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“No swimsuits past this point”
The little board stated nonchalantly that I was entering a naked German sauna- no exceptions! It was nude or bust (no pun intended). As I glanced down at the sign and then timidly back up to the Saunahof, it was as if being naked in the sauna was absolutely no big deal to everyone wandering around inside. Apparently, for a sauna in Germany, it wasn’t. But for this little American girl….I wasn’t so sure!
Luckily, I’ve always been a bit
hippy footloose and fancy-free. And when it comes to travel, I say, “Hey, when in Rome….well, Germany!”
So, off went the suit and into the German Sauna baths I went!!!
What is a German Bath (German Spa)
There is a small plethora of names that people call these wellness centers:
- German bathhouse (or just “baths)
- German Sauna/ Saunahof
- German Thermal Bath
But at the end of the day, these thermal pools, saunas, and spas in Germany are often seen both as a therapeutic help to one’s body as well as a place for deep relaxation, detoxifying, and leisure.
Before moving to Germany, when I thought of the word “Spa,” I envisioned some ritzy, expensive place that you walked around with a glass of champagne as you went from massage treatment to facials to pedicures.
While the purpose of a German Spa absolutely is major R&R for some people, they are often not the posh, lavish, expensive experiences that we think of when we say, “Spa Day!” (ok…..full disclosure, I’ve never even been to a Spa in the US, you think I have that kind of money!?)
So what IS at a spa in Germany?
Not ALL German spas have all of these elements but many do:
German Thermal Baths/ Hot Springs
Most of the “Thermes” are in a location that has a natural hot spring source. At first glance, it often just looks like a bunch of pools, but really, they are usually straight from a hot spring. Ok, so what’s the big deal about hot springs?
Besides the lack of splashing and roughhousing that a normal pool might have, many people (not just Germans) believe that spring waters contain a ton of great “healing” properties. For those using the thermal pools as a therapeutic cure, they believe that the water’s extremely high mineral content can help many different ailments, like psoriasis, acne, and eczema. Others think that minerals (like the sulfur) are great for detoxing your body.
That all may be true, but at the end of the day, all I know is that the soft sound of rippling water and me lying back in warm 90 degree F (32 C) is sure to relax my tired bones!!!
Note: The hot spring pools are typically (not always) for all ages and you’ll be often be required to wear your swimming suit in these areas. However, they aren’t like “pools” where jumping, splashing, etc are ok. You’ll get some nasty looks if you let your kids play around like that.
Next comes the Saunahof. Most of the German baths have this component as well and, even though Germans get a bad rep for being “too serious,” well, let’s just say that Germans take their sauna time quite seriously! Depending on how large of a facility you are at, there are usually several (if not a ton of!) different kinds and styles of saunas, ranging from Finnish, to Dry or Wet Saunas, to sound saunas, to light saunas, to aromatic saunas……and any kind of sauna in between! And yes, there are particular rules and etiquette you’ll need to follow to fit in, and this is also typically going to be the “nude german sauna” section, but more on both of those below.
The Beauty Services
Not all German spas have a “beauty” section, but some do (especially the larger or more popular ones as well as hotel resorts). You can book extra services such as various massages and some will even have things like manicures.
The German Nude Sauna
Alright, let’s just get right to the meaty part of it (ok, pun totally intended there) since I know most people are dying to know about that ever so scary “naked german spa.”
But here’s the thing. Germans (and most Europeans) don’t see nudity as the equivalent of “SEX.” This actually took me a VERY long time to come to terms with.
In fact, I’ll never forget the first time I visited Germany as a young teen and on my way out of the gas station, an entire row of Nudey Magazines was just staring me in the face. I quickly looked around to see if anyone else saw what I was seeing. Surely, the attendants didn’t mean to put them out where EVERYONE, especially my young, impressionable eyes could see, right!?
But that’s now one of the many things that I have come to absolutely adore about life in Germany (no, not the nudey magazines!)
Skin doesn’t mean sex. Breasts don’t mean promiscuity. Nakedness is just that…..being naked. No big deal. We all have bodies. They all have parts.
The Dreaded Mixed Sauna in Germany
If you haven’t gathered by now, a big reason why many people are quite squeamish to just let it all hang loose (quite literally) is because more often than not, you’ll find yourself in a mixed naked sauna, meaning both men and women, walking around in their birthday suits like being naked at the sauna is just like walking down the street to the grocery store.
If being nude in the sauna still sounds like something you just can’t get behind, many locations have gender-specific days. For example, Monday may be “Women’s Only Day” or there might be certain hours on a certain day that are for one gender only.
But Won’t Someone Oogle My Naked Body?
End of story.
