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Helsinki’s Temperature is Rising

It’s pretty much impossible to visit Finland without experiencing the joys of the sauna, as just about everyone in the country has access to a private sauna either at home or at their summer cottage. The Finnish love of sauna echoes the cultural tradition of ‘omissa oloissaan’, which is quiet time, to be spent alone with one’s thoughts.

Historically, it was common to meet at the public sauna once a week for bathing and to socialise, but the tradition began to fade as more and more people could afford their own. However, despite the Finnish population (of just over five million people), owning 3.3 million private saunas between them, Helsinki is experiencing a renaissance in the form of urban sauna culture. There is renewed fervour for the public sauna, with user numbers steadily rising and new, landmark, facilities being opened.

The beautiful art-deco Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall is home to the Finnish capital’s oldest and most popular sauna. Men and women go on separate days, and for just a few euros have their own cabin with a bathrobe and towel, and access to the pool and steam saunas. True hedonists can order a glass of mead to be delivered to one of the cabins that overlook the pool, and peer down at the swimmers below. Swimming costumes are optional, so it’s not for the body-self-conscious!

The real deal can be found at the Kotiharjun Sauna, where temperatures rise high in this wood-burning sauna built in 1928, and visitors have been known to smuggle in a bottle of vodka to get the conversation going. Hardy ‘washing ladies’ are on hand to scrub the bejeezus out of you, should you so wish, and Kotiharjun even offers a private suite for up to 17 people, where business and political discussion frequently take place, and have been known to get a little heated…

More contemporary options include the Kultturisauna, (Culture Sauna), which was designed and built in honour of Helsinki’s 2002 stint as European capital of culture. The stylish white building sits on the Merihaka waterfront, where you can take a dip in the water throughout the seasons. The future looks bright for Helsinki’s communal sauna too, with the South Harbour having just received the go ahead for another pool and sauna facility, and the eco-friendly seaside Löyly Sauna ‘urban oasis’, designed by Avanto Architects, recently opening on the island of Hernesaari.

Find out more about the new Löyly sauna here...

Löyly Sauna images: Johannes Romppanen & Risto Törrö of Duotone
Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall image: Norwegian.com
Kultturisauna image: Jane Withers