Offering not only authentic Finnish saunas but the promise of spectacular views across the London skyline, the lure of a new rooftop experience at Netil360 in Hackney proved too tempting to resist - and shortly after opening to the public, Britain Uncovered popped over to East London to see if it could live up to the hype of being the city’s hottest rooftop!
The mental and physical wellness benefits offered by a sauna in practically any location make them a worthwhile pastime – but when we first heard rumblings about this new series of saunas perched atop a rooftop venue in East London with views looking out over the city, it seemed to be a winning combination and we swiftly made arrangements to try out this intriguing new experience.
In conjunction with Warmwood Saunas, a Cornwall-based sauna designer that specialises in hand-built, outdoor saunas, the installation of these new, traditionally designed Finnish saunas seemingly got underway during the heart of lockdown back in February – and the early peeks of these new saunas back when it was a work in progress certainly whet the appetite and gave the sauna enthusiasts amongst us something to look forward to once lockdown was over with.
Installed on the perimeter of a rooftop venue called Netil360 – which also offers a panoramic bar, garden, café and workspace – there are presently two saunas available for use on-site, with a further four pods due to be added in time for winter 2021. Each sauna comes with its own hot rainfall shower and cold waterfall, and you are also allocated a designated spot in the fire pit seating area, which also offers stunning views out over the city. With Covid-19 still in mind, all of these additional facilities are located outdoors under a canopy; so should restrictions return later in the year, it’s conceivable that the venue could continue operating regardless.
Sauna-goers can choose two different booking options for their visit: either an express sauna (which lasts 45 minutes) or a more laid-back, slow sauna experience (which is 90 minutes). Naturally, we were keen to make the most our visit and opted for the latter, and with this being our very first sauna visit of the year, we couldn’t wait to get started shortly before dusk on an already warm and pleasurable evening in the capital.
Joining us on the evening in question was the founder of the ever-popular Sauna Explorers website – and you may recall that we recently posted this excellent guest editorial of theirs, which details some of their formative sauna experiences and explains how and why regular sauna visits can help you to feel more confident in your own skin.
We arrived shortly before our designated booking time of 6.15pm, and were quickly whisked inside and given a tour of the site, which takes up an entire corner block of the venue's rooftop. It was explained to us that our allocated 90 minutes would be broken down as thus: 10 minutes getting changed, 50 minutes in which we can use the sauna, and 30 minutes cooling off around the fire pit. On discovering that we were up against the clock and that the time in which we were able to use the sauna was only just over half of the overall booking slot, it did feel like there was suddenly a little pressure to make the most of it, so we quickly got changed and dived in as soon as was physically possible!
The sauna we were allocated was built to house a maximum of four people and was definitely compact, but it felt clean, modern and fresh, and stepping foot inside after a six-month lockdown-enforced stayaway was just what the doctor ordered! The impressive construction elements weren’t lost on us either, and the slanted windows that were built to meet the edge of the rooftop’s existing railing was no mean feat – so kudos to Warmwood Saunas for doing such an excellent job with these.
We guesstimated that the heat was around the 80°C mark when we first arrived, and I was instantly enamoured with the blast of heat combined with the tourist-worthy views that look south and show you Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs to one side, along with equally impressive views of the Shard and the City of London on the other. Seeing the hustle and bustle of the city down below you just maximises the already intoxicating air of relaxation, and finding such a rare moment of solitude up and away from the busy streets of Hackney felt like a genuine treat!
Although (perhaps naively) I was fully intending to stay in the sauna for the entire 50 minutes we were allowed to, my tolerance for the heat – having not visited a sauna for so long – was surprisingly low. After around 15 minutes we decided to take a quick break, and we sat around the fire pit just outside and took a much-needed breather in the shadows of some of London’s most iconic skyscrapers off in the distance.
With the clock ticking, we headed back inside for round two, and the heat was seemingly cranked up a notch or two (largely thanks to our partner in crime, who has vast sauna expertise and did an excellent job of stoking the fires!) Another quick break followed, and our host informed us we had just five minutes remaining, so we quickly scurried back inside the sauna for our final blast of heat.
By the time we were done and back outside cooling down with a drink and enjoying the warm breeze emanating from the fire pit, I definitely felt revitalised and with a new sense of calm – and in many ways, it almost felt as though I’d sweated out much of the stress and negative energy that had built-up inside of me during the latest lockdown.
However, as somebody who has been known to spend hours, or even a day, in and out of sauna rooms, I couldn’t help but feel the experience was a little rushed; and constantly having to dash back into the sauna, before we were quite ready, meant that the overall experience wasn’t quite as chilled and as leisurely as I had hoped. In hindsight, a booking that was double the length in time would have been far more relaxing and would have saved us fretting over the time and continually clock-watching. The sauna and facilities were brilliant, but it all ended up feeling like a bit of a mad dash, which isn’t exactly what you want when you’re seeking some prolonged downtime and relaxation.
We ended the evening with a quick drink inside the Mare Street Market, a huge, nearby pub and restaurant that proved the perfect destination for an end-of-evening wind down – and it’s definitely worth a visit if you're seeking somewhere to cool off before heading home.
- The authentic Finnish saunas are fantastic and they really heat up – even seasoned sauna visitors will find themselves getting a sweat on in little to no time
- Having a private sauna pod to yourselves is a nice touch (both from privacy and social distancing perspectives), and seemingly a rarity in this part of the world
- The views looking out over London are genuinely breathtaking, and the contrast of relaxation in the warm sauna versus the busy, hustling city down below makes you appreciate your whereabouts all the more
- The staff are friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable, and definitely made us feel at home throughout our visit
- The slow sauna experience still felt a little too rushed for our liking. It was hard to fully relax and make the most of it when up against the clock, so perhaps a more generous time-frame could be offered in the future
- As a result, I’d perhaps suggest that the entry cost of £50 is also a little steep, and personally I would be reluctant to return for the same level of investment
- Although the owners advertise “complete peace and tranquility”, you can still hear the murmur of the crowd from the adjacent bar while you’re inside the sauna – understandable given the close proximity, but some visitors may find it distracting.
You can read Sauna Explorers' excellent write-up of the event, 'Hot air rising... London's new roof-top sauna', by clicking here.
For more information along with booking details, head to netil360.com/sauna. Our visit to the sauna experience took place on May 27, 2021.