While at first thought, it seems way too risque to just drop trouser in front of a hundred strangers, the reality is they don’t want to be looked at either.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t catch glances of someone’s body, but I promise you, NOBODY is at the sauna to be staring at naked bodies. After all, most people will have their towels (or even a robe) wrapped around them the majority of the time. They might sit on it IN the sauna (bearing all to see), but by that time, they’ll have so much sweat in their eyes from the heat, they won’t be able to see your body anyway!
But here is the thing…..yes, your eyes will wander. But as they do, something odd will start to happen. You will also begin to look beyond what society has told us is “sexuality” and you may find yourself to be honestly in awe of the human body.
I still swear to this day that I think every young woman should go to the naked saunas. We’ve been told (and shown through photoshop) to believe that the “perfect” bodies all look certain ways. Being at the nude spa was completely eye-opening….even as a grown ass adult woman! That lady’s body who might look super skinny in jeans and a blouse may actually have a bit of a pooch after all when not wearing spanx. That other women’s breasts that look fantastic in the push up bra, may actually be sagging without the extra support.
And they are all beautiful and perfect in their own way.
It was so refreshing to see that there actually ISN’T a “perfect” body type….that instead…..they are all just BODIES!!!
German Spa Etiquette
Oooh Germans. They love their rules! So, of course there are rules at a spa in Germany! Ok, some of these are just the “assumed” rules. You may not find them posted anywhere, but there is a definite German sauna culture to be aware of. Luckily, you have ME to help you navigate those sulfurous waters.
Just Pretend Like You Know What You Are Doing!
It can all seem REALLY intimidating. I mean, there are these secret rules, lockers that open with wrist bands, areas that allow swimming suits, and areas that they are Verboten! How do you know what to do and when!?
So, when all else fails, just walk around like you know exactly what you are doing! (Even if you don’t!)
- Worried that you were supposed to go to that cold pool after the hot one? Who cares?
- Not sure where to leave your robe? Just follow the others!
Particularly in the Saunahof, things are bound to get a bit hot and steamy. PLEASE rinse off in between each of the saunas or pools so that everything maintains hygienic.
Take Your Towel
A towel at the saunas in Germany offers many different things.
- First, it’s a way to stay covered 95% of the time. You’ll wrap it around your body as you walk from Sauna to Sauna
- It’s also a hygienic barrier when sitting in the dry saunas. Nobody wants to sit on a wet stained wooden bench (was that water? SWEAT!?) after someone else. ALWAYS take your towel into the dry saunas and sit down on it. You can always keep it wrapped around your body, but I promise, that is going to get unbearably hot REAL fast!
Insider Tip: If you really want to look like a local, you can also bring your robe. You’ll leave that on the hooks as you enter each sauna, so again, a robe PLUS a towel is a must!
Pro Tip: Pack an extra towel in case your first gets too wet or if you plan on showering at the facility when your done, that way you have a fresh clean one.
Wear Flip Flops
While the rest of your body is free to be free, you better have those shower shoes on hand (well, feet). I’m not sure if it’s another hygiene thing, but walking around barefoot is the one thing that WILL get you stares.
Tip: Wear your pool shoes at all times from one sauna or pool to the next.
- Leave your flip flops outside the door of the dry saunas or at the steps of the pools
- Some wet saunas are ok to wear your sandals in
Don’t Dilly Dally
Have you ever had an old German lady yell at you? It’s not a pleasant or relaxing experience. When you get to the sauna, be ready to go in. Don’t leave the door open, leaving all that cool air to flood into the hot sauna.
Have you ever sat on a German train or bus and been amazed at just how quiet it is? Yeah….Germans are NOT loud talkers like us ‘Mericans! Now, add the relaxing environment of a sauna and you need to be put on “Library Voices” status!
You’ll encounter plenty of people there with friends, partners, or even a small group, but even then, you’ll notice that everyone is whispering and being quite quiet.
And no, don’t even think about starting up a chat with that random person on the bench below you. #Awkward!!!
Quiet Rooms (Ruhe Raum)
There are even designated rooms that are “Quiet Rooms” where basically talking is not looked kindly upon. These aren’t saunas but instead more of just a “relaxation room.” You’ll see people sleeping, reading a book, etc.
Look For a Schedule
Most German saunas will have some sort of schedule for the day posted. This isn’t a prescription and mandatory thing for where you need to be and when. Instead, they are really unique (and totally worthwhile) sauna treatments. So, for example, you may find at noon, in a particular sauna there will be a salt scrub offered. At 2:30, a yogurt peel is given out in another sauna.
But if you are wanting the FULL German sauna experience, do not miss out on an Aufguss! I mean, have you even been to a German bath house if you haven’t done an Aufguss!?
The German Aufguss Sauna
The very first time I was in Baden Baden, I saw a hoard of people rush out of a particular sauna, completely drenched in sweat. An hour later, I saw people flocking to the same room (ahem, as mentioned above, ALWAYS check the schedules!)
