If you are heading to Helsinki, Finland and want to truly immerse yourself in the culture, a trip to a local sauna is a must!
The Finns love their saunas and view them as a part of life. In fact, ‘sauna’ is actually a Finnish word. It is estimated there are around two million saunas in Finland to support a population of 5.3 million people which is about one per household: The president and the prime minister even have official saunas, corporations and some homes have their own as well, but there are many public saunas.
The idea of the Finnish sauna began as a way to bathe during the long cold winters when running hot water was not available, but has now transitioned into a cultural practice to maintain good health, socialize and relax. Most Finnish saunas are heated to 150-195 degrees F and contain a pile of heated rocks for throwing water on to create steam or ‘löyly.’ Once adequately heated, most Finns run outside into a cold lake, roll around in fresh snow or just sit outside to cool down before returning to the sauna. Some even flagellate themselves with birch branches dipped in cold water to really get the circulation going.
Sound fun? We thought so too.
So while in Helsinki last week, my husband, my parents and I decided to check out Kaurila Sauna; a local public sauna located 15 minutes outside of the city center that can be rented for private use. We opted to rent it for two hours for 180 euros. I was concerned my city-boy husband wouldn’t like it, but he revelled in the clean feeling post-sauna and marked it as the highlight of his trip!
The experience overall at this Finnish sauna was rustic, relaxing, and is one I HIGHLY recommend if you find yourself in Helsinki.
The Kaurila Sauna was built in the 18th century and maintains all of its uniquely rustic and traditional charms: wood burning fireplace, traditional wood burning stove sauna, the cleanest outhouse I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve experienced quite a few camping as a child), all while being nestled in lush dense forests.Robes were provided for a 15 euro per person fee. We undressed behind a curtain, donned our robes, and alternated by couple. Typically, groups of men and women alternate, but my dad and husband weren’t interested in being naked in a dark sauna together; that’s a little TOO much bonding.
First, my mom and dad went into the sauna, bathed from a wooden bucket and large ladle using homemade soaps and linen towels made by the spa’s proprietor, Sarrra, and enjoyed a good sweat for twenty minutes. They came out to cool down and then the hubs and I went in for our turn.
Two wooden brushes were provided – one with semi soft bristles and one with hard stiff bristles. As the hubs and I sat sweating in the steaming sauna, we took turns brushing each other to remove dead skin and promote circulation, as well as play fight hitting each other with the brushes.
The hard bristle brush felt so good! The slight discomfort was invigorating!
Sarrah even made us a huge loaf of steaming hot homemade bread served with fresh local butter and apples. The bread tasted slightly sour with a crisp crust and perfectly chewy center. I’ll be dreaming about that bread and butter combo for years to come.
And she even had an assortment of homemade green beauty products! Of course, mom applied ‘deocream’ aka deodorant cream all over her face and body thinking it was regular cream. #facepalm #eyeroll But that’s why we keep her around; she’s always making us laugh with her antics!
Everyone left refreshed, relaxed and ready to head back to the cruise ship with renewed skin.
Written & Photographed by Amy Chang