Would you like to end a hard day by relaxing in the sauna, but are you also tempted to visit an opera performance? There is one beautiful place in Prague where you can enjoy both at the same time.

The historic building of the National Theater underwent extensive reconstruction at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s. However, it was not only reconstruction but also the construction of three buildings, which today – together with the historic building – form the perimeter of the area that was originally called the Piazzetta, today it is Václav Havel Square.

All the new buildings are built in the Brutalist style and are thus the architectural opposite of the historic building of the National Theater. The dominant building is the New Stage building – it is the most architecturally distinctive, and it is also part of Národní třída, one of the most important streets in the whole of Prague.

The New Stage building was initially perceived as very controversial, however, after 40 years of its existence, it is safe to say that we are used to it. The Brutalist building, with a facade of 4,306 glass blocks to guarantee sound insulation, was met with displeasure from the start. The operation of this other stage of the National Theater began on November 20, 1983, with the premiere of the production The Strakonice Bagpiper by Josef Kajetán Tyl, a significant Czech playwright and actor of the early 19th century (also known for being the author of the text of the Czech national anthem). The production was not very good and the poor acoustics of the theater hall also proved to be very problematic.

Today, the New Stage building is perceived much more favorably – when you enter it, you have to appreciate its charm. And that includes architectural elements made of green Cuban marble. More precisely, it is not marble, but serpentinite. It was an extremely expensive building material – Cuba supplied it at the time as part of the payment of the debt to the then-communist Czechoslovakia (photos).

If you look from the New Stage across the Piazzetta, you will see another Brutalist building – the service building of the National Theater. Visitors do not have access to this building, there are offices and other service spaces of the National Theater.

With one exception. On the top floor of the building is a sauna, which was built just for the use of the National Theater dancers and actors 40 years ago. However, a few years ago, three friends – actor Stanislav Majer, Miroslav Sládek, and Lukáš Otevřel – rented the sauna.

They first renovated the entire space, with respect to Brutalist architecture. The sauna itself is new, the interesting thing about it is that it has a ceiling in the shape of the Czech flag. The sauna is operated as a club. Club membership costs 3,000 crowns, which includes 10 sauna visits. If you want to try the sauna first, you can arrange a one-time visit. The sauna is open every day, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., with the exception of theater holidays. (It is a Czech theater tradition that theaters do not perform in July and August. However, most theaters no longer follow this tradition. They don’t perform in their classic buildings in the summer, but on summer stages, often in exclusive locations. In Prague, for example, in Nový Svět or Vyšehrad.)

And the opera? In the relaxation room, there are speakers that transmit the sound of theater performances taking place on the stage of the historic building of the National Theater. So, if you sweat in the sauna, jump into the ice pool and lie down on a lounger chair until 7 pm, you can relax and listen to a theater performance at the same time.