In The Netherlands saunas, wellness, thermal, etc. are booming. If you are from somewhere else: how is it there? Finland for example is famous for its sauna culture, but “it’s completely different there”, according to a Finnish acquaintance of mine living in the Netherlands. Those readers who really know me personally, know that I love going to the sauna. It’s the one thing that makes me super relax. You need this from time to time. Especially when you live in the center of the Netherlands (‘Randstad’), which can be very busy and crowded. Spend a day in the sauna and forget about the rat race for a while!
Where to go
Back in the early 2000s I started to visit some of the saunas around the country, but to be honest I only started to really enjoy it about five years ago. I guess it’s a matter of the right company, yet most of all: where to go!? Where are the good places? Where do you feel comfortable? Recently I was talking about it to both expats and locals, and not many people have a lot of sauna experience, not sure where to go, or curious to learn about other options. That’s why I decided to write this blog.
There are many saunas, wellness resorts and thermal in the Netherlands, but not all of them are great, to my humble opinion. Feel free to share your sauna tips via a comment at the bottom of this page! These are personal tips I would tell a friend or family member. Once you spend some more time in the Netherlands, or simply look for something different, somewhere to relax, escape from the buzzing streets and canals in Amsterdam for once, and go to the sauna! And yes, you’ll go nude.
Thermen Bussloo in Voorst at National Park De Hoge Veluwe is my absolute favorite. A luxury sauna and wellness resort where you can easily spend an entire weekend. Enough facilities not to get bored, and with a fabulous hotel connected. So it’s kind of a big place, which is not always favorable, yet the staff here has a nice personal approach and serves great food. I know couples who went here for their honeymoon! Walking around in your bathrobe for a whole weekend, isn’t that a relaxing thought already?! So far I have been here twice already, but just writing about it makes me wonder: when can we go again?! LOL
Every year, the finals of the Dutch National Aufguss Championships are held at Thermen Bussloo (2017: 16/17 June). Aufguss, also known as Löyly, or Opgieting in Dutch, is a wellness ritual performed in a sauna, an amazing sensational experience of warmth and odor. Many saunas offer these sessions. What happens is that the so-called ‘aufguss meister’ pours water mixed with essential oil on top of the sauna stove, sometimes also a bucket of ice. He or she then directs the hot and scented steam around towards the guests by waving with a towel or flag, often with relaxing music on the background. Usually this ritual is repeated about three or four times, after which the session ends outside, where everybody can cool down and receives a piece of fruit.
Fort Resort Beemster
Fort Resort Beemster is beautifully located in an old fort at UNESCO World Heritage Site the country side of the Beemster, less than 20 km north of Amsterdam. The mix of a historic building with thick brick walls, modern yet warm design and some Asian elements such as big Buddha statues and rusty Chinese lanterns, provide a great atmosphere. As the name already reveals, Fort Resort Beemster is also a hotel, with another excellent restaurant for clothed visitors. A great wedding location too!
I stopped counting how many times I have been at Fort Resort Beemster, it’s always a pleasure! I love for example the local products served and the massage room for two. Should you want a massage or treatment like hamam or rassoul, I can highly recommend to book at least one week in advance to avoid disappointment. And don’t forget to attend one of the daily Aufguss sessions with the resort’s real-life Tarzan!
SpaSereen brings you right into nature with its wonderful location at the Maarsseveense plassen (lake) close to Utrecht. Swimming pool, footbath, herbal baths, whirlpools, salt water baths, caldarium, lounge cabin with lake view, biosauna with color therapy, Himalaya chrystal salt stone cabin (with a beautiful authentic door), Turkish steam bath, sauna with fire place, wave cabin, infra-red cabin, waterfall cabin, lavender cabin, Marrakech cabin, garden, a great restaurant, beauty treatments… SpaSereen has everything a great wellness should have.
I have been here several times, can only not recommend to go during Christmas holidays as it’s simply too crowded, but that counts for many saunas in the Netherlands I must say. Taking a day off and go during the week, which provides the most relaxing experience.
