For Sauna Newbies
The internet is littered with horror stories about Americans trying the German saunas for the first time. They’re overwhelmed. They’re uncomfortable. They’re totally lost. And while we tend to focus on the fact that those first-time experiences were negative – albeit highly entertainingly negative – what gets lost is the fact that many Americans are giving the German saunas a chance.
In my previous post How to Sauna Like a German, I talked about the dos and don’ts of sauna going in Germany, as well as tricks to avoid being naked. But once you’ve got that down, where do you go? And how do you know which saunas are good and which are bad?
That’s where I come in. As an American who has come to love the German sauna experience, here is a list of my top three recommendations in and around the Eifel.
Two disclaimers first. One, I’m not being paid by anyone to write about these saunas. These are my totally unbiased thoughts. Second, they’re not listed in any particular order. Each sauna has different amenities, perks, and drawbacks. It’s important that when you choose a sauna, you try out the one that fits your personal tastes the best.
Cascade (pronounced cahs-cah-duh, not like the English word “cascade”) is probably already known to a lot of people for the indoor and outdoor swimming pools. And while that part of the facility doesn’t always get the best reviews, their sauna is a totally different world. A lot of people from Luxembourg drive into Bitburg just to go to this particular sauna. There’s kind of a rule of thumb around here. If Luxembourgers go somewhere in the area, you know it’s good. And that’s because Luxembourg is such a rich country with their own fancy, upscale facilities. So, if they like somewhere, if a place is up to the Luxembourg taste, it’s a pretty safe bet.
Although this is the smallest sauna on my list, they actually offer quite a few things. We’ll start with the main focus – the saunas.
They have four saunas on the property – one inside and three outside. The indoor sauna is the main one, and the most typical type of sauna. It’s about 185 degrees, and this is where the majority of the Aufguss(es) take place. They have timers on the wall so that you know when to get out, calming music that plays softly, multi-colored lights that create a relaxing feeling, and windows with views of the relaxation pool and outdoor balcony. It’s also quite spacious.
On the balcony, they have a very mild sauna that only gets up to 140 degrees. That might not sound mild, but once you’ve been in the other saunas, this one will feel almost cold. It’s very small, and people don’t seem to use it often. But it is nice to sit in for a few minutes if you just want to be alone.
The most popular saunas are the other two outdoor saunas, but they are not on the balcony. They’re further off to the back of the property, and you have to actually go outside to get to the them and walk down a staircase.
Both of these saunas have fireplaces in them, which is lovely and not something every sauna facility has. The Fire Sauna sits at 194 degrees. The benches are arranged in a circle around the fire, so no matter where you sit, you can stare into it. It’s very quiet here, and it’s especially relaxing to listen to the wood crackling. Across from this sauna is the Earth Sauna, the hottest sauna on the property. This one is 230 degrees. They also have Aufguss(es) here, but this is the type I described in my original sauna post where the Saunameister hits you on the back with twigs.
But, remember, a sauna is MUCH MORE than just saunas. Cascade also has a steam room, a Roman Bath, a relaxation pool, several cold water pools, foot baths, and quiet rooms.
- It’s a very cozy sauna. Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s a place where you feel like it’s just locals. No tourists. It feels like family.
- The Tauchbecken on the balcony is not something you find everywhere. The water is maybe even colder than a lot of other places, which you want. It’s actually quite important that you have access to extremely cold water.
- The honey and salt Aufguss. You can find variations of this Auguss in other places, but you don’t usually find them combined. It’s either a salt Aufguss or a honey Aufguss.
- It can be a little crowded in the winter, but it’s never overly crowded.
- Certain Aufguss(es) come with fruit and beer.
- They always give you ice to hold or eat during the Aufguss.
- I especially enjoy the Aufguss in the Earth Sauna with the sticks.
- The prices are reasonable.
- Fire saunas.
- All of the rooms (saunas, steam room, Roman Bath…) are very very clean.
- The Quiet Room is warm, comfortable, and perfectly silent.
- You can tell that the vast majority of the people there are regular sauna-goers.
- The Earth Sauna is very small, and people will get there 15 or 20 minutes before the Aufguss starts to get a seat. Because it’s so small, it only holds a handful of people, and in those winter months it can be almost impossible to get a seat out there for the Aufguss. Especially if you can’t handle sitting in there that additional 20 minutes.
