And yes, there is indeed a mandatory ice shower on board.
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The outside of the sauna by GoBoat at Blox in Copenhagen
Credit: Christoffer Strange Hansen/Courtesy of GoBoat

"Even for me this is pretty unhinged," I thought to myself as I stared up at the bucket filled with icy water swinging precariously above me. There I was, shivering in my swimsuit on a bitter November morning in Denmark, preparing to douse myself in frigid bathwater in the name of wellness. 

I was standing on the deck of the new Sauna by GoBoat, a floating sauna set on a quiet stretch of canal in Copenhagen's city center. Opened in early November 2021, this is Copenhagen's first and only floating sauna, and in addition to the scenic canal views and aesthetic design, it offers a revitalizing experience for local residents and tourists alike. I was excited to be one of the first journalists to visit the sauna and experience this unique part of Scandinavian culture, but at that moment, all I could think about was how insanely illogical it felt to take an ice shower in the middle of winter.

Inside Sauna by GoBoat at Blox in Copenhagen
Credit: Christoffer Strange Hansen/Courtesy of GoBoat

Saunas are an essential part of Nordic culture, dating back thousands of years as a rejuvenating bath ritual with Finnish origins. Sauna by GoBoat puts a Danish spin on the classic experience by placing their sauna directly on the water to combine the dry heat with the thrilling Danish tradition of "winter swimming." 

Many Danes swear by winter swimming, insisting that the shock of cold water is a boost for your mind, body, and soul. Though there's no official science on this, Denmark consistently ranks among the happiest countries in the world, so I typically take their wellness advice to heart. This is how I found myself standing underneath the bucket of water in freezing-point weather, ready to give myself the coldest shock of my life.

A few days earlier, I met up with Kasper Eich-Romme, one of the co-founders of GoBoat, to learn more about Sauna by GoBoat and what to expect during my session. Eich-Romme explained that what makes Sauna by GoBoat so special is that it stands out as an oasis in the middle of a busy city. He also noted that, to have a truly authentic experience at the Sauna, I could not skip out on the cold shock, no matter how chilly it was outside. 

When I returned to the Sauna on that frigid winter morning, I laid a towel on a bench of bright wooden panels, queued up a 20-minute playlist (which was actually just back-to-back recordings of Taylor Swift's "All Too Well 10 Minute Version") to time my sauna stint, and began to take in my surroundings as I surrendered to the heat. The large, panoramic windows allowed me to admire the tranquil canal, and as the commuters and early-risers whizzed by on their bikes in the distance, I giggled at the stark contrast between their rushed mornings and my lazy spa day. 

About 10 minutes later, the temperature started to get to me. The thermostat was set to 85℃ (a whopping 185℉), and as a fairly sauna newbie, I was not sure if I could last the full 20 minutes I'd been instructed to sit for. Sweat dripped into my eyes and soaked through my swimsuit, but I managed to hold on for another 10 minutes, and once my Taylor Swift timer went off, I headed out to the deck for the cold shock. 

Sauna by GoBoat features a designated dipping zone on the harbor for guests to partake in the winter swimming craze, but I decided to save that cold plunge for a future visit with friends and instead opted for the less-intense-but-still-intense Russian bucket shower. Truthfully, I nearly chickened out of the ice shower altogether, but I knew to have a true Danish experience I had to experience both the hot and cold aspects of the Sauna, so I closed my eyes, pulled the lever, and squealed in excitement as the freezing waterfall rushed over me.

A man using the outside shower at the sauna by GoBoat at Blox in Copenhagen
Credit: Christoffer Strange Hansen/Courtesy of GoBoat

I have to admit: the Danes were right about the benefits of "The Big Chill." After the initial shock wore off, the burst of cold water acted as a natural adrenaline boost and helped me power through the second half of the sauna session much better than the first half. The refreshing effects from the cold dip pulsed through my body as I started to sweat again, and in that moment, I understood why winter swimming is such a cornerstone of Danish culture and felt lucky that I got a little taste of the phenomenon myself. 

During my last few minutes at the Sauna by GoBoat, I turned off my phone and meditated in silence. I could feel the stress melting away from my mind and body as I took in those last peaceful moments in this gorgeous retreat on the water. I left the Sauna invigorated and infinitely grateful for such a restorative experience and hoping that next winter I'd make my way back to Copenhagen, ready to take the full cold plunge like a true Dane.

Vanessa Wilkins is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Los Angeles. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.