The Swedes have been into wellness since 1269, when the very first Swedish bathing house is said to have opened. You might think that Swedish massage was born here, but scholars believe it was developed in the late 19th century by Dutchman Johan Georg Mezger. His work was confused with that of the Swede Per Henrik Ling, whose earlier "Medical Gymnastics" system was called "The Swedish Movement Cure" when it came to America.
Nonetheless, you can get excellent massage, Swedish and otherwise, throughout this wellness-oriented land. Spas are hugely popular in Sweden, and the Nordic bathing tradition — several rounds of hot sauna followed by a cold plunge — is alive and well.
While there are many modern and super-luxurious American style spas, there are also rustic spas built around traditional healing springs. Swedes believe in public access to land, so you can roam the countryside freely, and many Swedish spas offer walking, hiking and other invigorating outdoor activities.
One thing to keep in mind: Swedish spagoers are way more comfortable with nudity than the typical American, so there may be co-ed saunas where everyone is nude. Wearing a bathing suit in a sauna will mark you as a tourist. People won't even be wrapped in towels — they sit on them. Nude people will also be jumping into lakes, swimming in pools and basking on beaches. Just don't stare — it's bad manners. But you knew that.
With its regal interiors and superb waterfront location in Stockholm, the Grand Hôtel has been home to international celebrities and bon-vivants since 1874. A five-star hotel with 273 rooms and 70 suites, Grand Hôtel hosted the very first Nobel banquet in 1901.
It's the ultra-luxe place to stay in Stockhom, with an urban hotel spa graced with granite from Grythyttan and Rauk stones from Gotland. It encourages guests to enjoy the Nordic bathing ritual. Simply heat up in the sauna, plunge in cold water or take a cold bucket shower, then repeat several times
It can be a bit of a shock for the uninitiated, but once you're used to it, the contrast feels surprisingly good, and is great for your circulatory system. Follow it with a good Swedish massage with birch oil, which soothes sore muscles.
The spa offers massage, facials by Organic Pharmacy, and body treatments with the spa's own organic line. It also has reflexology, acupuncture, cupping, tui na and lymphatic massage for the more adventurous.
Sturebadet has been a Stockholm institution since 1885, when Carl Curman opened an establishment to promote "proper bathing" and exercise. This is a day spa/public bath/gym/exercise studio located in the ritzy neighborhood of Stureplan, a public square in central Stockholm. Said to be a favorite of Greta Garbo, Sturebadet has a gorgeous Ottoman-style swimming pool.
A spa day at Sturebadet includes a bath in the 84-degree F (29-degree C) pool, steam, sauna, and hydromassage, but you can add on classes in yoga, Pilates and qigong, or work out in the gym and fitness room. Have a glass of Champagne with lunch in the Curman Lounge, or read and relax in the quiet room.
Along with a great Swedish massage, facials, and body treatments, you might want to try Samezen, a signature treatment inspired by the ancient culture of Sami and designed by Swedish-born esthetician Kerstin Florian, who has her own natural skin and body care line. The Samezen treatment includes a mineral bath, body scrub, and a massage with mineral-rich lava rocks under a "starry sky," all to the tunes of Sami folk music.
The Water Salon at Loka Brunn, Grythyttan
A traditional countryside spa, Loka Brunn has been drawing visitors since its legendary spring waters were first discovered 300 years ago. It was here that the deaf farmhand from Värstorp had his speech restored after drinking the spring waters; “Weak Anders” fell into the mud and became “Strong Anders”; and King Adolf Fredrik was cured of his migraine in 1761.
Located about 165 miles west of Stockholm, today this traditional countryside spa has 154 rooms in 54 buildings, some dating from the 1700s and each with its own special history. The new Water Salon (Vattensalongen) is set on the shores of Lake Norra Loken, lovely for swims or plunging after your sauna.
Loka Brunn has a long-standing tradition featuring spa treatments using spring water, mud and pine needle oil, which it makes itself from the local forests. Its therapeutic mud has been famous in Sweden since the 1700s, and mud baths are a must-have here, along with the usual massages, facials and body treatments. Along with a shop and café, the spa features an indoor golf driving range.
Kallbadhuset (Cold Bathhouse), Varberg
Renowned for its iron-rich springs, beautiful beaches and fresh sea air, Varberg is synonymous with health and wellness in Sweden. For more than 200 years, this picturesque spa town has attracted people to relax and renew after a cold winter. Located on the western coast, about 310 miles southwest of Stockholm, it has the highest concentration of spas anywhere in Sweden (and even great surfing). And you can reach it easily with a one-hour flight.
You'll definitely want to visit the gorgeous waterfront Cold Bathhouse (Kallbadhuset), built in 1903. This is where you can learn the art of Nordic bathing, heating up in a sauna and then plunging into the invigorating sea, again and again. The historic structure provides access to the ocean along with a bit of privacy from the open sea (though you can swim beyond it if you like, and women and men's areas are separated).
