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A private sauna at Ritual Nordic Spa in Victoria

Community vibes or your own private sauna time, you choose. Here’s everything you need to know about this new Nordic spa in Victoria

Victoria, BC is a pretty harbour city. It would be easy to spend your entire visit down at the water looking out at the sea. But there’s a Nordic spa on the edge of downtown that belongs on your Victoria to-do list, too.

Ritual Nordic Spa is an “urban sauna house” based on Finnish traditions of community and wellness. It was opened in 2022 by Marci Hotsenpiller, a self-described “Canadian girl who learned a lot from [her] Finnish grandma.” The Scandinavian-style spa offers the basics of hot+cold+relax hydrotherapy in a friendly environment at a mid-range price designed to be part of your regular routine.

It also has something very special to splurge on: two different private saunas you can book just for you (or you and someone you want to get hot and sweaty with).

I was especially excited to try that experience. Because during my trip to BC I was not feeling great about my body. Life had been heavy of late and so was I. All the more reason to slow down, breathe in some steam, let the sauna do its work, I know. But sometimes I just don’t want to be around other people in a swimsuit. Privacy sweat seemed perfect.

As it turned out there were several ways that Ritual made me feel better on my way out than on my way in.  Read on for my honest and in-depth review of Ritual Nordic Spa in Victoria, BC

My friend and I visited Ritual as guests and took these photos before the opening. No cameras are allowed in the spa otherwise. My opinions are my own and the spa did not review or approve this post.

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Cold Plunge Pool and Salt Lounge at Ritual Nordic Spa in Victoria
Everything you need

First Impressions of Ritual Nordic Spa

The space is small. I knew that before going based on reading reviews of spas in Victoria. But they’ve done an excellent job of designing a comfortable, if compact, circuit.  

The design is bright and airy, full of blonde wood, glass and Merimekko-inspired artwork. At check-in they sell all kinds of fun and helpful things: sauna hats, water bottles, locally made skin care and candles, T-shirts in Finnish that translate to “Sauna, Lake, Beer, Repeat”. But we were eager to push through the glass door and get started with our sweat.

Because it’s small you can get the lay of the land quite quickly. It’s important to note first off that there is no warm pool. No hot tub. No mineral or saltwater soak. I love those things, but I didn’t miss them here, where the focus is really on the sauna experience.

What facilities do they have at Ritual Nordic spa in Victoria?

Your circuit pass gives you access to:

  • Finnish-style basswood sauna
  • Eucalyptus steam room
  • Cold plunge pool
  • Cold bucket
  • Himalayan Salt Lounge
  • Outside patio lounge

In addition to this, there are two private sauna spaces but you have to book those separately.

A sign at Ritual Nordic spa
A message in the change room

Hot: Sauna and Steam

Ritual’s hub is a traditional Finnish basswood sauna which delivers dry heat up to 90°C. The doors are glass, which I wish more spas would use so that you can see if there’s room inside without opening the door and letting out all the heat! 

On our mid-week afternoon visit, there were about 10 other guests in the spa, which meant enough space for everyone to have a turn in the sauna without being crammed. I was inside with four other people and it was comfortable, but felt like the max I’d want.

My favourite feature was outside on the patio—a shaved ice machine. You can scoop up your own ball of ice and then bring it into the sauna to smash over the hot rocks. This alternative to ladling water to release more heat is pretty fun.

The steam room smells of eucalyptus. Stepping into the mist you can’t really see your hands in front of your face at first—which is a great way to spa when want to be social but also don’t want to be seen. This room is about 46°C and I spend as much time in it as I can until it’s time to cool down.

Cold: Plunge pool vs The Bucket

Cold baths are all the rage but I always get excited to see the old school wooden bucket. I need a friend to count me down but there’s something about pulling on the rope and not being entirely sure where the water is gonna hit, then getting blasted all over my head, that makes me happy.

If you prefer to submerge, this spa in Victoria has a 42” deep cold pool that’s kept to about 9°C, similar to the nearby Pacific Ocean. It’s the only spot with a clock in this place, so you can time how long you spend in there. The more I do Nordic Circuits the more I actually find it relaxing to chill out in there.

Hanging out in Himalayan Salt room a Ritual Nordic Spa in Victoria BC
Hanging out in Himalayan Salt room

Relax: Lounge Options

Indoor or outdoor? Ritual has both.

We started in the Himalayan salt room, covered in orange-pink blocks boasting anti-inflammatory properties. This room is not hot, it’s just kept warm, with soft music. There are magazines to read but I just closed my eyes and relaxed. I overheard other guests commenting that they could feel their energy change in there.

I feel that this is a good enough spot if it’s cold or raining outside, but I wasn’t inspired to spend too much time there. Orange lounge chairs and ottomans have a camping/cottage vibe and were spaced quite close together, and since it’s bright enough for reading it’s not as dark as I’d like to simply bliss out.

