Yasuragi: Europe’s Best Spa Hotel
Amidst the crazy intensity of modern city lifestyles, sometimes we need to escape to somewhere very different to pause and reset. And if you want a wellness retreat, there is no better place in Europe than the new Yasuragi spa hotel in Sweden.
Tucked away in the Stockholm archipelago, with stunning views of the sea and surrounded by woodland, is this remarkable fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics and spa culture.
The building dates from 1974, designed by the Japanese architect Yoji Kasajima, with huge expanses of raw concrete, complemented with dark timber and glass. Things were radically re-imagined in 2017, taking a striking building in a beautiful, serene location and embarking on a mission to create the best spa in Europe. The fusion is of both Scandinavian and Japanese influences, but the latter dominates. The aesthetic and feel of Yasuragi is both minimalist and light, yet also intimate.
It is an easy 30 minute boat ride from Strömkajen in the centre of Stockholm, or 20 minutes in a taxi (I’d recommend you take the boat). From the ferry stop it is a 10-minute walk up the hill through the woodland and gardens. As soon as you arrive you know you’re somewhere very special and different. I’d seen quite a lot of images of the interior before I arrived, so knew what to expect, but I had no idea how good the setting is, perched at the top of a hill with expansive sea views.
At check-in you are handed summer kimonos/ robes and simple black swimming costumes or shorts, and that is all you’ll wear for the duration of your stay (most people stay one or two nights). So whether you are having dinner in the restaurant or heading to the Japanese baths, all you will see is people dressed in robes. Don’t worry, it isn’t as weird as it sounds – it actually creates a very relaxing atmosphere!
The biggest draw is the expansive hot and cold Japanese-style baths. There is an almost endless selection of different baths to relax in, not to mention countless saunas.
The scale of the place means nowhere feels too busy. You can while away the hours lying in blissfully warm water, trying the various settings, from the striking raw concrete interior to the exterior pools with their views through the pine trees to the sea below. Outside there are also separate huts with saunas in, as well as ice-cold plunge pools for a quick dip if the heat becomes too much.
When you book your stay you can (and should) book treatments at the same time. As you’d expect for somewhere with aspirations to be the world’s best spa, they’ve recruited therapists from all over the world and the deep-tissue massages are excellent, leaving you in a comatose state and properly unknotted.
Yoga, Meditations & Other Activities
Every day there are a wide range of activities in the yoga and exercise studio that overlooks the sea. Yasuragi is still relatively undiscovered, so >90% of guests are Swedish, and by default classes are held in Swedish, but if you ask they will switch the class to English.
- Yoga – there are daily options for yoga with the in-house instructor, but they also occasionally have visiting instructors such as Adam Husler. Best to request the schedule for this
- Sauna Yoga – for a very Swedish take on Hot Yoga you can try sauna yoga before breakfast, with a (leisurely) class held in 80 degree heat
- Zen Meditation – There are also several meditation and mindfulness classes
Food and Drink
Yasuragi is about balance; it might be a digital detox, but with both a sake bar and cocktail bar there is no need for a full detox. The sake bar has over 75 different sake brands to try; the widest selection in Sweden. The cocktail bar meanwhile serves excellent Japanese inspired drinks. The main bar has a terrace with far reaching views over the archipelago.
Depending on the time of year you visit, there are three different restaurants; the main Japanese restaurant; a well-regarded vegan Japanese restaurant Saishoku; and a Teppanyaki restaurant. The latter two are not open in high summer, and have a much more intimate, wintery feel, down in the lower floors of the building. In summer the focus is on the main Japanese and sushi restaurant, next to the bar with its sea views.
Yasuragi has 191 rooms in total, with the pared back Japanese influence strong throughout the bedrooms and bathrooms, with paper lamps, shōji screens and a clean, simple aesthetic. Bathrooms have traditional Japanese washing stations, a shower and many rooms have wooden tubs. All the rooms on the level we stayed on have stunning views of the sea from both the bedroom and bathroom. Sustainability is central to their approach, so there are no plastic miniature toiletry bottles, with large refillable bottles in their place, all filled with the amazing products developed in house at Yasuragi.
The Best Spa in Europe
We combined our stay at Yasuragi with one night in Stockholm city centre, and the combination makes a great European city break at any time of year.
Yasuragi is a serene experience, with the water, delightful activities and ambiance banishing any stress. It feels like a real slice of Japan, but not in a pastiche way, with the Eastern influences harnessed in a thoughtful, considered manner. It is an absolute gem, and certainly the best spa I’ve ever been to.