Rio’s Naturist Club – What’s It Really Like? By Suzanne Portnoy

For longer than she cared to remember, the author was a regular at north London’s most notorious sauna

The first visit was an impromptu birthday present to my then boyfriend. But if you go there often enough, you get to know most of the customers and it’s an extremely inexpensive sauna, steam (and whatever else) if you’re a woman. In fact, I would describe Rio’s as a naked community centre.

There used to be a large contingent of African women who would come in with a suitcase full of lotions and potions and scrub themselves all day long (not naked). Most of the men are naked, the women not always.

The really salacious stories I wrote appear in my book The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker (republished in April by Random House). So yes, I was a regular there, and for a while went for a steam and sex at lunchtimes (Wednesdays, usually) but then I moved to Friday night (party time). A few summers back, I preferred to spend the weekend in their ‘garden’ where one could sunbathe naked.

Rios Kentish Town 2


I paid nothing for a while, then £5, then £8; I’m sure it’s more now. Saturday nights are ‘couples only’ where a couple can enjoy all the spa facilities and have sex with other people in one of the ‘resting rooms’. I went there a few times with the boyfriend I had at the time and that was one of the reasons I got into the swinging scene. We had some very good nights…

My current boyfriend went a couple of times before we met, and got hit on by some guys so I guess there’s a bit of a gay thing going on too but I never noticed that too much. Safe to say that if you’re a half decent looking woman or even not half decent looking, it’s easy to get laid. That can put off single women going and I did get a few stalkers in my time but mainly it’s a fairly relaxed, casual place.

I haven’t been for over two years now so it may well have changed. But seeing as I went fairly frequently for almost ten years, I very much doubt it! In Kentish Town, it’s an institution. You can bring your own alcohol and they’ll even get an Indian takeaway for you if you ask nicely. The Jamaican guys sometimes brought in jerk chicken; that was nice. And they serve free water, squash and biscuits.

You can even order tuna sandwiches and hot toasties at the bar. As that ex of mine used to say: “So you can have a toastie between mouthfuls…”

A Jewish New Yorker, now settled in London, Suzanne Portnoy has been a publicist for twenty years. Her UK bestseller, The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker: An Erotic Memoir (Random House), came out in 2006. It’s republished in April.

Read an extract from Suzanne’s saucy tale about Rio’s here (Over 18’s only!)


  • Show Comments

  • Gavin

    Been waiting my whole KT life for this review. H-o-l-y shit. You didn’t disappoint.

  • mark

    Crikey I never realised there were people swinging in there!

  • Louise

    Exactly what Gavin said – I pass this place every single day, and have developed somewhat of a morbid curiosity… thanks for indulging me! It sounds as extreme as I’d let me imagination convince me it was.

  • TJ

    I think it used to be and old fashioned ‘rub ‘n tug’ massage place but this was stopped, fairly well known that it’s a place to hang around for sex with others in sauna and spa, never been there myself *he hastens to add*

  • JH

    I used to work with someone years ago who went here. I always got the impression that it was purely a naturist club. I had to re-read the line when the writer said she went “for a steam and sex at lunchtimes”! Had no idea about the swinging. I thought rumours of anything else were just overactive imaginations – people often (mistakenly) link naturisim with sex.
    Interesting piece!

    • steve

      is it worth going lm think of giuing it on monday when it opens i havent got a clue what to do this be my first time

  • Martin

    But do they do cheese sandwiches..?

    • Kentishtowner

      You need to read the extract to find out!

      • Martin

        My God – they do! I’d better get down there!

  • Ian

    Looking forward to the Omega Sauna article next Monday.

  • Mark Williams

    I was told of a Kentish Town myth/legend that once a jacuzzi in Rio’s flooded so badly that it damaged the Northern Line running below. This meant that train delays were caused by too many naked people crowding into a jacuzzi.

    • Kentishtowner

      Indeed, we have heard that tale too, Mark – it’s something we are currently researching for a future feature. If anyone else has more on this, do let us know…

  • Suzanne Portnoy

    I was always partial to the tuna/sweetcorn on wholewheat bread.

  • Lucy

    I worked there for three years while deciding what to do after my BA. It was eye-opening to say the least, especially the night shifts, and I met many interesting people and saw things that are permanently etched on my brain (for better or worse). Everyone should experience it once, even if it’s just an innocent visit to the garden in summer or to steam out a hangover on your way home from the pub. I went back last month and had forgotten how relaxing a naked sauna can be. I’m not sure about the myth – the overspill is pretty generous on all the jacuzzis.

    Martin, there are indeed cheese sandwiches, we served them topless (the girls, not the sandwiches). Surely that improves the sandwich experience?

    • Martin

      Wow – a cheese-and-nipple sandwich!

  • billy

    sounds as seedy as i thought.

    a pal of mine bumped into a senior tory politician in there, not long after he had been hit with a sex scandal…

  • Janik

    This place is run and visited by perverts and whores. Simple.

    Close the place down.

    • asda

      No don;t close the place down. while i agree with you that there are perverts, the jacuzzi, small pool and saunas are pretty good. I quite like that men and women can shower together too.

  • Vertaler

    well, some relaxed readers – and some typically british prudes!
    par for the course i would say

  • sarcasticranter (@sarcasticranter)

    I like going there because there is a lady by the name of Natalia. When you book a massage, ask to book it with Natalia.

  • Chris

    I visited a few days ago and it really does live up to all the awful/wonderful rumours. I only wanted to relax and have a sauna. You can’t relax for a sauna or steam room or jacuzzi due to the endless prowling of men. The moment a woman goes for a swim, men go to the jacuzzi over looking and start to masturbate. If they’re lucky a woman will get in with them and help them out whilst everyone else looks on (it’s very unsubtle). The private back rooms brought a stream of people knocking on any closed door in the hope of joining the sexual activity inside.

