Visiting saunas in Finland is one of the best ways to immerse yourself the local culture and way of life. Finns love saunas so much that Finland has more saunas than households. On a recent press trip to Helsinki and Turku I had the opportunity to visit two very different saunas, and I am excited to introduce my readers to this Finnish custom.
In Finland saunas are a huge part of local life. Most Finns go to the sauna several times a week. It is both a social activity and something that is considered to be very healthy. The Finns did seem to have perfect skin… maybe the time spent in the saunas is their beauty secret?
Many Finns have saunas in their homes. One thing that shocked us, is that the locals will use the saunas with their family and extended family and everyone will be nude. A server at a restaurant explained that when his family goes to their lakehouse (most Finns have a relative with a lake house) the first thing that they do it turn on the sauna. When it is ready, everyone will steam in the sauna together naked. The idea of a grown man sitting in a sauna nude with his Aunt and parents is a bit shocking to an American, but it is part of Finnish culture. Spending time in a sauna is a ritual and a way to spend time with friends and family.
In addition to the private saunas, there are many public saunas in Finland. There are two new trendy saunas on the waterfront in Helsinki: Löyly and Allas Sea Pool (pictured above). These are both great places for tourists to visit. Our group spent an afternoon at Löyly, and then when we went to Turku we spent an evening at Herrankukkaro.
Our group all agreed that this was one of the best things that we did in Finland. There is one important thing to know. You need to make an advance reservation at this sauna and in order to make a reservation you need to have a group of at least 10 people. I seriously loved this sauna experience so much that I want to convince 9 people to go to Finland with me.
Visiting Herrankukkaro is one of my favorite all-time travel experiences. Our visit was a true way to experience Finnish culture.
This sauna is a 40 minute drive from Turku. It sits on a small island covered in pine trees, and the sauna overlooks the Baltic sea and surrounding islands. It is a tranquil area perfect for relaxing.
Herrankukkaro has several smoke saunas, and they are famous for having the largest smoke sauna in the world – it can fit over 100 people.
In addition to the saunas there are some outdoor heated baths, and a cold bath. You also have the option of jumping into the Baltic (it was 58 degrees when we were there).
We spent about 90 minutes cycling from the sauna to the cold pool or Baltic and then repeating the process. We ended the experience by drinking beers in one of the warm outdoor pools before changing for dinner.
We had a traditional Finnish feast at Herrankukkaro. It included fish, vegetables, stewed meat, potatoes, and Finnish cheese. It was the most traditional meal that we had during our trip to Finland, and since it was served buffet style we got to try whatever we wanted.
This is a great sauna for tourists to visit in Helsinki. It is very popular with the locals, but it is also an ideal place to visitors to have a sauna experience. I first went last winter with Charles and we chose Löyly because it is co-ed so Charles and I could experience the sauna together.
Löyly is right on the Baltic Sea, and that is where you go to cool down. Charles and I were daring enough to go in the water in January when the water was only about 38 degrees.
This time the water was 58 degrees – much warmer, but still very cold.
If you don’t want to go outside and take a dip in the Baltic, you can take a cold shower or dunk a bucket of very cold water over your body.
Löyly has a large terrace with lounge chairs and the rooftop has lounge chairs too. You are welcome to hang out in this area even if you aren’t going to the sauna.
When Charles and I visited Löyly in the winter, the place to hang out – other than inside the saunas – was around this fireplace. Everyone was drinking beers and chatting, and it was a nice way to interact with the locals. In the warmer months you can find everyone hanging out on the outdoor terraces.
Löyly does that reservations and they do have saunas that can be reserved for groups. Plus, Löyly has a bar and restaurant. The restaurant is exceptionally great. Our group had lunch at Löyly, and it was one of the best meals that I have had this year. This is the place to order fish, it was absolutely incredible.
Finnair’s signature cocktail, a gin and tonic with rosemary and cranberries is also available at Löyly. It’s delicious and it’s great to know that you can enjoy the cocktail on land in addition to in flight.
Here are some things to know:
Some saunas are co-ed while others are separated by male and female. Usually you can find this information online, but you can always call and ask.
You will wear a bathing suit at the coed saunas.
First you will go into a changing room. Next you will shower, and then you will enter the sauna. You will be given a small towel to sit on in the sauna. When you get too hot you want to take a dip in a cold pool – or the Baltic Sea. Once you have cooled off, you can repeat the sauna/cold bath cycle.
There are both steam saunas and smoke saunas. This refers to how the saunas are heated. The smoke saunas have a slight smokey smell. Some saunas only have one or the other. Herrankukkaro has smoke saunas, but Löyly has both steam and smoke saunas.
The public saunas we visited also served food and drinks and had areas to hang out. You can definitely make a half day out of visiting the saunas – and I highly recommend that you do.
This trip was hosted by Finnair and Visit Turku, the opinions expressed are my own.