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Finnish saunas are a cultural icon that have been used for centuries for relaxation, socializing, and physical and mental health benefits. In fact, saunas are so integral to Finnish culture that there are over 3 million saunas in a country with a population of just over 5 million! 

But what is it about Finnish saunas that make them so popular and beneficial? And how can you properly enjoy a Finnish sauna to get the most out of your experience? 

If you’re ready to sweat it out and learn all about Finnish sauna culture, keep reading to find out more. 

But beware, once you step into the steamy world of Finnish saunas, you may never want to leave!

a modern Finnish sauna

What are Finnish saunas?

Finnish saunas are an important part of Finnish culture, and they have been used for centuries as a way to cleanse the body and relax the mind. They’re not just a place to sweat, but they’re also a place to socialize, relax, and connect with nature. 

Saunas have been a part of Finnish life since ancient times, and they are deeply ingrained in Finnish culture and tradition. They’re also incredibly popular in Finland, and it is estimated that there are over 3 million saunas in Finland, which is more than one sauna per household. 

Visiting saunas isn’t just reserved for special occasions, but they are a part of daily life for many Finns. It’s common for families and friends to gather in the sauna, and it’s often seen as a way to bond with others.

traditional Finnish sauna
Source: Wordshore (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

They also provide numerous benefits for both physical and mental health. In fact, regular use of Finnish saunas can improve circulation, relieve stress and anxiety, promote relaxation, and help with sleep. 

By going to a sauna in Finland, individuals can experience both physical and mental benefits, and it’s a powerful tool for overall health and well-being.

History and cultural significance of Finnish saunas

Finnish saunas hold a significant place in Finnish culture and heritage, and they have been an essential part of daily life in the country for centuries. Historically, saunas were used as a way to purify the body before religious ceremonies, and they were often located near lakes or other bodies of water for cooling off after the sauna. 

Over time, saunas became a widespread tradition and an integral aspect of Finnish social life.

Saunas are not just a place to sweat but also a place to relax and socialize. 

a traditional wooden Finnish sauna
Source: Timo Newton-Syms (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Finnish word “sauna” comes from the ancient Finnish word “savu,” meaning “smoke,” as saunas were often places where people gathered to smoke meat and fish while also enjoying the heat. 

Today, saunas are a key aspect of Finnish cultural identity, and they continue to be a vital part of Finnish daily life.

Beyond their social significance, Finnish saunas have deep cultural and spiritual meaning. Saunas are seen as a place of purity and cleansing, and they are often used before important events, such as weddings or funerals. 

Best saunas to visit in Finland

Ready to sweat it out in Finland? Here are some of the best saunas to add to your bucket list:

  1. Loyly Helsinki: This modern and stylish sauna in Helsinki offers stunning views of the Baltic Sea and a range of saunas, from traditional wood-burning to infrared.
  2. Rajaportti Sauna: Finland’s oldest public sauna, located in Tampere, features a wood-burning sauna, an electric sauna, and a smoke sauna.
  3. Sauna Arla: A family-owned sauna in Kuopio, Sauna Arla offers a traditional wood-burning sauna and a relaxing outdoor terrace with a hot tub and pool.
  4. Kaurilan Sauna: This charming Helsinki sauna is housed in a traditional wooden house and offers a wood-burning sauna, a smoke sauna, and spa treatments.
  5. Yyteri Sauna: A modern sauna complex in Pori with a wood-burning sauna, infrared sauna, and hot tub with a sea view.
  6. Kotiharjun Sauna: This classic Helsinki sauna is known for its traditional wood-burning sauna and welcoming atmosphere.
  7. Rauhalahti Smoke Sauna: Located in Kuopio, this traditional smoke sauna is one of the largest in Finland and features a spacious sauna room and an outdoor terrace.

Whether you’re a sauna aficionado or a first-timer, these Finnish saunas are sure to offer an unforgettable experience. Get ready to sweat it out in style!

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Health benefits of Finnish saunas

If you’re looking for a way to boost your physical and mental health, you might want to check out a Finnish sauna when you’re in the country. 

Saunas have been a part of Finnish culture for centuries, and they offer a range of benefits for both the body and mind. 

Here are some of the key health benefits of Finnish saunas:

  1. Improved circulation: Finnish saunas increase blood flow, which can help deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your body’s tissues and organs.
  2. Pain relief: The heat and humidity of Finnish saunas can help relax muscles and alleviate pain, making them a great option for people with arthritis or muscle pain.
  3. Stress reduction: Finnish saunas are known to reduce stress and anxiety, thanks to their relaxation-inducing qualities.
  4. Better sleep: Using a Finnish sauna can promote deeper and more restful sleep.
  5. Immune system boost: Regular use of a Finnish sauna can help boost your immune system, making you less susceptible to illnesses.
  6. Improved respiratory health: The heat and humidity of a Finnish sauna can help clear congestion and make breathing easier.

