The population of Finland is about 5 million and there are approximately 3 million saunas here – an average of one per household! It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the Finns have a passion for sauna (or sow-na, pronounced the Finnish way). In fact, they’re considered a necessity in Finnish culture and – fun fact alert – most Finnish women gave birth in the sauna before public health care was readily available.
A host of sauna experiences can be found in Helsinki, whether you’re looking for something traditional or a modern twist. In fact, if you’re here and renting a room or an apartment, there’s almost definitely one in your building, or even in your flat – go find it!
My favourite sauna experience so far has to be at the newly opened Löyly, loosely translated as wet steam. [NB: they are not sponsoring me; this is just a personal recommendation.]
Löyly is right by the Baltic sea, where my lovely Finnish friends took me to experience an historic savusauna – a smoke sauna. This traditional type of sauna doesn’t have a chimney so the smoke fills the room with a soft, soothing heat and a humidity that avoids the dryness you might have encountered in other saunas.
You can also have a swim here but I recommend getting hot first because this involves a leap of faith into the Baltic. It’s surprising how readily you’ll leap into northern waters after the heat of a Finnish sauna. You can also beat yourself with a branch of silver birch if you’re feeling so inclined – I didn’t quite get to this point but I can definitely recommend jumping into the Baltic. It’s a true Finnish treat! And quite a tame one considering their love of ice-hole swimming.
I hear there’s another traditional sauna experience to indulge in by one of Tampere’s lakes (you guessed it – you jump in the lake) so that will be my next sauna excursion. I’ll let you know how it goes…