Hagabadet: Gothenburg’s bathing heritage

Historical bathing houses have never been my first choice for my sauna expeditions, but Hagabadet in Gothenburg may have just changed that. More and more, I am appreciating the beauty of these historical places that focus on wellness of the human mind and body over centuries. And they still continue to serve the same mission today. When many things change at an exponentially faster pace, how refreshing it is to enter a space that remains unchanged in essence, and still functions in the modern world with its original purpose.

There are 3 bath houses in Gothenburg under the name Hagabadet, and they are all related. Here I will be reviewing the one that’s right in the middle of the Haga district. Located not too far from the famous little shops and cafes in Haga, the Hagabadet spa is the perfect place to spend a rainy and cold Gothenburg afternoon, especially in winter.

To start with a little bit of history, the building that is home to the spa was built in 1869, but then it had to be rebuilt in 1903 after a fire. For the resurrection, the art nouveau style drawings of the Swedish architect Wilhlem Klemming were used. (Klemming is also the architect behind Stockholm’s famous Sturebadet and Centralbadet). I personally found a lot of similarities between Hagabadet and the Porchester Spa in London. The ivory and green coloured brick walls and the thermometers seemed exactly the same as what I usually see in London, but the baths were built next to the Porchester Hall only during the late 1920’s.

The Hagabadet building today holds a range of wellness activities, from regular gym classes to yoga and meditation sessions, apart from typical spa, massage and beauty services. I have only used the spa during my visit; and spent an entire afternoon in there without getting bored. That said, I found the entry price to be a little on the pricey end (but worth it, for the experience!)

The shower and changing room facilities are quite modern, clean and private, which was something I hadn’t expected from a spa so old and historical. Once changed, you have to take a good look at the map that lays out the entire bathing area. It is important to study this map well, otherwise you will get lost and find yourself trying every single door that has a handle and seem to be opening somewhere (some don’t!)

In the bathing area, there are a handful of small pools with different temperatures, and there is one central pool. I really liked the atmosphere of the central pool, and ended up spending more time there than I expected. There is something very calming and slightly magical about indoor pools under high ceilings surrounded by early 20th century art work. It feels like getting lost in time while swimming. Almost a bit dreamy, when you are in that relaxed state of mind. Very similar to how I felt while swimming in the grand pool of Centralbadet in Stockholm.

For the sauna explorers among us, I need to talk about the two saunas that I have visited there. One of them was a rather new and modern sauna installation – a glass cabin facing one of the smaller pools. I’d say this is more of a preparation for the spa ritual than anything else. It is very nicely designed, but not really that hot. There is a nice detail in front of the sauna; you get to pick a small seating towel to sit on; and then dispose of it after you’re done with it.

The second sauna is among the deeper rooms of the bath house, what feels like a labyrinth at times. But do not get discouraged by all the doors you have to push and the halls you have to cross until you find it – it is a good one. This rather spacious sauna is not as hot as typical Finnish saunas. My guess would be that it is only around 75, maybe 80 degrees Celsius. However it is really humid; and it makes you sweat really easily within a few minutes. Such a delight. I was surprised how quickly I was sweating; as it takes my body forever to give up on those toxins even at the hottest of some dry saunas.

Once out the sauna, you can step into the rather cold bath right in front of you. It isn’t anywhere near an icy cold plunge, but it cools you sufficiently to give that sweet dizziness. I found this sauna to be very “lagom” – the Swedish word for being “just the right amount.” Nothing too hot, nothing too cold, nothing extreme. Instead the heat and the cold is quite moderate but just enough to give you a great sauna experience.

What was a little off-putting were a few groups of people who come in and have prosecco (they serve it!) inside the sauna rooms. I quietly disagreed with their choice of drinking prosecco and laughing loudly inside the sauna room, and while swimming in the Roman baths, but said nothing. Being a sauna explorer means you will end up in foreign places, meeting foreign people with different customs. You need to respect all of that and observe how people are interacting within the sauna environment.

My little disappointment was easily covered up by the great conversation I had with another sauna guest; a Finnish man who lived in Gothenburg for seven years. It consoled me to see a Finnish person coming frequently to this particular sauna in Sweden. That can never be a bad sign.

All in all I had a fantastic experience here, and I would happily recommend every Gothenburg visitor to try out the Hagabadet spa in Haga. If the weather is not nice, that is. If you are in Gothenburg on a sunnier day, then my recommendations for you would be to go a little more outdoors, like the Frihamnen sauna or the nude beach in Saltholmen.

Good to know

  • Bring your swimming suit. Nudity is not allowed. 
  • Mixed gender, suitable for large parties, and also couples or friends.
  • You don’t need to bring towels, toiletries and slippers. Everything is provided in the changing rooms. 
  • Walk-ins possible but check the schedule if you want to join any of the gym classes
  • Price: $$$$$

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