Top 5 Saunas in Europe
If you thought an igloo using a frozen lake for a floor was cool, picture one boasting more than just an icy interior. This ice-brick structure by Rukan Salonki Chalets conceals a steamy sauna right on top of Lake Salonkijärvi, out in the heart of Finland. Illuminated by the reflection of sunlight and ice and heated by a stove, which is only brought inside when guests are there to avoid melting the walls, the ice sauna is one of the most unusual ways you’ll ever get a sweat on. Warmed to steamy 60°C, the heat is less aggressive than at most saunas but the humidity is high, causing your body to perspire as soon as you enter. It also promises relief to those with breathing issues and colds. Up to 10 people can enter the igloo at once, and when it’s time to simmer down, custom dictates you plunge through a hole in the ice for a shrivelling winter swim.
Willy Wonka, eat your heart out. This is your golden ticket to an art-meets-spa experience. Glimmering in Sweden’s northernmost town us this gold-plated, egg-shaped public sauna. Designed by Swedish artists Mats Bigert and Lars Bergström, the Solar Egg was gifted to the town of Kiruna after it was announced the entire city district was to be relocated because of crumbling foundations following decades of mining for iron ore. A heart-shaped wood stove heats the aspen and pine interiors to between 75ºC and 85°C, while solar panels incorporated into the geometric design offer eco-friendly lighting. The eight-person egg isn’t immobile either – it visited Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Minnesota, before rolling back to heat Swedes in the Arctic Circle once more.
When it comes to Finland, ski slopes and saunas are two things that roll with the territory. But what about a sauna built into a gondola floating above a snow-slathered mountain? Throw in some heavy metal music and traditional karelian pies, and you have yourself the ultimate Finnish experience. Get your Finn on at Sport Resort Ylläs, where snow bunnies can unwind in the Ylläs 1 Gondola after a day carving up the slopes. The world’s first suspended sauna cruises a two-kilometre line, treating up to four riders at a time with 20 minutes of spectacular views of Lapland’s powder-white landscape. Skiers looking for extra respite should book a two-hour package and soak in the outdoor hot tub at Café Gondola 718, situated on the mountaintop, which can be enjoyed privately by up to a dozen guests.
While it may resemble a set from Lord of the Rings, we promise a visit to this little hidey-hole sauna is far more relaxing than a day spent in Hobbiton. Located in Northern Italy’s Passeier Valley, the luxe Applesauna is hidden on a green hill in the expansive apple orchard at farm-turned-three-star Apfelhotel Torgglerhof. Using the Finnish method, stones are heated on a stove and water poured on top to create the warm and steamy atmosphere. Timber benches frame concrete walls and floor-to-ceiling windows welcome natural light. Best of all, guests steaming inside are treated to panoramic views of the treetops and the surrounding Sarntal Alps. When the steam has settled, a nearby cottage has been transformed into a rest area where cups of tea and fresh fruit (no doubt an apple or two) are served as body temperatures cool.
At Frihamnen port in Gothenburg, a strangely shaped, corrugated-iron structure stands at the end of a bridge, its reflection wavering in the waters below. Inside this weathered, metallic building is a small slice of luxury that adds a softer side to Scandinavia’s largest port. Recycled materials feature in the design, with timber lining the walls and 12,000 bottles surrounding the changing rooms to create privacy while allowing natural light to permeate. Stewing in the steamy interiors offers views past cranes and shipping containers and out across the harbour, which is undergoing a redevelopment due to be completed in 2021. The experience is free, and when you’re toasted and lobster-red, there’s a chlorine-free pool nearby with enticingly cool waters.