Frihamnen: Gothenburg’s Utopian-Cool Sauna

The use of public space continues to wow me in every Scandinavian town I visit. The general attitude I come across is, “This is every men’s space, let’s use it all together, and let’s be respectful and considerate towards each other.” Maybe I have to travel a lot more in this region to be proven otherwise; but at least, last weekend, when I was in Gothenburg, my belief was confirmed.

If you have been to this industrial city on the West coast of Sweden, perhaps you have seen what a prominent role the sea plays here. The Fish Church alone is the symbol of that, perched by the canal, displaying the freshest of all seafood from the region, with tourists and locals visiting day in, day out. Or the display of all sorts of ships and nautical artefacts along the seafront.

And since 2015, Jubileumspark, located to the northwest of Gothenburg city centre, is home to a public urban sauna, as part of a project that aims to bring water closer to people.  The sauna (also known as Frihamnen sauna) is open to everyone, it’s free to use, and it’s one of the most impressive saunas one can come across.

Designed by Raumblaborberlin, and constructed by the public as part of a workshop, The Frihamnen sauna area is built mostly of recycled material. It is nestled above a former anchoring device for the ships, right on the river, in the middle of a harbour.  It’s connected to the land with a wooden bridge, and you have to climb up the stairs (or use a lift for people with less mobility) to reach the big sauna room. Back on land, there are two changing rooms and showering facilities, where 12,000 recycled glass bottles have been used. There is also a cold plunge pool (rather large!), that uses the salty water from the Göte estuary. If jumping into cold water is not your thing, you can also sit inside the public book-exchange library hut right next to it. All in all, from the outside, the Frihamnen sauna looks very industrial, rough, but creative and easy going. Perhaps not too relaxing, but definitely social and fun.

Inside the sauna, however, is where you find something even more special. The room definitely does not have the typical shape of a sauna. It looks more like an auditorium or a theatre, where the large glass window is the main act, showing views of the harbour and the river.

If you, like me, always like sitting at the highest level in the sauna; you’ll really have to fight places here. The highest level fits one, maybe two people; and the lower two levels take up another 20 in total. Such a large space; to be occupied by only 20-25 seats. Space is something often missing in the sauna experience; and the design of the Frihamnen sauna challenges that. (Unless you have your eyes on that highest level seat for the fastest sweat)

The other wow-effect in this sauna are the interior walls. They are covered by thin and short planks of some moisture-absorbing wood; and they all get curled up by the steam, creating a really dramatic and quite fairy-tale like visual effect. I am really curious about the material that was used inside the sauna; and I will add it here once I find it out.

As this is a free and public sauna; you’d do best to come here with a bit of planning. Bring your own towel and soap to begin with. And; look out for the entry schedule. You can book your spot for free on this website:

Or you can go in slightly earlier to one of the walk-in slots available.

Good to know


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