Finnish Sauna Culture

Woode-heated sauna
Wood-heated sauna in Saunaravintola Kuuma

Before I came to Finland, I had not ever seen a sauna from the inside. And frankly speaking, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. What could possibly be nice about sitting in a narrow hot room, sweating together with a bunch of people you don’t know? Or worse – that you do know! Well, well, I tried sauna for the first time in Tampere and couldn’t have been more amazed. These days, I’m a regular sauna goer and big fan of Finnish sauna culture. So let me tell you about sauna culture in Finland and Tampere’s best public saunas.

Why sauna? A lot of health benefits are associated with going to sauna. Did you know for example that enjoying the heat of the sauna corresponds to a low or medium-level cardio workout? It’s true: especially the first few times I went to sauna in Tampere, I was fascinated to feel my heart rate accelerating although I was sitting entirely still on the wooden sauna benches. Going to sauna also helps with muscle pain or tension and is perfect after a day of gym or outdoor exercise. 

A short overview of all the health boosts can be found in this article 

Sauna has traditionally been connected to cleanliness and hygiene, too, as it is common to wash one’s body once before and after going to sauna. Considering that, it’s maybe not surprising that going to sauna also provides a form of skin care. Sweating cleanses the pores and removes old skin cells. At least, I’m always happy about how smooth my skin feels after an hour or two at the sauna! 

A typical sauna for residents in an apartment building

Some people prefer the experience all by themselves and in their own private sauna at home. For others, going to sauna is an important moment with family or friends. Whether enjoyed in peaceful silence or spiced with animated conversations, going to the sauna is all about relaxing and letting go of the stress and worries of everyday life. Historically, there has been an even greater emphasis on the spiritual aspects of doing sauna. And did you know: Finnish sauna culture was recognised as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2020! 

This video sums up the meaning of sauna in Finland perfectly. 🙂 

So, how does it work specifically? My friends from home sometimes look at me with big eyes when I tell them that I like to spend two hours doing sauna. Of course, no one literally stays in the sauna for so long at a time – unless you were competing in the World Sauna Championships back in the days. But that’s another story. Usually, people spend a couple of minutes in the hot sauna, raising their body temperature, and then go to cool down just outside the steam room. Whenever I go to sauna in my student building – many private homes and apartment buildings have their own saunas – I like to have a cold shower in between sauna turns. That’s nothing compared to taking a refreshing swim in the water when visiting Tampere’s public lakeside saunas though! 

When water hits the hot rocks, it will create the well-known sauna steam

One more thing which is central in Finnish sauna is the steam which Finns refer to as löyly. Löyly emerges when water is splashed on the heated rocks of the sauna stove. It is mainly the amount of steam in the sauna which decides over how hot it will be. Some people like a sauna of a cosy 60°C, others prefer it a bit hotter, maybe around 90°C.  

If you can’t wait to experience Finnish sauna for yourself in Tampere now, make sure to check out my next blog posts in which I’ll introduce Tampere’s most popular public saunas 


About the writer: Tatjana (or Tati) came back to Tampere after an exchange semester during her Bachelor’s to study the Master’s degree in Leadership for Change – Governance for Sustainable Change. She’s very enthusiastic about sustainable lifestyles, all sorts of animals and Game of Thrones.