Sauna stove
Sauna stove

(Image: Helsinki Marketing)

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A Land of One Million Saunas

By , , updated on

A Finnish Cultural Institution

Experiencing a Finnish sauna is the best (and hottest!) way to start your adventure in Finland.

The only Finnish word to have entered the English vocabulary, sauna is an important part of Finnish culture, tradition and everyday life. The age-old tradition still has an important role in the lives of most Finns, who bathe there once a week or even more often.

There are approximately one million saunas in Finland – one for every 5 inhabitants – and you can really see it: there is one in every fitness centre, hotel and public swimming pool.

There are even bars and restaurants with saunas. A popular, but sadly untrue, saying goes that there are more saunas than cars in Finland!

There is now even an event called Helsinki Sauna Day that opens the doors to the city’s saunas for everyone willing to visit them. 

Traditionally sauna has been a place for silence, and Finns are experts in the field.

We have a high tolerance for silence – you probably witness this when using public transportation or at any similar public gathering place.

Finns do not generally have a great need for small talk. Do not be put out by this, because nearly everybody speaks good English and the overall willingness to help tourists is great.

finnish sauna
(Image: Visit Finland)

How to Sauna

A Finnish sauna is a heated room where people gather on wooden benches to enjoy the warmth of 70 to 150 degrees Celsius. Traditionally, this is done completely in the buff, but if you’re bashful it’s ok for you to wear a bath suit or towel.

In one corner of the room, there is a stove that generates the heat. Cold water is thrown for steam on the hot stones of the stove. An important part of Finnish culture for thousands of years, sauna keeps finding new ways of keeping itself alive in spite of urbanisation.

It is not only a place to wash yourself or to relax, it is also a meeting place for friends, colleagues or political decision-makers.

There is now even a sauna society in the Finnish embassy in Washington D.C., introducing high-temperature lobbying to the powers behind the scenes of Washington.

In winter, the sauna experience is heightened by a roll in the snow or a dip in a hole in the ice. Ice swimming is popular in Finland, and there is also an ice swimming society, and ice-swimming holes are maintained by other organisations, as well, even in the Helsinki area.

Cold-water swimming is rapidly growing in popularity due to the increased awareness of its health benefits. Try the Allas Sea Pool or Löyly for sauna and a cold dip in stylish surroundings, or the centrally located Kulttuurisauna. This minimalistic and modern sauna provides a zen-like experience.

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