- The shower floors are always a little dirty looking. I keep my shoes on, so it’s fine. But, I still don’t like that the floors look like they weren’t cleaned that day.
- The cubby area upstairs where you keep your bag is kind of tight. There is often a bottle-kneck of people there trying to get in and out of their sauna bags.
- There is no swimming pool on the sauna side. There is a relaxation pool, but it’s just deep enough to lay in.
- It’s not a con for me, but I know it probably is for some people – and that is the mixed gender changing room.
Stadtbad Trier (Trier)
This one is much bigger than Cascade in Bitburg. Not just in the fact that they have more saunas, but it’s also just spread out over a much larger area of space. They also have a swimming pool, which I have to say looks really nice, but I have never actually been to that side of the facility.
This sauna also has areas inside the main building, as well as outside in the sauna garden. It’s much more spread out, though, and you’ll do a whole lot more walking here. That in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but it’s rough during those cold winter nights.
Stadtbad Trier has seven different saunas in total. For the most part, they’re pretty much the same as those in Cascade (with some differences in the decor), but there are some differences worth mentioning. One is the Ruusu Sauna. Above the stones, there is a small pot filled with rose scented water. It drips very slowly, but continually, onto the stones, and the smell is divine. The temperature stays at 185 degrees, with soft ambient colors all around you. This is only something they offer through May, though.
Also like Cascade, they have two fire saunas. But unlike Cascade, they have an outdoor swimming pool just for the sauna-goers. And it is beautiful. The pool is made out of stainless steel. It has massage jets and swan neck showers that turn on periodically, and it is only about 4.5 feet deep. It’s a perfect depth to either stand or wade in or to swim laps back and forth. The water is heated, so you can enjoy it in the winter as well as in the summer. It’s especially nice at night as the whole pool is lit up with different colors.
You’ll find that pretty much every sauna has an outdoor area for people to relax on lounge chairs, swing on hammocks, etc. But what this sauna has that is pretty unique is a sauna garden with a fish pond. And it’s a relatively large fish pond. The water moves through it like a stream, and there’s even a wooden bridge that you can walk across.
And if you’re into the quiet room part of the sauna experience, this place has you covered. They have more quiet rooms than any other sauna I’ve ever been to, plus a quiet room/conversation area with another fireplace.
And they, too, have a steam room, foot baths, and several cold water ponds, but they do not have a Roman Bath.
- Hands down, the outdoor swimming pool at night. This alone is worth three or four pro points.
- Fire saunas.
- It’s not a pro for me, as I’ll explain in the con list, but I know it is for a lot of people – and that is the separated changing rooms. Men only. Women only.
- The prices are reasonable.
- They have a private, gated parking lot for their customers, so you don’t have to worry about hunting down somewhere to park in the city.
- It’s not necessarily a pro for me, but I’m sure it is for a lot of other people. There is one sauna that is private and only accessible to women.
- Although it’s big and a lot of people are in the saunas, it never feels crowded.
- The Saunameisters do a really good job with the Aufguss(es).
- Everything was really clean – saunas, steam room, showers…all of it.
- The quiet rooms are warm, comfortable, and silent.
- There is tons of cubby space for everyone’s sauna bags, and there is a lot of open space to access them.
- The ambience in the sauna garden (with the water, the lighting, and the landscaping) is exceptional.
- This won’t be a con for everyone, but I don’t like that the changing rooms are separated by gender. I go to the sauna with my husband, but when we separate in the changing rooms, sometimes we can’t find each other when we get into the saunas.
- The layout of the changing room is a bit odd. It’s a narrow hallway, and I always have to stop what I’m doing and move for people who wanted to come in or out.
- There is no Tauchbecken like at Cascade. What they have instead is a small tub (like a jacuzzi without the bubbles) that only one person can fit into at a time. It’s pretty much impossible to get into this thing after an Aufguss because the line is so long. I also don’t think the water is as cold.
- There’s always a bit of a funky smell in the foot bath area.
- There seems to be a good deal of people here who are either first-timers or just unaware of sauna etiquette. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen people open the door and walk into an Aufguss. (Everyone yelled at them, including the Saunameister, and they were promptly thrown out of the Aufguss. There were even signs on the door that said not to enter.)
- It’s a little confusing to navigate. I mean, if you go a few times, you’ll have it all down, but definitely that first visit, I kept getting lost.
