Vienna is around 2,500km from the Dead Sea, but those wishing to float effortlessly in saltwater have a closer option: the Schwerelos Floating Centre.
- Friendly staff and ambience
- Pristine cabins
- My experience was remarkably relaxing
- …and intriguing as a first-timer
- See also:
- What to do in Vienna
Salt and serenity
(Schwerelos occupies premises on the right side of this view down Sonnenfelsgasse)
Vienna offers many opportunities to walk through history. Consider Sonnenfelsgasse.
This side street close to the cathedral in the heart of Vienna takes you, for example, down to old university buildings, the Baroque Jesuitenkirche church and even composer Franz Schubert’s former school.
As well as a dive into the past, that same street offers a chance to dive (or rather drift) into yourself, thanks to the unobtrusive Schwerelos Floating Centre that sits at No. 13.
Floating means literally that: you float in about 27cm of extremely salt-heavy water in a broad open tub. Much as you might, for example, in the Dead Sea. Though Schwerelos uses a magnesium-based salt and has no confused fish to trouble you.
The proposed benefits of a dip can be summarised as physical and mental relaxation, but what is it really like? Here’s my experience…
(The wide tub I used)
As an Englishman in his late 50s, the prospect of disrobing entirely and then floating in saltwater was, shall we say, intimidating. So I approached my appointment with a touch of trepidation.
Fortunately, both the staff and ambience proved friendly and welcoming.
After an introduction to the tub and process, I was left to begin at my own convenience.
You can have subtle lighting around the tub in a choice of colours (which you control at all times) and the option to connect your phone, for example, to a sound system.
However, since the idea is to “switch off”, I followed the recommendation to float without lights and sound; Schwerelos also gives you earplugs.
With the water around the same temperature as the body, the sense of weightlessness and suspension proved almost total, thus encouraging tension to seep out of bone and muscle. Only the occasional gentle bump against a side of the tub made me realise I was even drifting in the water.
Combined with the absence of external stimuli, it proved easy to slip into a relaxed state. As if someone had hit the “off” button on the world outside with all its troubles and tempo.
It may sound strange, but the situation seemed to allow the body to enter into a conversation with the brain: finally able to get through the clutter of daily life and work stress.
That corporeal message was, essentially, “all is well, but the shoulders and upper spine need some TLC”: the almost inevitable fate of the writer, hunched over a keyboard.
Oh, and the time flew by; I suspect I fell asleep at some point.
To sum it up in three words…remarkably relaxing & intriguing.
Each tub is located in its own room, with plenty of space for your things, a shower, and a door you can lock. So you are entirely private.
Both tub and room were pristine. The actual operation works like the proverbial swan: serene up top with a lot going on “under the surface”. After each session, for example, they drain the tub and put the water through an intense cleaning process.
So do you need to bring anything with you?
Very little actually, making this an option for visitors who left their bathing gear at home. For example:
- Since you float naked, you need not bring a swimsuit or similar
- I had my own flip-flops and bath towel, but you can borrow the former and hire the latter for a small fee
- Hair dryers and shower gel were also provided, but bring your own comb or hairbrush
Check the website for prices, booking details etc. And also for further information on such matters as the science behind floating benefits or any conditions that might advise against doing it.
I booked a standard one-hour floating session to write this article, but (at the time of writing) the centre also offers packages that include massage and therapy units.
Finally, for those in search of additional warm water wellness opportunities, try Therme Wien (the city’s public spa) further out in the 10th district on the U1 subway line.
How to get there
Schwerelos has two sites in Vienna.
The Sonnenfelsgasse location is a short walk from a triangle of subway stations:
- Stephansplatz in the very centre of town (on the U3 and U1 subway lines)
- Schwedenplatz (U4 and U1)
- Stubentor (U3)
Tram lines 1 and 2 also stop at Schwedenplatz and Stubentor.
For the second location on Lange Gasse, just go two stops on the 43 or 44 tram from the Schottentor hub at the edge of the old town. The central tram lines 1, 2, D and 71 all stop at Schottentor, which is also on the U2.
Address: Sonnenfelsgasse 13, 1010 Vienna and Lange Gasse 70, 1080 Vienna