Brrrrrr….it’s going to be a cold one this Winter! The first snow in London for five years last weekend and more to come. But there’s no need to feel cold for 3 months when London has a new sauna to warm you up!
As part of their Nordic festival the Southbank Centre have created a Finnish sauna on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall overlooking the Thames. I’ve been twice already and it’s pretty awesome!
Built by a sauna expert the place gives you everything you want from a Finnish sauna experience but with the added bonus of being able to walk out and admire the London skyline.
The set-up is simple with a changing room, showers, a 95°C heat sauna, then a cold bucket and access to a private terrace to cool down. The sauna only holds 16 so you don’t feel too crammed in and there’s lots of drinking water available to keep hydrated. The venue is swim wear only which doesn’t make it an authentic Finnish sauna in my book but I guess they wanted to play it safe given the central location.
Alongside the location the other value added comes from the sauna host who comes in and gives a chat at the beginning of your session. The guy’s from Lapland and has some great stories about sauna culture, including one about his dad being born in a sauna!
He’s pretty disparaging about the quality and quantity of authentic saunas in London – definitely agree with him there – but he’s got big ambitions to change that – great!
The pleasure of getting hot when you’re cold and getting cold when you’re hot never wears off and this sauna provides that double pleasure in spades. Post-sauna drinks can be found in the rooftop bar next door and if you really want to continue the Nordic theme then there’s an Abba exhibition on as well!
The downside was the price – £25 for an hour – like the sauna, not cool. There is a concessions policy but by putting the price so high I think they’ve missed the opportunity to make the sauna feel like an everyday experience, as they do in Finland.
The sauna runs until 11 February and tickets are still available.
Summary: This rooftop sauna brings a little bit of Finland to the heart of London
Overall sauna experience: Cold, Warm, Hot, Top Sauna!
Facilities: Basic, Standard, Excellent