Vulkaneifel Therme (Bad Bertrich)
The Vulkaneifel Therme is quite different from both Cascade and Stadtbad Trier. First of all, it’s not in a city. It’s in a very small village that is hidden back behind the hills. It’s also a different type of experience in that while the other two are good for 2-3 hour visits, this one is best experienced by spending the entire day there. You don’t have to. There is the hourly option, but it’s really meant for a day experience.
Here you will find five different saunas. Again, very similar to the overall layout and temperatures of Cascade and Stadtbad Trier, but one major difference is the look of these saunas. Since this place is in the Vulkaneifel area, each of the saunas has a volcano theme to it. But it’s not done in a cheesy way. It’s actually quite classy, and I would say that these saunas have the most up-scale look to them between the three on this list.
The Aufguss(es) here are also exceptional. The Saunameisters are wonderful at each sauna on this list, but I especially like the ones here. Not only do they explain to you what type of Aufguss it is (like at Cascade and Stadtbad Trier), they also give you recommendations on how to best experience the Aufguss, which I find not too many Saunameisters do. For example, the last time we went to the Vulkaneifel Therme, we did a salt Aufguss. The Saunameister told everyone at the very beginning that this style of Aufguss is more for the skin than the body, and so we should not do the typical routine of rinsing and jumping into ice cold water directly afterwards. Instead, he told us to go straight outside into the fresh air, allowing ourselves to completely air dry. Once we were dry, we should take a hot shower and only then jump into the cold water. But he also explained to us why we should do it this way, and I really liked that. They also do a really great job conducting the Aufguss, and these are usually longer than in other places.
In addition to the saunas, they also offer a steam room and relaxation rooms. The steam room has the best design of any of the ones I’ve been to, and their quiet room is gorgeous. It’s complete with beds and amazing views. But one of the real highlights of this particular sauna is the outdoor swimming pool for the sauna-goers. Now, it may not be as pretty as the one in Trier, but this one has natural spring water from the nearby volcanic hills that contains a healing salt that is a one-of-a-kind in Germany. It comes out of the hills at close to 90 degrees and gets pumped straight into the pool. You can read more about this particular sauna in this previous post where I recapped our first visit.
- The outdoor swimming pool with Glauber’s Salt is the only one in all of Germany.
- The design of everything is very sleek and classy.
- In the summer, they have hammocks outside for guests to swing in and sleep on.
- They have the most beautiful view of the surrounding hills in their sauna garden.
- The Saunameisters are exceptional, professional, and conduct amazing Aufguss(es).
- The ambience in the quiet room is one-of-a-kind. You have linens draped from the ceilings, plush loungers, and a floor to ceiling window with views of the hillside.
- They have a full restaurant on-site that is accessible from the sauna area.
- It’s a very calm facility.
- It has a very local feel to it. Even on the cold days when they’re a little crowded, nothing about this place feels touristy. You don’t see very many first-timers. It is definitely frequented almost exclusively by Eifelers and Luxembourgers.
- They have the most ambient steam room.
- Every part of this facility is clean.
- If you buy a day pass, they validate your parking for 24 hours. So, you can explore the restaurants and shops of the village after your day at the sauna, and you don’t have to pay anything for parking.
- The volcano theme and the color schemes bring a real sense of warmth throughout the property.
- If you buy the two hour pass and then eat in their restaurant, they will give you an extra hour in the sauna for free.
- Although there are signs everywhere telling people not to do it, they leave their towels, books, and bags on chairs in the quiet room to reserve their seats. As you can imagine, that means they steal all of the loungers with the views. They do the same downstairs in the smaller quiet area. This is especially frustrating when you want to lounge and relax, but the room is full of empty chairs piled high with people’s belongings. Sometimes, you can’t find an open lounger at all.
- The quiet room is not very quiet.
- Same as before, it’s not a con for everyone, but for some people it might be a drawback that the changing rooms are mixed gender.
- They also don’t have a Tauchbecken that is as effective or as cold as the one at Cascade.
- There are no fire saunas.
Again, the pro and con lists are biased towards my personal opinion of what makes a good sauna, so know that just because I listed something as a drawback or a perk doesn’t necessarily mean they would be for you. My husband and I frequent each of these saunas on the list. So just because things are listed as cons doesn’t mean they’re deal breakers. I would highly recommend any one of them for anyone looking to try out a German sauna for the first time – or again after their initial horror experience!