The winter is here, so it is time to warm up in the most traditional Finnish way: the sauna. We all know an anti-social stereotype surrounds Finnish people; however, it is not an obstacle to getting naked with unknown people and starting in-depth, intimate talks with them. For a local, what I just described sounds like a usual sauna evening. Now, the amount of saunas even around Helsinki is insane, so let me introduce to you a few of them. Here is your guide to saunas, while in Helsinki!
Let me start with a few facts about saunas. Finns make saunas everywhere and from anything. Some Finns have made sauna easy and practical by putting it on wheels so you can bring it with you anywhere. No kidding. Because of this, it is hard to count the exact amount of saunas we have in the country, but you can say for sure that there are more than a million of them! The sauna was not invented in Finland, but I do not know any other nation where it would become such a huge part of a culture. It is usual for even apartment houses to have their own sauna, which the residents use once a week by schedule. Big companies have their own saunas and so does the Parliament house. Besides that, you can find saunas in very peculiar places, for example in a library or the ice hockey arena. And last but not least: the biggest sauna heated by wood is, of course, in Finland.
If I had to pick a place for enjoying a sauna at any moment, I would go with Löyly, which literally translates to "steam" and gives you a good idea of what you can do there. The place itself is quite an attraction: a modern wooden building that will catch your attention. Löyly is situated right on a seashore, which ables the best thing about sauna: jumping into the water right after. And believe me, it is even better experienced in winter! Besides, there is a restaurant inside which serves traditional Finnish food, and in summer, a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea adds good vibes to your coffee time. Löyly is quite pricey for a public sauna but it is worth it.
The next place I want to mention is a 'handmade sauna,' created by people for the people. The best thing about this one is that it works any time and is always free. Sompasauna was made by a bunch of volunteers, so the whole place is a self-service sauna; do not expect lockers for your belongings, working stuff, or even a shower. It is right on the seashore though, so the shower is not really needed. It is a bit further from the city center but, therefore, quite an authentic sauna and a perfect spot for a budget traveler. Sompasauna is a mixed-gender place and its doors are open to anyone.
When a tourist asks me where it is best to try the Finnish sauna, the most obvious choice that comes to mind is Arla. The public sauna Arla has been warming people for almost 100 years. It is a basic sauna with everything that is needed: showers, lockers, and separate saunas for men and women (not to traumatize unexperienced foreign sauna goers). An interesting detail about this one is that there is a photo exhibition inside the building, and the atmosphere in Arla is quite old-school, in a very good way.
To experience a sauna in a less usual way, you can hop on a Skysauna. Yes, it is what it sounds like: a sauna cabin operated by a "SkyWheel" that will take you up to the sky right on the Market Square. The Skysauna is a private sauna, and you can book it and enjoy sightseeing along with drinks. The cabin fits four people, but you can book it for bigger groups and switch with your friends the cabin while others are enjoying a hot tub. It is quite a luxurious place and surely an unforgettable experience.
The world's largest archipelago is indeed in Finland, and many local islands are famous attractions. Why not combine sightseeing with a traditional Finnish sauna? You can totally do that in Lonna. Lonna is an island just 15 minutes away from the Helsinki city center, and it can be reached by ferry. The island is tiny, it holds restaurants and bars and a small sandy beach overlooking the stunning archipelago. Right in this idyllic place, you can find Lonna's public sauna. The local terrace opens up a gorgeous view. I would say this place is best to enjoy nature and have a peaceful time. This island is accessible from May to September. However, you should check the exact dates yearly.
So this was my brief introduction to the public and private saunas in Helsinki. You can choose a sauna considering your budget, the number of people joining you, and the experience you are seeking. For a peaceful close-to-nature approach, visit Lonna's public sauna on the beautiful tiny island far from the crowds. For a modern experience combined with a traditional dinner head to Löyly, my personal favorite. If you are on a budget, find your way to Sompasauna: here you can hit up a sauna by yourself and meet locals. If your budget is not that limited, try the private Skysauna offered by SkyWheel. If you do not know what to choose, just go to Sauna Arla, it has been doing its thing for a long time and is a sure option; it is also a favorite place of many locals!
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