Take a plunge with Oslo’s floating sauna island

Oslo's newest floating sauna, part of Oslo Badsforening, has launched in the waters of its tranquil, inviting fjord, courtesy of architects Biotope

Oslo's floating sauna in Norway
(Image credit: Jan Khür)

Semi-naked bathers jumping from jetties and relaxing, toasty red, in seafront saunas are a common sight on Oslo’s waterfront. Cold-water swimming is booming in the Norwegian capital and a floating sauna that started life as an act of rebellion in 2013 has turned into a top seafront attraction. 

Oslo Badsforening is a complex of floating saunas at Bjørvika wharf serviced by steaming stoves, a community of bathers and a tranquil, inviting fjord. All six saunas vary in design, from wooden Estonian ‘igloos’ and homemade hotboxes to elegant architectural versions. Indeed, in 2021, one of these was docked at Oslo’s Astrup Fearnley Museum and Norwegian artist Sissel Tolaas devised a sauna scent entitled Liquid Money. Visitors could steam in the smell of money before ‘purifying’ themselves with a dip in the sea.

interior of Oslo's floating sauna, part of Oslo Badsforening

(Image credit: Jan Khür)

This week, Oslo Badsforening opens its first ‘island sauna’. Bispen & Munken is a small floating cabin with a sauna, toilet and double beds, and will be docked all year round in front of the imposing Munch Museum. It costs NOK500 (around €50) a night and up to four guests can row themselves to it from the dock in a small wooden boat. Sleeping bags, supplies and security are not provided, and the façade of the cabin is open to the elements.  

Norwegian architect studio Biotope has collaborated with the Norwegian Trekking Association to create the island. For more than 20 years, the pair have created barely-there hide-outs and shelters for birdwatchers in Norway’s best nature spots. ‘We are testing something similar on the water,’ says Ragna Fjeld, general secretary of Oslo Badstuforening, who is working with Biotope on a second, larger, floating sauna. This will host rituals and Aufguss ceremonies in which a ‘sauna master’ wafts hot air around with a towel. ‘We want to bring sauna to the people,' says Fjeld. ‘We look forward to seeing how they will use Oslo's newest island.

exterior of Oslo's floating sauna in Norway

(Image credit: Jan Khür)

boat to reach Oslo's floating sauna in Norway

(Image credit: Jan Khür)

exterior detail of Oslo's floating sauna in Norway

(Image credit: Jan Khür)

side view of Oslo's floating sauna in Norway

(Image credit: Jan Khür)




Emma O'Kelly is a freelance journalist and author based in London. Her books include Sauna: The Power of Deep Heat and she is currently working on a UK guide to wild saunas, due to be published in 2025. 

With contributions from