Outside is a nice patio with lounge chairs and plants that’s a great place to dry off and soak up the sun if it’s shining (or use sun-shielding umbrellas, as is your style).

Cedar Suite private sauna in Victoria BC
Cedar Suite photo courtesy Ritual Nordic Spa

The Private Saunas at Ritual

OK, here’s the best thing about Ritual Nordic Spa: you can book your own semi-private sauna space!

Past the general circuit area are two private saunas, with a shared lounge area.

We used the Cedar Sauna Suite.  This is a large wooden sauna that fits up to four people on two tiers.

The space also has its own barrel-style soaking tub with mountain landscape wallpaper to help you imagine yourself outdoors in the wilderness.(Accessibility note: requires climbing some steps.) It’s not crazy cold because it’s not refrigerated, but they had placed ice packs in to keep it chilly.

Cedar Suite private sauna at Ritual

We cycled a few times and it was so good! If you want to do this naked, go for it—nobody can see in. Mostly, I liked being with a friend and being able to talk about whatever we wanted in private.

The Cedar Suite can be booked for 1-2 people, or 3-4 people, for 2 hours.

This back area also has the Birch Suite, a smaller room with an infrared sauna that fits 1-2 people and comes with Bluetooth sound to play your own music, and a shower to use for your cold blasts. This suite can be booked for 1 hour, or in combo with the Nordic Circuit.

Lounging at Ritual Nordic Spa in Victoria
Private sauna bookings have their own semi-private lounge spaces

My new favourite robes?

One thing that Ritual does differently is robes. First off, they are not included in your admission but can be rented.

At first, I was annoyed by this extra change, but they explained it to me:

“Our goal is to reduce our laundry footprint and we noticed that ‘free’ robes tend to get taken but not used sometimes, which creates needless laundry.  And secondly our goal is to keep things affordable so people can sauna weekly (for full benefit!) so we invite folks to bring their own robe, or skip the robe, and not need to have a robe fee ‘baked in’ to the entry fee.”

This makes a lot of sense. Also the space is small so you don’t really need to wear a robe to go from “station-to-station” as it were.

However, I encourage you to rent a robe because they are not your average robes!

We were offered instead cozy white “ronchos”—half-poncho and half robe. Inspired by surf ponchos worn by the West Coast surfers in Tofino, these are quite brilliant. They are large and free-size, you don’t need to worry that when you sit down it’s going to split open and show off your lady parts. You’re not losing your belt on the ground and now it’s all wet. And it’s got a hood and a pouch you can just curl up in.

They do have “regular” robes in two sizes you can request, but if you are able to raise your arms over your head to dress I highly encourage the roncho.

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Final Impressions

Ritual is designed to be a relaxed, communal space. Apart from Tuesday’s Silent Night sessions, quiet conversations are encouraged. We didn’t really talk to anyone else, but we were also alone for half our visit. I could see the Wednesday night for women being much more social.

By nature of its size it did feel a more like a hang out for locals than a destination spa. But I really enjoyed a break from the (faux) influencers who turn so many Nordic spa into a photo shoot location. I didn’t have to worry about being in the background of someone’s video. Marci explained that they deliberately don’t have any excess mirrors, and I agree that you can turn your focus inwards here. For two hours I was able to tune out the negativity, the world.

If you’re looking for a spa in Victoria, I would recommend Ritual and if I was local I’d definitely become a regular member.

My review of Ritual Nordic Spa

Know Before You Go

My last visit was June 2024. Always check their website for latest info and promotions.

Where: Ritual is at 989 Johnson Street in Victoria. It’s about a 5-minute drive or 20-minute walk from the harbour. You can’t miss the large signage directing you pass the gate to their door.

When: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 7:30am to 9pm. Tuesdays 2pm to 9pm. Saturday and Sunday 9:30am to 9pm. Note that Wednesday after 3:30pm is for Women Only. Tuesday evenings are Silent.

What to Bring: Swimsuit mandatory, non-glass water bottle is always a good idea, your own toiletries and possibly your own robe if you’re going to lounge. (Towels are provided here but robes are an add-on.)

How Much: Two-hour Nordic Circuit access is $59 Monday through Friday and $69 on weekends and holidays. Budget tip: One hour circuit passes are available for $40 if you want to get up early (Monday to Friday, check in before 9am) or come late (check in at 7:30pm any night.) You can also add an hour Nordic Circuit to any massage treatment for $40.

Robes are not included but can be rented for $12.

Private sauna rates start at $75 per person for an hour in the Birch Suite infrared sauna or get two hours in the Cedar Suite Traditional Sauna for $279 (1-2 people) or $299 (3-4 people) + %15 mandatory tip.

Locals may also be interested in their membership packages.

Recommended: A Sauna Hat

Want to upgrade your sauna experience? The Finns will tell you to wear a sauna hat. These simple felt hats help regulate the temperature of your head so you can sweat harder, longer. This style has the traditional grey felt and is stylish for all genders.

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