.

Eendenkooi 9 | Tel: 073 621 0033 | www.deshima.nl
Open: Monday–Thursday, 11am to 11pm; Friday–Sunday, 11am to 11.30pm
Price: from EUR 17 onwards.

Haarlem

Sauna Centre Haarlem
Claims to be the only wood-fired Finnish sauna in the district.

Jansweg 50 | Tel: 023 532 7414
Open: Monday–Friday, 11am–11pm; Saturday–Sunday, 11am–9pm; Tuesday women only

Leiden

Sauna Thermen 5 mei
Beauty salons and sun studios.

Telderskade 42–44 | Tel: 071 572 0520
Open: Sunday–Thursday, 11am–11pm; Friday–Saturday, 11pm–midnight
Price: sauna EUR 24.50 (depends on time of visit).

Lelystad

Beauty & Sauna Aestas
Aestas means summer in Latin.

Schoener 41–20 | Tel: 032 021 9294
Open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, 9.30am–6 pm; Wednesday (ladies) 9.30am–10.30pm; Friday–Saturday, 9.30am–8.30pm
Price: sauna EUR 26 (depends on time of visit).

Nijmegen

Thermen
Seven saunas and steambaths, all adjusted to different temperatures.

Panovenlaan 3 | Tel: 024 360 0303
Open: Monday–Thursday, Sunday, 11am–11pm; Friday–Saturday, 11am–midnight.

Soesterberg

Sauna Soesterberg
Situated in beautiful wooden surroundings, swimming pool, beauty centre, sun terrace.

Amersfoortsestr 105 | Tel: 033 462 2460 | www.saunasoesterberg.nl
Open: Sunday–Thursday, 10am–11pm; Friday–Saturday, 10am–midnight
Price: sauna EUR 29.95 (varies)

Tell us about a sauna missing from the list in the comments below.


Expatica

Published 2003; updated 2015.

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Readers' recommendations

  • Thermen Heiloo: recently renovated and expanded, and the owners are welcoming | Westerweg 391
  • Sauna Warmond: close to Leiden
  • Thermen Holiday: in Schiedam near Rotterdam.

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6 Comments To This Article

  • joer posted:

    on 19th December 2013, 23:54:35 - Reply

    Years ago, I traveled on a bus outside of the center of Amsterdam (although i think it was still considered Amsterdam) and went to a sauna that was unique for me.

    In the steam room, they had cool water that looked like it is coming out of the tiled benches that you sat on. Closer inspection revealed that there were very tiny metal rods out of which the water continuously came. The cool water was so refreshing and enabled me to sit there a long time.

    Does anyone remember the name of this sauna? I've been thinking about it for years and would really like to know if it still exists.

    Many thanks!
  • Richard Gill posted:

    on 27th November 2010, 20:49:35 - Reply

    I also highly recommend Sauna Warmond (close to Leiden). I'm afraid Sauna Apeldoorn has closed down, it used to be my favourite.
  • Anonymous posted:

    on 30th October 2010, 08:05:45 - Reply

    A word for the expat community who might have concern on nudity. For me, coming from the conservative Muslim world, at first this was an absolute no-no. However, once I was there I had no choice but it only took me a minute or so to get totally used to it. It's definitely not a sexual experience and trust me no one is looking at you. They just don't care and this is an amazing experience to have a free mind, not to have to care of what people think or say. I think the Dutch society is so mature when it comes to such matters. Unlike the rest of the world they don't make an issue of everything and I have always admired this.

    Go there and enjoy it.
  • Almost Heaven posted:

    on 20th August 2009, 02:21:53 - Reply

    That was a great article!

    I love to see someone writing about enjoying a sauna. The difference in sauna etiquette from culture to culture is huge! If someone were to walk into a sauna in the United States nude they would certainly get some very shocked looks. (For the most part, public saunas here are enjoyed while covered with a towel, or even possibly in a bathing suit)

    For those too squeamish to enjoy a Dutch public sauna, the possibility of a home sauna has become quite a reality (just don't get roped into one of those infrared deals...believe me, you will be disappointed).

    If anyone would like to draw on our 26 years of sauna experience: www.almostheaven.net

  • Sami posted:

    on 9th November 2008, 13:49:04 - Reply

    Finn who is used to go the few remaining public saunas of the Finland (Harjutori, Arlan sauna, Rajaportti) Dutch style is familiar but different.

    The fact that men and women are in same space is obvious difference, but that is not all. In Dutch sauna you must sit on towel while you're in steam room. Thou the steam room is not really steamy because rarely anyone throws water on rocks. If someone throws water on rocks you usually see him/her to waving the towel in order to get steam coming from rocks to all corners of a steam room. That could happen perhaps ones per night, or fewer times.

    It seems that the steam rooms are quite ok. All saunas so far which I've visited has had an electrical stove. Usually steam rooms tend to be quite hot and dry. I couple times I tried to throw water on rocks in Finnish style, but since ventilation in Dutch saunas is not like in Finnish you really should not do that.

    Bear in mind that the request to take reading with you is not a joke. Finnish public saunas are almost impossible places to read because of everyone talking with everyone. At the Netherlands in general no-one says a word to a strange. If you are talking with friend of yours be quiet, so is the others.

    I have not seen beer drinking in chill out area which is more of an norm in Finnish public saunas. On the other hand there seems to be always some sort of restaurant in sauna where you can buy soup, sandwithes and in some saunas there is full restaurant. Of course in Harjutorin sauna you can get sausages or at Rajaportti there is cafeteria, but the difference is that you are expected to buy something. After being three ours in sauna and not having even glass of water you'll get weird look when checking out.
  • Wichard posted:

    on 31st July 2008, 15:55:11 - Reply

    Dutch sauna's are the best, and a perfect way to relax. It is really "hot" in the Netherlands and more and more sauna's are opening, some really big and with a lot of facilities.

    check out www.thermenholiday.nl in Schiedam near Rotterdam which is a really nice place and also good to be reached by public transport.

    Also check http://www.saunagids.nl/zoeken-vinden/ it is in Dutch, but in almost every larger city there are nice sauna's.