Communal saunas and bathhouses have seen a renaissance during recent years, as architects all around the world are reinterpreting the concept of public baths.
While spas have been popular for decades, associated as they are with luxury and seclusion, traditional public saunas and bathhouses focus more on a sense of community. We’ve checked out three very different ones, ranging from over a hundred year-old art deco in Budapest to cutting-edge design in Gothenburg.
Spectacular sauna design in Gothenburg
In the old harbor of Gothenburg, just across the river from the city centre, Sweden’s most spectacular public sauna was built in 2015. Designed by German architect collective Raumblabor Berlin, the stunning structure is in large parts built from recycled material. For example, the changing rooms are made from 12 000 recycled bottles. Locally the sauna is known as ”Svettekörka”, which translates to the ”church of Sweat” in Gothenburg dialect. You book your sauna session and you can choose between ladies, gents or mixed. And also - it’s free of charge!
Authentic charm in central Helsinki
If you want a traditional Finnish sauna experience, there is no better place to head than to the capital of sauna, Helsinki. In the charming Kaurilan Sauna, you can bask in the heat of the wood fired saunas and enjoy the authentic 19th century sauna building. When the owner, Saara Lehtonen, was interviewed by the New York Times, she captured the appeal of public saunas beautifully:
“Public saunas have always been a place where your status has no meaning and everyone is welcome to relax and enjoy the beautiful, unique and sacred atmosphere a sauna can offer”.
The ”Lenkkisauna”, the weekly public sauna hours, are held on Monday to Wednesday from 18-22 and individual tickets must be bought in advance.The sauna space fits up to 15 people and can also be booked for private events.
Art Nouveau in Budapest
Bathing in the Gellért Baths in Budapest feels a bit like taking a bath in a cathedral. The impressive art deco interior dates from the beginning of the 20th century and features eight thermal pools (one outdoors) in temperatures between 19°C and 38°C. The water is said to be good for several ailments such as pain in the joints and arthritis, and the establishment also offers traditional Finnish saunas with cold plunge pools. The Gellert Spa Bath is a true gem among Hungarian thermal baths. Here you can easily spend a whole day, exploring the numerous pools, saunas and various treatments that are offered.