In addition to these benefits, Finnish saunas have also been shown to have a positive impact on skin health, mental health, and cardiovascular health.

 Kotiharjun Sauna in Finland
Source: Mariza (CC BY 2.0)

Sauna etiquette and how to properly enjoy a Finnish sauna

Ready to enjoy the Finnish sauna experience? Before you go, make sure you know the proper sauna etiquette to make the most of your time in this communal space. 

Here are some tips to help you enjoy your Finnish sauna experience to the fullest:

  1. Cleanliness is key: Make sure to clean yourself before entering the sauna to avoid spreading germs.
  2. Stay hydrated: Keep a bottle of water with you and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
  3. Dress for comfort: Many Finns choose to sit in the sauna naked, but it’s okay to wear a swimsuit or other appropriate clothing if you prefer.
  4. Mind the temperature: Start with a lower temperature and shorter time, then gradually increase both as you acclimate to the heat.
  5. Take breaks: Give your body a chance to cool down between sessions by taking a dip in a nearby body of water or stepping outside for fresh air.
  6. Respect others: Keep your conversations and behavior appropriate and respectful of others using the sauna.

By following these simple tips, you’ll be ready to enjoy the Finnish sauna experience and soak up all its benefits.

interior of a traditional Finnish sauna
Source: Antonio Caiazzo (CC BY-SA 2.0)

What should I wear in a Finnish sauna?

Going to a Finnish sauna? Here’s what you need to know about what to wear (or not wear):

  1. Nudity is the norm: In Finnish sauna culture, it’s common to be naked in the sauna. Wearing clothing or swimsuits can prevent the body from fully benefiting from the heat and steam.
  2. Towels are a good idea: While nudity is common, it’s also acceptable to cover up with a towel or small cloth. Many people sit on a towel to avoid direct contact with hot surfaces.
  3. Respect others’ preferences: While nudity is common, some people may prefer to wear a towel or swimsuit. Be respectful of others’ comfort levels.
  4. Keep it clean: It’s important to ensure that your body and clothing are clean before entering the sauna to prevent the spread of bacteria and to keep the sauna experience pleasant for all.

Now you know what to wear (or not, as the case may be) in a Finnish sauna. Just remember, when in doubt, go with the Finnish tradition of going au naturel!

inside of a Finnish sauna
Source: Mélanie (CC BY-NC 2.0)

How Finnish saunas are evolving

Saunas are no longer just wooden boxes with hot rocks. In recent years, Finnish saunas have been evolving to meet the changing needs and preferences of modern users. 

Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Sleek designs: Sauna design is becoming increasingly stylish and customizable to fit in with modern architecture and interior design.
  2. Smart technology: Sauna manufacturers are incorporating technology into their designs, such as smart controls that allow users to adjust temperature and humidity from their smartphone.
  3. Sustainability: Finnish saunas are becoming more environmentally-friendly, with manufacturers using eco-friendly materials and designing saunas that use less energy and water.
  4. Wellness: Sauna yoga and meditation sessions are becoming more common as people discover the mental health benefits of sauna use. Infrared saunas are also becoming popular as they offer a gentler heat that’s more comfortable for some users.
  5. Accessibility: Finnish saunas are becoming more accessible to people around the world as the sauna culture expands beyond Finland.

In short, the Finnish sauna experience is evolving with the times. Say goodbye to traditional wooden boxes and hello to modern, customizable designs with eco-friendly features and wellness benefits. 

a modern Finnish sauna
Source: Hotel Arthur (CC BY 2.0)

Different types of Finnish saunas

Finnish saunas are not one-size-fits-all. From the classic smoke sauna to the modern electric sauna, there are many different types of Finnish saunas to choose from. 

Here are the different types you need to know:

  1. Smoke sauna: The original sauna experience, the smoke sauna is heated without a chimney, giving it a distinct aroma.
  2. Wood-burning sauna: Similar to the smoke sauna, but with a chimney to let smoke escape, wood-burning saunas provide a traditional sauna experience.
  3. Electric sauna: Perfect for urban areas, electric saunas are easy to use and offer precise temperature control.
  4. Infrared sauna: Infrared saunas use infrared radiation to produce a deep, penetrating heat that’s less intense than traditional saunas.
  5. Steam sauna: Also known as steam rooms, steam saunas have high humidity and are great for relaxation and respiratory health.
  6. Mobile sauna: Portable and perfect for outdoor events, mobile saunas provide a unique and convenient sauna experience.