I had no idea what they were all gathering for, but clearly, it was popular, so naturally, I felt the need to be in there. Unfortunately, as Germans are always extremely punctual (if not early), that meant that by the time I got into the sauna room, the only open spots in that sauna were high up, towards the top.
No big deal, right? WRONG.
As we all sat quietly, this younger man in a sharp looking polo and way too short shorts walked in with this adorable looking wooden bucket…..and flag???
What in the hell is going on!?
The lights dimmed and the man (who I later found out is called the Aufgussmeister!) started speaking in German. I only caught a few words here and there, as my German is (embarrassingly) not very good but it was very clear that we were NOT to leave the sauna during the infusion!
And then it began.
Slowly he poured water from his bucket that had a slight orange aromatic smell over some stones.
And then he took out his fancy flag and started aggressively wafting it towards each section of the room.
Yeah. Ok. It’s a sauna, I get it. It’s hot. Well apparently, that was just the 5 minute “warm up” phase
And then he did it again. And again. And Again. And Again.
And each time he poured water on the stones, the room got substantially hotter, as in, “How in the hell is nobody passing out” hot!? Apparently, the humidity in the room rose over 30% in the next 8 minutes while the temperatures shot up to close to 160 degrees Fahrenheit!!!!!!! No, that is NOT a typo!
And remember how there were only spots left up at the top? Yeeeeah……bad life choice right there. As I felt like my face was beginning to slowly melt off, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could take the excruciating heat. I was struggling to breathe, I couldn’t even touch my necklace it was so hot to the touch. I started staring at the clock, not knowing how long this torture was supposed to last, but surely if I stared hard enough, time could speed up and I could escape to normal temperatures!
Alas, the final waft of painfully hot air from the Aufgussmeister ended, he thanked us all, and everyone politely thanked him back, and out we emerged, a conglomerate of sweaty, heat-exhausted people.
There were juices waiting for us all, as everyone gluttonously gulped them down as we all sat in the cool(er) air of the main facility. And then, just like that, within a few minutes, I felt like a million bucks. I suddenly felt fantastic. Rejuvenated. Energetic!!!!!
What The F Just Happened!?!?!? And just like that, I experienced my first of many Aufguss German Spa Experiences!
How Much Does A Day At a German Spa Cost?
This will vary from spa to spa, but this is yet another favorite part of spas for me. If you’ve been around this site long enough, you know I’m pretty
Most German Spas cost about 20-30 Euro for a whole day pass!!! For an entire day of relaxation and wellness, that is a price I’ll gladly pay!!! (That does not include any additional services, like massages, food, etc)
Is There Food at a German Spa/ Thermal Baths?
Every German Thermal Bath that I’ve been to has some sort of food option available on site. It might be a small Imbiss with “snack” food (like Currywurst, pretzels, pizzas, etc) all the way to full on restaurants with huge salads, schnitzels, and more! And yes, you ARE in Germany, so there will of course be a beer selection, but if you plan on doing the Saunas, I’d steer clear of alcohol.
Final Tips For Experiencing a Sauna in Germany
Go with the flow, let go of expectations, fears of nudity, and just embrace the German sauna culture
German Spa Resorts
There are a lot of Spa Resorts in Germany that offer a lot of what the thermes offer as well (beware, not all of them are actual thermal/ hot spring waters if that is something that is important to you).
Many of these hotels offer full or half board accommodation, have a small saunahof on site as well as maybe a few pools (of varying temperatures). You’ll also often find beauty services like massages at the hotel as well. These are fantastic options if you just want a full on relaxing weekend of pampering and easy going relaxing!
Spa Towns in Germany
You’ll typically find the above-style hotels and resorts in “spa towns” in Germany in addition to the actual big spas in town. Take a look at the names of these towns….notice a common theme? Yup, the term “Bad” (pronounced like Baaah- like a sheep) or “Baden” means “Bath”
- Baden- Baden
- Bad Kissingen
- Bad Homburg
- Bad Abbach
- Bad Kreuznach
- Bad Brückenau
Best German Spas
There are so many great German Saunas and Spas so which one is the best? Well, that’s hard to say, so here are some of my top picks:
- Baden Baden
- Therme Erding
- Bad Füssing
More on each of those below….
Black Forest Spas
The Black Forest Thermas Spas are some of the most sought after in Germany, due to the amount of thermal springs in the area, so naturally, there are a lot of ones to choose from.
Baden Baden Spa
The spa in Baden Baden is probably one of the most popular thermes in the Black Forest, if not considered the best spa in Germany. In fact, it is one of my favorites as well.
There are actually two separate Baden Baden Spas:
- Caracalla Baden Baden
The Caracalla Spa has a huge pool area downstairs, perfect for soaking and relaxing in the thermal waters. Upstairs, is the nude saunas and steam rooms, which are so extensive that there is a sauna for every preferred style of steam bathing!