Santpoort-Zuid (South) is a cute little town close to the fantastic city of Haarlem and the coast line of the Netherlands. Ridderrode is not big in size, but great in experience and big enough to spend a full day of relaxation. The most delicious carpaccio salad and the best massage I ever had was here. It just has something special, hard to describe. And the coolest thing is: they even have an igloo!
What I love here the most is the mystique herbal bath, the lemon sauna and the green garden, especially when the weather is good. It has a certain private and comfortable atmosphere that I haven’t found anywhere else. Due to its size, I can recommend to always book in advance. Santport has a train station. When coming by car, make sure you have a 1 euro coin at hand to be able to park next door. If you want to spend the night nearby, consider their arrangement with the beautiful Landgoed Duin & Kruidberg.
Thermen Zuidwolde is a unique, mid-size thermal with a beautiful country garden surrounded by a number of very nice saunas. The most special sauna Thermen Zuidwolde has is a cave sauna. There is also a classic sauna, a wood burning sauna, a diehard sauna (90-95 degrees Celsius), the Iki sauna, the Laconium sauna and a Turkish steam bath. Enough to spend a full day of relaxation. The pedicure is very good too here by the way.
Zuidwolde is a small town in the south of Drenthe, just 30 minutes northeast of Zwolle. If you are not from around here, consider to spend a weekend or week in the beautiful, peaceful province in the northeast of the Netherlands that is Drenthe. Full of forests, heather, walking and biking paths, charming small villages, etc. We love to stay in authentic B&Bs in old farms in Drenthe, for example Het Blauwe Schaop (‘The Blue Sheep’ in local dialect).
Sauna van Egmond
Sauna van Egmond is a classic, small city sauna, located in the middle of Haarlem, just 30 minutes east of Amsterdam. It’s easy to reach by both private car and public transport. I really like spending evenings here, with a friend or alone, straight after a busy day at work. Their evening rate is rather attractive. Sauna van Egmond has a very cozy atmosphere, with lots of dark brown wood and candles.
The Meknes sauna is quite special, like 1001 nights. The swimming pool is 34 degrees Celsius and watched over by a Greek goddess. Try the satay at the restaurant, sip a smoothie by the fire place, watch a movie upstairs, follow the movements of the Caldarium Maximus, poor a bucket of ice cold water over your head at the terrace… You’ll feel like reborn and ready for your next day behind the desk!
Saunapark Epe in Gronau-Epe, just over the border in Germany, was recently renovated. It’s a mid-size complex with seven different saunas, including a rose sauna. Enjoy the five different daily Aufguss sessions, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, special drinks such as kefir and glühwein, flammkuchen (snack), etc. Once or twice a month there is Ladies Only Day.
Other wellness options nearby are Saré in Oldenzaal (with trendy ‘hotyoga’) and Huize Hölterhof in Enschede. I can highly recommend to combine your visit to a sauna in the Twente region with a long weekend in or near Enschede. Not only is this a wonderful student city, but it’s also surrounded by beautiful nature, ideally for a relaxing walk or bike ride, for example at De Lutte, Rutbeek, Hof Espelo, Buurserzand, Aamsveen, Haagse Bos… I also love Theahouse ‘Sprakel in the forest’ in Lonneker. Dinner at Het Koetshuis (‘The Coach House’) on Friday night with a pianist. Horse riding at Holzik Stables. Book some nights at Estate Bloemenbeek or Estate Wilmersberg (which also has a spa and vineyard) for the ultimate relax weekend. A car will give you the most freedom to move around, but Enschede is also well reachable by train (you can take your bike in the train). You can score a profitable weekend return by train via Spoordeelwinkel.
Wellness Thermen Soesterberg
Another wellness thermal located in a beautiful area. Soesterberg is in the middle of the country, at National Park Utrechste Heuvelrug in the province of Utrecht. A beloved place to live, well-known for its sand dunes, heather and forest. Wellness Thermen Soesterberg moved to another location about 1.5 years ago and was more recently taken over by the same family that runs Thermen Bussloo (mentioned above).