    This is not a naturist spa. Naturist night is a joke. You’re warned that it’s naturist night but no one takes their towel off unless they want to be followed or oggled. I found it laughable that some people were horrified of the idea of being naturist there. It’s a waste of decent facilities. Maybe my biggest mistake was being there in the evening.

    Get rid of all the people and it would be fantastic.

  • Roberto Beruffi

    After reading the article, I need to say that this is not a naturist place. The organisation called “British Naturism” says it this way: “Even the most reluctant first-timers say how they “forgot” they were nude after only a few minutes and stopped noticing that everyone else was too. Also, simple nudity is not sexually stimulating – in naturist places you will find people doing what you see anywhere else, only without clothes.”

    In fact, all you have to do is compare the activity that is described as occurring at other venues that are described as being for naturists and you will notice that it is not the same thing. It is like night and day. Rio is definitely the night – dark, perverted and frankly immoral. Sex is God-given and beautiful, but it is a private matter. I do not call this kind of activity practised by Rio customers as liberating at all. How sad that people buy in to the lie and become enslaved to what it advocates.

  • Sadie

    I went to this place twice and it’s just dull, really. Neither good nor bad but as dull inside as the weather always is outside. As for the naturism, it’s capable of fulfilling the ‘British Naturism’ definition. I didn’t feel inhibited nor did I bother noticing anybody else. But then I wasn’t trying to get ogled or laid and I’m pretty attractive and female. It’s all about what you go in there for. Go in to get laid, you can. Go into to relax, you can. Go in to feel ogled and abused and morally perverted. Well you probably can but really isn’t there somewhere better for someone like you?

    Just sayin’

  • Nadia

    i went to this twice real cool and the women gorgeous

  • Chanelle

    Im going there tues for 1st for my bday with my boyfriend we wanna relax and enjoy each others company but will people still hit on me im a very gd looking girl i look young and im going to be 24 will they ask for id ?

  • Marky2014

    Chanelle: yes, people (well, men) will very probably hit on you, or at least ogle you and follow you. You can ignore them, of course. Anyone gets too close, you can ask them to back off. Unlikely they would ask for ID for a 23 year old unless you look unusually young.

  • Suzanne Portnoy

    The thing is you can always tell men that you’re not interested. It’s as simple as that. Men will leave you alone if you just are straight with them. I had a friend who was groped in the jacuzzi and didn’t know what to do and so he carried on. If she had said ‘stop,’ I have no doubt he would have done. I’ve had a good time there in the past and not been hit on but I was very open from the start that I didn’t want anything more than to relax in the steam room.

  • John

    I’m slightly amused reading so many comments from people that were shocked by the going-ons in this establishment. I’m also annoyed that anyone would also criticise and put down other people’s sexual activities whilst in there because of their own, often religious beliefs.
    Just a few minutes on the web would educate people into what to expect and if they don’t like what they learn just DON’T GO!
    Having said that, I know that many people find the sexual side of this place an attraction and why then should they not be allowed to take part. There is nothing wrong with sex and the dangers are well known and can be minimised.
    If a lady wants to go there because she is horny and wants sex, well why not go there? If a couple want to extend their experiences sexually, what is the matter with that?
    It may come as a huge shock to many prude people, but one of the most prevalent fantasies among happily married men is to watch their loving wives experiencing sex with another guy. No one else has to be shocked or disgusted with this and frankly it’s no business of their’s.
    So lets be more open minded please and simply allow this establishment to be enjoyed by the sort of people that want to go their and if you are shocked or disgusted, please don’t venture into the place, even for the sake of curiosity.

  • steve

    l must say its up to the lady if they say no at the start the men will go and leave them alone as theys no mixed suna they come here theys no harm in some adult fun if thats what you go for no means no yes mean fun

  • Tosh

    I remember a somewhat surreal moment discussing Anglo Saxon poetry with an attractive topless member of staff at the counter.
    Yes it is a nice place to chill out and I hope it stays the same. I get there maybe once a year if I am lucky.

  • Mark

    I’ve been to this place a few times and will definitely go back, it has good facilities, friendly staff and it’s a great place to unwind and relax. The customers are very mixed, there are real naturists, swingers, party people and perverts who follow any woman around like zombies. A few gay men tried hitting on me or touching me in the jacuzzi without my permission, I’m not gay and I was only there to relax and maybe meet some nice people and have a chat, there was sex going on in the private rooms with a gang of men standing outside with their ears on the door, or trying to look through the crack or even banging on the door asking if they can come in and watch. The tv lounge is also a nice place to relax on one of the loungers, you can sleep there if you like. It’s good value for money and I really enjoyed my time there.

    • Andy

      I’m thinking of taking my lady friend there, she is older but very fit will we be bombarded by idiots or can we just go for the relaxation in the sauna

  • Michael

    I went there few times but just to relax, have a jacuzzi bath and sauna, then I had stop because the people there is just crazy. If you are a good looking guy or girl you have to deal with annoying people that waste the entire day to talk bullshit about you. Actually is not a SPA, but is just a place full of old losers and perverts.

  • Nigel

    Love the place. Iam not a pervert or a loser as some idiots have indicated here.The staff here
    are brilliant too. I find it very relaxing, and if I want a little extra activity so be it !!!!
    If you are not into it DONT GO IN.

  • tam

    l went there and it was no one in apart from one man l think it a wasted of money staff didnt what to talk didnt feel welcome at all and l come from glasgow