Mini-Review – The Brighton Beach Box Sauna
Ahead of its scheduled reopening at the start of February, Britain Uncovered reflects back on our long-overdue visit to the Brighton Beach Box Sauna down on the city’s seafront in the closing stages of 2021. Boasting one of the most authentic sauna experiences in the UK and offering dreamy sunset views out onto the pier, it’s fair to say that our visit more than lived up to expectations!
Anyone who has followed Britain Uncovered from the start will likely already be aware of our fondness and appreciation for sauna life. As well as being an incredibly rejuvenating experience and a great way of alleviating the stresses of modern day life (both physical and mental), they can also be an ideal way to help overcome body hang-ups and feel more confident in your own skin – especially so in mainland Europe, where the bulk of saunas require you to bare all (not only as per tradition, but also to ensure a more hygienic bathing experience).
Mine, a friend of the site and the brains behind the ever-informative saunaexplorers.com website, penned a really great article for us back in February 2021 describing how visits to sauna sessions boosted her body image and self-confidence levels – and it’s well worth a read for those of you who are perhaps a little unsure of the role sauna life can play in helping individuals to develop greater body confidence and overall self-esteem.
Although trips to spas in mainland Europe remain the firm preference, travelling overseas in this Covid era can still prove a little more challenging than in the past; so it’s fortunate that there seems to have been a boom in the UK sauna scene over the past couple of years, with a notable number of pop-up sauna experiences appearing up and down the country, each welcoming guests into their fiery and eclectic mix of venues.
One such location – and a sauna that had been on our bucket list for quite some time – was the idyllic and picturesque Beach Box Sauna Spa down on Brighton beach, which we had heard such positive things about from the fellow sauna enthusiasts we've encountered on our travels over the past year or so. Although it had been firmly at the top of our bucket list for quite some time, it wasn’t until we discovered that the venue was set to close at the start of 2022 to make way for a new seafront development that we finally decided to take the plunge - and we're so pleased we had the chance to sneak in right at the eleventh hour!
Situated roughly half-way between the pier and the marina (and more or less opposite the Concorde 2 music venue), finding the sauna complex was relatively straight-forward, and I was a little surprised to discover that it really is quite literally on the beach itself – albeit separated from the main stretch of the shore by the Volk’s Railway line – and of all the saunas I’ve had the pleasure of visiting here on British soil, the Brighton Beach Box definitely offers the most picturesque and idyllic setting of the lot. Our trip got off to the perfect start, and on the off-chance you happen to arrive a little early (as was the case during our visit), there’s also an on-site beach bar where you can while away the hours whilst enjoying the sights and sounds of the city, along with the tranquility of the waves lapping up to shore in the distance.
The location is in such a calming spot that really helps set a tone of relaxation right from the get-go, and heading in via a small gate by the main entrance, you can then use the stepping stones to help fast-track you through to the main area, where four different saunas are lying in wait. Each offers a slightly different experience (and price point), and the four available options are as follows: the ‘Big Banya’ sauna, a wood-fired sauna and the largest space on site, capable of holding up to a dozen people; the ‘Leil Saun’, a small converted horsebox that has a capacity of six; the ‘Loyly Saun’, another Finnish-style horsebox sauna that’s one size up from the Leil; and the electric ‘Albion Sauna’, which has recently returned from Brighton & Hove Albion FC where first-team players had used it following their training sessions for the past couple of seasons.
With options to suit all preferences, we decided to opt for the Russian-styled banya sauna which seemed like the perfect entry-level option – and at £20 for a 90-minute session, it was definitely the most reasonably priced offering available on the day too (the smaller saunas, although offering greater privacy, command significantly higher entry fees).
However, as it happened, Covid-related restrictions meant that the capacity of the banya was temporarily reduced to just seven, so our visit was going to be relatively exclusive in any event. With the sun beginning to set on this unseasonably warm autumnal day, we made our way past the fire pit and the various array of ice baths and plunge pools and onwards to the quirky changing area, which is located right outside the banya itself, before finally heading in for some very much-needed heat relief!
We were instantly enamored with the blast of warmth that greeted us upon stepping inside – even moreso due to the length of time that had passed since our prior sauna visit – and we settled in on the top bench of the three-tiered sauna and straight away found ourselves admiring the view out onto the pier, where we watched the sun slowly setting over the 90 minutes that followed (with only a few breaks here and there to catch our breath as and when it felt truly essential).
Although saunas in the UK aren’t typically as quiet and Zen-like as their counterparts across Europe, our fellow sauna-goers couldn’t have been lovelier, and were friendly and sociable whilst still enabling a calming, meditational atmosphere (and hopefully they felt the same way about us!) The people you're with can make or break any sauna visit, as the mental relaxation side of things is just as beneficial as the physical side in our opinion: but this is an element that can sometimes be overlooked or underestimated by those not overly familiar with sauna life. As is often the case, the sauna experience is also a great leveller, and experiencing the occasion with like-minded souls is always an enjoyable social occasion too.
The 90 minutes we were allocated absolutely flew by, and the staff were very meticulous about returning at regularly timed intervals to add more fuel to the fire (in this case, wood) and ensure things were as toasty as they could possibly be – and I’d estimate that the temperature in the sauna was around 80°C, which was just about right for this reporter. The overall ambience was perfect from start to finish, and the time absolutely melted. Although we had the option to enjoy a refreshing dip in the sea once time was up, by the time we finished it was pitch black outside, so we decided to err on the side of caution and opted to use the on-site showers instead: although more adventurous types can pre-book an ice bath or make use of the equally rejuvenating plunge pool, either of which is so beneficial for your circulation and really helps complete the experience. Warming up by the fire pit whilst sipping chai tea and listening to chillout music further added to the ambience, and by the time all was said and done, we left the venue floating on air and feeling totally rejuvenated.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and at the time of writing, the sauna has been forced to close its doors to make way for a regeneration project being led by Brighton & Hove City Council – but the good news is that a new home has already been found for the Beach Box Sauna, and the site will once again be able to open its doors to sauna-goers at the start of February! And even better news is the fact that the site is only a stone’s throw away from the previous venue.
Unfortunately, due to space limitations it doesn’t seem as though the Big Banya will be able to quite squeeze its way into the new location, but we’d wholeheartedly recommend a trip to the Beach Box the next time you’re in need of some heat relief irrespective of this – and we’re more than confident that the other saunas will live up to the high standards we experienced and do just the job.
Our visit to the Beach Box Sauna took place on November 11, 2021. Although the sauna is currently closed, tickets are already on sale ahead of its reopening in February, and you can find out more about what the site has to offer by visiting www.beachboxspa.co.uk or its dedicated @beachboxbtn account over on Instagram.