From authentic smoke saunas to high-tech electric saunas, there’s a Finnish sauna type for everyone.

a modern Finnish sauna inside of a hotel
Source: Hotel Arthur (CC BY 2.0)

Potential risks of using a Finnish sauna

Before you start sweating it out in the sauna, it’s important to know the potential risks. Here are the risks associated with using a Finnish sauna:

  1. Dehydration: The heat and sweating can cause dehydration if you don’t drink enough water.
  2. Heat exhaustion: Spending too much time in high heat can lead to heat exhaustion, which can cause nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.
  3. Burns: Direct contact with hot surfaces or steam can cause burns or skin irritation.
  4. Cardiovascular issues: People with heart conditions or high blood pressure may be at higher risk of cardiovascular events during sauna use.
  5. Respiratory issues: People with respiratory conditions may have difficulty breathing in the sauna due to the heat and humidity.
  6. Fainting: People who are sensitive to heat or have low blood pressure may be at risk of fainting in the sauna.

Don’t worry, though – these risks are rare and can be minimized by following sauna safety protocols, such as staying hydrated and regulating the temperature and time spent in the sauna. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before using a sauna.

thermometer inside a Finnish sauna


What makes a Finnish sauna different?

Finnish saunas are different from other types of saunas in several ways. One key difference is the use of rocks, which are heated to a high temperature and then sprinkled with water to produce steam. 

Saunas in Finland are also typically heated with wood or electric stoves, and the temperature can reach up to 100°C. 

Another unique feature of Finnish saunas is the practice of “löyly,” which refers to the steam produced by pouring water over the heated rocks. Löyly is seen as an essential part of the Finnish sauna experience, and it is said to produce a unique and invigorating sensation.

Why do Finnish people like saunas so much?

Saunas are an important part of Finnish culture and have been used for centuries as a place for relaxation, socializing, and even birth. They’re seen as a way to connect with nature and to purify both the body and the mind. 

Finnish people take great pride in their sauna culture, and many families have their own private sauna. Saunas are also a popular pastime in Finland, and there are numerous public saunas available for use.

a modern design Finnish sauna
Source: Miika Silfverberg (CC BY-SA 2.0)

What is the difference between Swedish and Finnish saunas?

Swedish saunas, also known as dry saunas, are similar to Finnish saunas in that they use rocks and heat to produce steam. However, Swedish saunas typically have lower humidity levels than Finnish saunas, and the temperature is often lower as well, ranging from 60-80°C. 

In addition, Swedish saunas do not typically use löyly, and they are often heated with electric stoves rather than wood. 

While both types of saunas offer relaxation and health benefits, the Finnish sauna experience is seen as more intense and invigorating, while the Swedish sauna experience is seen as more gentle and soothing.

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What is sauna culture in Finland?

Sauna culture is an integral part of Finnish culture and identity. Saunas are used for relaxation, socializing, and for physical and mental health benefits. Many families in Finland have their own private sauna, and public saunas are also common. 

In Finnish sauna culture, the sauna is seen as a place to connect with nature and to purify both the body and mind. 

And get ready, as sauna sessions often end with a dip in a cold lake or snowdrift to enhance the invigorating and refreshing experience. No pain no gain, right?

What is the healthiest type of sauna?

While all types of saunas offer health benefits, infrared saunas are often considered the healthiest type of sauna. Infrared saunas use infrared heaters to produce a gentler heat that penetrates deeper into the body’s tissues. 

This results in a variety of health benefits, including improved circulation, reduced inflammation, and improved immune function. 

Infrared saunas are also popular among people who find traditional saunas too hot or uncomfortable.

What do Finns often snack on during a sauna?

In Finland, it’s common to snack on light, healthy foods during a sauna session. Some popular snacks include fresh berries, yogurt, nuts, and vegetables. Many Finns also enjoy a light beer or cider while in the sauna. 

The key is to avoid heavy or greasy foods, which can be difficult to digest in the sauna’s high heat. 

It’s important to stay hydrated during a sauna session, so drinking water or other non- or low alcoholic beverages is also recommended.

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Do Finnish families sauna together?

Yes, it is common for Finnish families to sauna together. Saunas are seen as a way to connect with family and friends and are often used as a social gathering place. 

It’s not uncommon for multiple generations to sauna together, with grandparents, parents, and children all taking part in the sauna experience.

a traditional Finnish sauna
Source: Andrey Korchagin (CC BY-SA 2.0)

How much does a Finnish sauna cost?

The cost of a Finnish sauna can vary widely depending on the type of sauna and the level of customization. A basic wood-burning sauna can cost as little as a few thousand euros, while a more luxurious custom-built sauna can cost tens of thousands of euros. 

In addition to the cost of the sauna itself, there are also installation and maintenance costs to consider.

How do Finnish people behave in saunas?

In Finnish sauna culture, it’s customary to be naked in the sauna, although some public saunas may require the use of a towel. It is also common for people to sit on towels or sauna benches to avoid direct contact with the hot wood. 

Talking in the sauna is allowed, but it is generally kept to a quiet and respectful level. 

Finnish sauna culture emphasizes the importance of sauna etiquette, which includes respecting others’ space, not splashing water on others, and not monopolizing the sauna for too long.