Next door is the Friedrichsbad which is a whole experience in and of itself! This is the Roman style baths, where there is a very “prescribed” set of rooms to go through, including how long to stay in each. The architecture and luxurious vibe of the building is other wordly, making you feel so zenned out by the end of the whole treatment!
This fantastic, 170 year old German Spa has both old and new, mixing some of the best parts of German Spa culture together. Downstairs, there is the classic, Roman Spa style, complete with gorgeous architecture, Goddess statues, and beautiful tiles. Upstairs it’s the more modern saunas and steam baths and even a room that gives a full, relaxing view out over the stunning Black Forest
Other Black Forest Thermes and Spas to look into:
- Rotherma in Gaggenau in Bad Rotenfels
- Thermal bath ‘Seven Valleys’ in Bad Herrenalb
- Palais Thermal in Bad Wildbad
- Paracelsus-Thermae in Bad Liebenzell
- Mineral Thermal Bath Bad Teinach
- Solemar in Bad Dürrheim
- Eugen-Keidel-Bath in Freiburg
- Vita Classica in Bad Krozingen
- Cassiopeia-Thermae in Badenweiler
- Balinea-Thermaes in Bad Bellingen
- Radon Revital Bath in St. Blasien – Menzenschwand
Thermal Spas in Bavaria
Therme Erding is an extremely popular Munich sauna and pool (well, just outside, as it’s a perfect day trip from Munich in Erding, just about 40 minutes away by car/ 1 hour by public transportation)
What makes Therme Erding so popular is there is a whole swimming pool and aquapark section, which is a blast for all ages. There is the fun Therme Erding pool bar where you can swim up and get cocktails as well as thrilling water slides, so it has it all!
Then there is the Saunas and Steam Bath section for adults only (and textile (swimsuit) free) where they tout that they have “the largest sauna paradise in the world.”
Bad Füssing (Therme Eins)
Once or twice a year, a group of girlfriends and I head to Bad Füssing for a “Wellness Weekend.” The whole town is basically a German spa town, so from the minute you check into your hotel (many of which have pools and saunas themselves) you’ll feel a sense of relaxation sweep over you.
Therme Eins is the main thermal baths in Bad Füssing with a ton of thermal pools ranging in temperatures as well as both indoor and outdoor pools.
The Therme Eins Saunahof is a true Bavarian treat!!! If you are looking for a unique and “Gemutlichkeit” ambiance, this is the spa to come to! Decorated in a “Bavarian Farmhouse” (with the wooden buildings, deer decor, etc) style of architecture, you’ll feel like a true Bavarian enjoying the German spa culture! There are countless saunas, steam rooms, aromatherapy rooms, and more in addition to numerous thermal pools. This section is textile free
Other Bavarian Thermes and Spas to look into:
- Kaiser Therme in Bad Abbach (Also a personal favorite)
- Obermain Therme in Bad Staffelstein
- Therme Bad Wörishofen
- KissSalis Therme in Bad Kissingen
- Königliche Kristall-Therme am Kurpark Schwangau
- Franken Therme in Bad Windsheim
Best Spa in Berlin Germany
If you are spending a few days in Berlin, consider adding another day and heading to one of the spas in town or nearby.
- Vabali: This is more of a “Day Spa” experience in Berlin. They have 10 beautiful saunas, but no thermal baths (although there are some rooftop jacuzzis!) You can book beauty services like massages as well. Vabali is more of what Americans would consider a “Spa” complete with luxurious packages of champagne and pampering services.
- Liquid Room: This modern take on a German Spa is definitely “Different.” There is one main thermal bath, where they use music underwater to create a unique ambiance. There are also 4 sauna rooms and the facility offers massages as well.
- Hamam Berlin: A Hamam is not a “true” German Spa, but it is an amazing experience, none the less. And this Hamam is designed JUST for women! The Hamam baths originated in the Middle East (Often referred to as a “Turkish Bath”) and is often a social event with friends. You can expect a thorough scrub down of your body and massage as well as enjoy the steam baths.
Germany Spas Near Berlin
Some of the best spas in Germany are actually just outside of Berlin.
- Saarow Therme: 1 hour from Berlin
- Spreewald: About 2 hours from Berlin
- This classic German thermal spa has tons of thermal pools and a saunahof
- Fontane Therme: A little over an hour from Berlin
- This luxurious spa has a floating lake sauna, an outdoor salt water pool and floatation pool, themed saunas, a freshwater pool and fitness classes all available for day pass users. Guests at the hotel have access to all of the spa ammenities.
Have you been to a German Bath? Which ones are YOUR favorites? What German Spa Tips and Etiquette Did I Miss?