Too hot too handle!

This baby is definitely in the premier league of sauna destinations – 15 sauna and steam rooms accompanied by a healthy aufguss schedule, alongside a variety of indoor and outdoor pools, and chill out areas – SchwabenQuellen is awesome!

There’s something of the Crystal Maze about this large jungle sauna complex in Stuttgart. Each sauna is themed and there’s loads of spaces to discover on several floors which makes it a lot bigger than it initially seems.

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As a big complex it also has the room to include some facilities above the norm, such as the solarium, Salt Cave and snow room – something I’ve not come across before. It’s essentially a freezer room with a wind blowing through it – not a very pleasant experience but it cools you down quickly!

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I made the mistake at the aufguss (randomly to the tune of Van Halen’s ‘Jump’) in the Canadian lodge sauna room to go on the top of four tiers. Ice was used on the coals and I can honestly say that was the most intense sauna I’ve ever had! I thought I was going to have to make a very embarrassing climb down but fortunately the aufguss finished just before I was about to pass out and I was able to make a swift exit to the plunge pool. My mate complained that his teeth were getting hot!

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We went in October when Wassen was on – Stuttgart’s (better) version of Oktoberfest – all the fun without any Aussies or Americans 😉

There is definitely an element of bravado when it comes to aufguss, but with each room being different it’s hard to judge how hot it’s going to get. I learnt my lesson though and went for a lower tier when I went in for another aufguss in the same room.

The place has friendly staff, is really well maintained and clean and has a number of nice touches, such as the Ottoman steam room with a hot tub in it.

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The only bugbear with SchwabenQuellen is that the main pool, the central point for the complex, has cold water in it. I’m not sure what the thinking is here as it could be a great communal space. But as it is you only want to spend a short amount of time in there.

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This, however, is a great sauna complex – choice, intrigue, peace, and a sense of fun. SchwabenQuellen should be on anyone’s list if they’re going to Stuttgart.    

Summary: A sauna complex at the top of its game.

Overall sauna experience: Cold, Warm, Hot, Top Sauna!

Facilities: Basic, Standard, Excellent  

Cost:  £££

Website: http://schwabenquellen.de/de

Trip Advisor: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g187291-d2618213-Reviews-Schwabenquellen-Stuttgart_Baden_Wurttemberg.html

 

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Holy Sauna!

This sauna has been a bit of a mythical status for us as we read about it a few years ago and couldn’t quite believe that a sauna existed under a Finnish church in East London!

We finally made a pilgrimage to the venue in May and we’re sure glad we did.

This is one of only a handful of authentic (i.e. naked) saunas in London which caters for people who just like to sauna!

The sauna does indeed sit in the church’s basement. Lots of churches have crypts for keeping the dead but this church has a sauna crypt for the living! There is that Finnish saying – treat a sauna like a church – and this place takes that phrase literally.

The church itself also doubles as a community centre for Finnish culture and includes a shop of food treats for any homesick Finns! So you know you’re getting the real deal when you go to this sauna.

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The facilities themselves are basic but clean. There’s a changing room, cold showers and a sauna – which can fit up to 7 people if you’re close friends.

The main aspect that we liked about this sauna is that it was hot! I mean really hot. I know that sounds a stupid thing to say but a lot of saunas sit at around 84C and it can take a while to break the sweat but here we were able to get the heat up to an intense 90C! This was due to the fact that we could control the heat by adding water to the coals, a facility which larger saunas often don’t have as they don’t use coals to heat the room.

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There are segregated sessions that are open to the public but you can also hire it privately – we asked a couple of other sauna buddies to join us, so as a mixed group of 4 we decided to do that. It meant that between the four of us it worked out at £8 each for an hour – pretty reasonable for London. This could become the new regular.

And if you’re looking for hydration afterwards then the fantastic Mayflower pub on the Thames is 5 mins away!

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Summary: A no frills authentic sauna in the Capital – a unique venue.

Overall sauna experience: Cold, Warm, Hot, Top Sauna!
Facilities: Basic, Standard, Excellent  
Cost:  £££

Website: www.finnishchurch.org.uk/107-sauna

 

 

When saunas go bad

 

The Swiss Cottage Thai Massage & Spa in London follows a well trodden path of dozens of legitimate massage venues in the capital to include a sauna on the premises. Relaxing the muscles through heat before and after a massage ensures that the benefits are maximised and is a great way to help ensure total relaxation.

Unfortunately for the Thai massage venues that decide to include an onsite sauna it means that they have to come up against the space premium and economics of renting property in central London.

It means that the very admiral ideal of having a nice sauna on the premises is usually an afterthought and incorporated onto the existing site at a later stage, which makes them pretty small.

Whilst pioneers back in the day, the owners who decided to include a sauna in the basement have clearly left it along time since they’ve invested in the venue. In short, it’s a pretty tired and grotty and the kind of place that you wish you’d brought some flip flops for. A Google review said that they saw cockroaches there – we didn’t see any but I can well imagine.

The changing area is tiny and many of the locker doors have been smashed in – not exactly putting you in the mind frame for a relaxing experience!

The sauna room itself isn’t bad. It probably has a capacity of 7 or 8 and there is tiered seating, coals and a water bucket to ramp up the heat. There is also a small steam room and a couple of showers. The relaxation area is small, with seating for about five or six. Drinking water is available. The photos below must have been taken when it opened..

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The clientele, mainly middle aged men, seemed like regulars and they brought a friendly vibe to the place.

Having said that, it’s not the kind of place you want to hang around and enjoy a sauna session in. We did a couple of short cycles and headed out.

A few online reviews mention that the massages are good here but we didn’t have time to try them. Arguably, most people will be there for a massage, with the sauna thrown in for free, so their expectations might be lower. But even taking that into account this place needs more than just a deep clean – it needs a decent refit!

The main things going for this sauna is that it’s open 24 hours, which can be really useful as most other saunas in London shut at 8pm – making it really difficult to fit one in after work. The other is cost – at £10 this is as cheap as you’ll find in London. You also don’t need to book, which is a rare luxury for London saunas.

At best, this is a functional sauna that meets a demand from locals for a no frills sauna. At worst, this place would be shut down if it was a restaurant.

Summary: Steer clear unless you can’t find anywhere else open.

Overall sauna experience: Cold, Warm, Hot, Top Sauna!

Facilities: Basic, Standard, Excellent  

Cost:  £££

Website: http://www.thaimassageswisscottage.co.uk