Currently this complex has 7 different saunas, to be expanded to 16 saunas in 2017, including a meditation sauna. Every odd numbered weekend special Aufguss sessions with a specific theme are held here, for example Michael Jackson or Saint Patrick’s Day. Every second and last Tuesday of the month it’s Swimwear Day. Many beauty treatments and arrangement packages are possible.
Elysium in Bleiswijk, just 10km north of Rotterdam. Quite well-known to the public as a result of continuous promotions and advertisements. I had to visit twice to really appreciate it. It’s quite big, you can easily spend a full day here and not have seen all of it. 24 different saunas, including Witch sauna, Russian Banja, Listen sauna (books), Lavender sauna, Bamboo sauna, etc.
The almost endless variety of saunas is what makes Elysium interesting. The huge garden with countless sunbeds is also quite pleasant, at least when the weather cooperates. The hospitality performance varies; at least I can always recommend the ‘bitterballen’ (typical Dutch deep fried snack with meat inside and mustard dip). Count on queues at the checkout, especially on the last few days of promotions.
Also worth a visit
- Thermen Holiday Schiedam (mid-size, great hot stone massages)
- Wellness Leiden (11th floor, quite new, reserve for restaurant in advance)
- Spa Zuiver Amsterdam (sleek design)
- Dunes Zandvoort (small sauna in NH Hotel, next to beach and race track)
- Sauna de Heuvelrug in Veenendaal (intimate atmosphere, good beauty salon, Full Moon Ceremony)
Of course everybody has their own personal taste and experience. Personally I cannot recommend the following.
- Zwaluwhoeve in Hierden (massive, crowded, impersonal, plastic all over during treatments)
- Thermae 2000 in Valkenburg (mandatory swimwear on most days, many elderly due to therapies offered)
- Sanadrome Spa & Hotel in Nijmegen (mandatory swimwear, no sauna, only mint/steam room, mainly a pool)
- Suomi in Hoorn (small and old fashioned, 80s style swimming pool, nice wood burning sauna outside)
Seen many, yet still many to be seen! Following good stories from friends and family members, I would like to visit the following saunas this year.
- Veluwse Bron in Emst (quite well-known, big, not 100% sure but have to try)
- Sauna & Beauty Den Ilp (new sauna north of Amsterdam, looks good)
- Devarana in Den Bosch (long weekend Noord Brabant)
- Het Friese Woud in Boijl (long weekend Friesland)
- Sauna Drôme in Putten (‘the most authentic sauna of the Netherlands’, according to themselves)
- Thermen Barendrecht (close to Rotterdam)
- SpaSense in Geldrop (near Eindhoven)
- Sauna Grosthuizen (small scale, not spectacular but should be quite nice)
Prices of saunas in the Netherlands vary widely, usually it will be somewhere between €12.50 and €35.50 per day. Check out the website of the sauna for the latest prices. Many saunas have different rates (‘tarieven’ in Dutch), for example evening rate (usually after 17:30h), 10-times membership, arrangements with treatment and discount on entrance fee, etc. Sometimes there are different rates for weekend and week days, arrangements for 2, 2.5, 3 or 3.5 hour visit, etc. Massages are often offered in 25 or 50 minutes, in different styles, count on ±€1.30 per minute.
There are several places that frequently or continuously participate in discount deals. You may want to check out Sauna Deals, Spa Online, Social Deal, Vakantie Veilingen and Group On for this. Not every sauna participates in these kind of deals, but several do (especially places like Elysium, Leiden, Schiedam, etc.), so it’s worth checking if you want to save some money on the entrance fee. Just make sure you pick the right one, check the conditions and keep in mind that your consumptions and treatments will come on top of that. Not a cheap hobby, but very rewarding.
PS: since it is not allowed to bring in cameras or smart phones into a sauna, courtesy of the photos in this blog go to the sauna mentioned above
PS2: click on any green word in this blog to go to the related website