Varbergs Kusthotel (Coast Hotel), Varberg
Varbergs Kusthotell (formerly known as Varbergs Kurort) has been a spa destination since the early 20th century, and has won awards as Sweden's best spa. This is a great spa hotel if you want to have an authentic Swedish experience.
Just steps from the ocean, Varbergs Kusthotell is Sweden's only authentic thalassospa, with warm and cold seawater pools, seaweed treatments, and its own cold bathhouse where you sauna and then plunge into the sea. There's also lovely spa garden with a sundeck where you can lay out in a hammock.
Along with massage, facials, and scrubs, many using the Phytomer marine line of products, Varbergs Kusthotel has some unusual treatements. You'll want to try the one where you walk in a wooden bath tub filled with sea water, then enjoy a massage with with hand-picked seaweed from Varbergs coast. The more adventurous can try a fish massage, where small carp nibble the dead skin off your feet.
The rooms with white walls and blue accents are fresh, modern Swedish, and the restaurant is also known for its classic Swedish cuisine.
The Healing Water Village at Sätra Brunn
Dating to 1700, Sätra Brunn is one of the oldest spas in Sweden. Its healing springs waters developed such a reputation that many nobles built their own cottages on the property. (Talking about religion, politics and economy was strictly forbidden, as they were believed to upset the guests.) Located about 80 miles northwest of Stockholm, today it's a rustic village with more than 100 buildings dating from 1702 to 1994 and five parks,
This is not a fancy spa — prices start at $70 per person for a room/$130 per person for room and full board. In Sätra Brunn’s Pool House you can rest in a relaxing chair, have a nice drink, read a paper or a book and just rest. If you feel like a bath, just ease yourself into the warm water of the pool (93.2 °F) and swim with the soothing music in the background.
Along with classic massage, facials and body treatments, enjoy its vinotherapy treatments, enriched with Amarone and Valpolicella wine.
Salt Creek Spa at Ystad Saltsjöbad, Saltsjöbadsvägen
Ystad Saltsjöbad is a luxury hotel located at the southern tip of country, right on the Baltic shoreline, in a region known for its beautiful scenery. Its spa is considered the finest in this region, and is about 386 miles south of Stockholm.
The Creek Experience is a full-body treatment that includes a trip through a dark, misty "Amazonian lagoon" with a Turkish bath and hammam in the sauna area, where your body is soaped down, scrubbed and rinsed clean. It also offers a detoxifying Rasul cleansing ritual, in which your body is covered with Moroccan clay.
Hagabadet is a Gothenburg icon. Established in 1876, Hagabadet offers spa treatments, massages, fitness, yoga and culinary delights in some of the most beautiful settings in Gothenburg.
At Hagabadet you will find a spa in an amazing historical setting. Enjoy baths, relaxation and spa treatments that will give you a great experience. A PureSpa visit at Hagabadet will make your time in Gothenburg even more pleasurable.
The visit is further enhanced by Hagabadet’s unique combination of spa, fitness, yoga, and food. The restaurant Pure Bistro & Wine serves locally sourced, ecological food sensations at breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch. And for your fitness needs you will find a large gym, personal trainers and the largest selection of fitness and yoga classes in Gothenburg.
The Retreat Club at Falkenberg Strandbad, Falkenberg
Miami meets Sweden on the western coast — about 305 miles southwest of Stockhom (or an easy one-hour flight), and just feet from the long, beautiful Skrea beach in Falkenberg. The Retreat Club borrows from club culture with sparkling wine, champagne, fruit trays, rosé, drinks, music, indoor and outdoor pools, relaxation beds, large pool lounge with bar and restaurant, and, of course, a sauna.
Selma Spa, Sunne
Selma Spa is one of the Nordic region’s largest spa hotels, with 30 treatment rooms and 40 different treatments. With a holistic approach to health and nutrition, their food is prepared with ingredients from the pantry Värmland. This is one of the many incredible spa hotels in Sweden. Here you can relax in the swimming pools, four different types of sauna, or in a comfy recliner.
Kosta Boda has been making Swedish glass since 1742, and opened a stylish luxury hotel next to the Kosta glassworks. Designed by Kosta Boda’s designers, it is made of glass and stone and serves as a "living gallery" where all the art glass is for sale—including the underwater display at the swimming pool.
Copperhill Mountain Lodge is a year-round open design hotel on top of Förberget in the popular ski place of Åre-Bear. Here, guests can enjoy expansive views of the mountains, skiing, and hiking right outside the door. Under one roof are 112 guest rooms and suites, six conference rooms for up to 500 people and a spa, which won the award as Europe’s best. In addition, a restaurant, bar, babysitting, ski rental, fitness center, activities and a helipad are available. The mountain-lodge-style hotel has a modern design created by the American multi-award winning architect Peter Bohlin.
The spa experience is characterized by naturalness and simplicity, and is based on the site’s nature and history. Low-growing juniper has lent their aroma massage oil. Sami huts have been the model for some of the treatments. The restaurants and kitchens have been created with inspiration from the immediate surroundings, and use sustainable and regionally produced raw materials from the forests, meadows and waters around Åre. You'll experience a warm, down-home sense of well being in the northern part of Sweden.