So you're on vacation. You've decided to leave your old self behind for those few days abroad, and try something new, maybe even out of character. And you read about these peculiar Dutch people who have none of the hang-ups associated with being naked that you and your people have, so you are tempted to really shed your skin.
I would suggest there are far worse places to take the plunge than Spa Zuiver located in the south of Amsterdam, an easy 15-20 minute bike ride (bus, car, or cab does the trick as well) from the city center on the edge of a large wooded area called the Amsterdamse Bos.
A boss is hardly what you feel like when you experience - early - the shock of disrobing next to members of the opposite sex in the posh changing rooms. You can hardly get your fluffy robe on fast enough, in fact. Since you've come this far, though, you keep on going. You've spent a cool 35 Euros to get in, after all. Bear in mind, you can't wear your bathing suit - it is actually forbidden. (Though rumour has it - in Dutch - that Tuesdays is optional for bathing wear; best to call or email them for more info on this).
And once you step into the exceptionally well-designed sauna, pool, steam room, wellness area, relaxation beds (water beds!), restaurant, all framed by huge windows overlooking an outdoor pool and garden, with more saunas yet at the far end. This place is the most luxurious and biggest of the saunas you'll find in Amsterdam.
Enter the "special" sauna (in Dutch, opgieting). Common in Scandinavian saunas too, a sauna man creates an experience by waving a towel around the room, pouring ice chips on the rocks (and on the sauna people), and in our man Ado's case, cracking jokes while wearing a sarong. He was hilarious, and helped to ease any tension one might have about sitting nude in a room thigh-to-thigh with dozens of strangers.
The room was jammed, as the special sauna is only on schedule four times per day. The mood in the room was jovial, and not a stitch of clothing was to be seen. At the intermission, Ado led us outside into the 0-degree weather, where we stood steaming and chatting while a table of orange slices was awaiting us. Incredibly funny, unusual, and yet somehow utterly normal.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in various steams and saunas, as well as reading a book in the lounge chairs upstairs.
Vibe: You will see some very attractive people here, wearing nothing more than a smile. Of course, you can't gawk - the Dutch don't, or maybe they are better at hiding it. The mix when I attended was around 70% female to 30% male, an excellent ratio IMHO.
Plenty of not-so-beautiful as well though, so no need to feel intimidated. It's like the real world - you'll look better than many, not as good as some. And when you want to cover up, just head to the restaurant or the relaxations beds, where a robe is mandatory.
Space: Very big - even on the busiest day, you have plenty of room.
Cost: Quite high, and with robe and towels costing extra, plus some food, you could easily spend 60-70 Euros here. Well worth the price of trying on a new side of yourself, however. They do have new hourly rates starting at under 10 Euros.
Overall, Spa Zuiver is worth spending a day-long visit for sure, and if you only have a few hours it is a great way to expel those toxins you might have picked up earlier in the trip. It's a first-class facility.
Koenenkade 8 (Amsterdam Forest)
+31 20 301 0710
Google map: bit.ly/GCQ3B6
* Jeff is our Been there local for Amsterdam. You can read his profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/amsterdam-local-jeff-funnekotter.jsp and follow his tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/jefffunnekotter
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