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Reader question: Do I have to be naked in Austrian saunas?

The Local Austria
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Reader question: Do I have to be naked in Austrian saunas?
A wooden bank inside a sauna. Photo: TheUjulala/Pixabay

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting an Austrian spa in the colder months, you may be wondering how much flesh you're expected to reveal. 

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While in Germany, which borders Austria to the north, the custom of nudity in saunas is pretty well known, in Italy, which borders to the south, stripping off completely in public is an absolute no-no. So it can be confusing for travellers to know what's expected in Austria. 

Depending on your point of view you may be pleased (or disappointed) to find out that, as in Germany, Austrian saunas are generally Textilfrei (textile-free) zones and guests are expected to get naked.

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Wearing clothing - even swimwear - is seen as both unhygienic and bad for your health, as the pores should be able to open during a sauna session, which they can't do if covered by soggy swimming trunks. 

If you're really uncomfortable being naked, however, you can keep a towel wrapped around you in most places, though you won't get the full benefit of the experience, according to the Austrians. 

READ ALSO: 11 tips on how to behave in an Austrian sauna

Towels are a must anyway in the sauna, as you'll need one to sit or lie on. Most saunas have the rule that no skin should touch the wood at all or, as the Aqua Dome Sauna in Tirol tells its guests “keine Schweiß aufs Holz” – no sweat on the wood. So, if you're tall and fancy spreading out, you should take two towels - or just bring one extra for your feet.

You'll get used to naked saunas in no time. Photo: TORSTEN SILZ / AFP

It’s also a good idea to bring a bathrobe along to your sauna visit, so you can fully cover up in between sessions. Many larger public saunas have relaxation areas and cafe or snack bars, and a robe comes in handy. Flip flops are also a good idea for wearing in between sauna sessions, but leave them outside the door when you go in the sauna.

Many spas allow people to hire towels, a robe and flip flops so check that beforehand if you're not fully equipped. 

If it is your first time letting it all hang out in a sauna and you find yourself surprisingly at ease with it - try to play it cool and not to ogle your fellow sauna users. 

Yes, the abundance of naked bodies can be overwhelming - and even alluring - but Austrians don't go to the sauna to hook up. Saunas are about relaxing and are considered a holistic treatment which benefits the body and mind. So try not to stare.

And whatever you do, don't take photos or film in a sauna. That is a complete no-no. Some spas don't even allow people to have their phones on them during the visit, telling visitors to leave them in their locker. 

Although the 'textile free' culture is widespread in Austria, we'd also recommend that you check the individual rules for the sauna or spa you're visiting before going to make sure you know what to expect.

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