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.
Top saunas in the Netherlands
You can find a guide of saunas around the Netherlands at Sauna Gids or check out the list below:
Scoutingpad 3 | Tel: 036 538 6888
Open: Daily 10am–11pm | Price: EUR 29.50/19.50 children
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
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
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
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.
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
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).
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).
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.
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)
- Thermen Heiloo: recently renovated and expanded, and the owners are welcoming | Westerweg 391
- Sauna Warmond: close to Leiden
- Thermen Holiday: in Schiedam near Rotterdam.