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Ribersborgs Kallbadhus, Malmö
Photo: Werner Nystrand

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Southern Sweden’s must-visit cold bath houses

Ribersborgs Kallbadhus in Malmö and Kallbadhuset Varberg on the west coast are two must-visit destinations for those wanting to experience the revitalising cold bath ritual.

Cold bath houses (kallbadhus) have been part of Swedish culture since the last quarter of the 19th century, and they haven’t lost any of their appeal. If anything, the cold bath tradition has been reinvigorated, with a younger audience discovering the uplifting effects of a cool dip followed by a relaxing sauna session. However, cold water submersion is not only refreshing, it has proven health benefits – it’ll increase your blood circulation, brighten your mood and improve your memory, for example. 

There are cold bath houses in many parts of Sweden – by the sea and along the country’s lakes and rivers – and many of these open-air havens are found on the southwestern coast. Kallbadhuset Varberg on the west coast and Ribersborgs Kallbadhus in Malmö are two of the most iconic. 

Ribersborgs Kallbadhus – Malmö’s inclusive cold bath oasis 

Ribersborgs Kallbadhus is something of a Malmö institution. Adored by locals, it has two nicknames, “Kallis” and “Ribban”, the latter also referring to the stretch of beach on which the bath house is located. It first swung open its doors in 1898 but was destroyed in a devastating storm only a few years later (1902). Over the decades since, it has been continuously restored and improved. In 2009, it had a full facelift, involving a new sundeck and land jetty, among other upgrades.   

Open year-round, the spacious facility is divided into two sections – one for men and one for women – and there’s a large open-air pool in each. You’ll find five on-site saunas as well as wood-fired hot tubs and massage rooms. The bath house also offers regular “Aufguss” sessions – a German type of sauna experience during which a sauna host pours fragrant essential oils on the hot stones, wafting the mist in the direction of guests for an invigorating boost. 

Ribersborgs Kallbadhus prides itself on inclusivity, hosting “Queer Kallis” the first Monday of every month. Everyone is welcome, especially the LGBTQ community as it gives non-binary and transgender people the chance to bathe without the restrictions of the male and female bath house sections. 

To refuel after your swim and sauna session, head to the resident restaurant. It caters for meat eaters and vegetarians alike, serving everything from hot dishes and healthy salads to snacks and cakes.

For a good night’s sleep after your cold bathing experience, Ohboy Hotel in the city centre is a popular option with 31 loft rooms featuring kitchenettes and free bike rental. MJ’s hotel, meanwhile, is a characterful, centrally located hotel. It prides itself on being an urban oasis with a vintage floral-themed décor and a relaxed vibe. Its restaurant and bar are enjoyed by guests and locals alike. 

Malmö also has a thriving restaurant scene, with options to suit every taste. Dine at restaurant Lyran if you want to sample dishes prepared with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Be sure to try the city’s street food specialty; falafel.

Kallbadhuset Varberg 

With a history stretching back to the first half of the 19th century, and housed within a distinctive, oriental-style building, Kallbadhuset Varberg is one of the best-known cold bath houses in Sweden

Kallbadhuset Varberg’s first incarnation surfaced in the 1820s as a sort of floating pool, enabling cool dips in the harbour. The current facility opened in 1903, with big-windowed saunas allowing you to warm up while taking in the glorious seaside views. Its distinctive design is based on the original bath house built on the site in 1866. The building, made in Moorish style, complete with decorative domes, arches and tiles, was originally created by architect Wilhelm Gagner.  

Open year-round, Kallbadhuset Varberg is divided into two sections – one for men and one for women. There’s no need to bring swimwear, bathing au naturel is encouraged. 

After your cold bath adventure, head to the café and try the prawn toast or the secret recipe waffle with whipped cream and jam. There’s also a range of sandwiches and pastries, many of which are baked by Lilla Träslövs Finbageri, an artisan bakery founded in Varberg in 1939.   

With its endless sandy beaches and strong winds, Varberg is a popular surfing destination. The coastal location is also home to many SPA resorts, such as Varberg Stadshotell & Asia Spa, offering sweeping views across the sea.

Other attractions are the historic Varberg Fortress and the resident Halland Museum of Cultural History. A museum highlight is the fascinating Bocksten Man (Bockstensmannen) – an extraordinarily well-preserved medieval man found in a local bog in 1936. 

A secluded and close to nature experience can be found at Stedsans in the Woods, an award-winning retreat, serving locally sourced produce with a helping of foraged ingredients.