The Finnish sauna experience! One soak and I'm hooked....

Helsinki Travel Blog

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Early morning walk past the Cathedral

So, the legendary Finnish sauna experience! I have to admit I had no idea it was such a big thing here, but the reception desk gave me some very interesting facts about the sauna:

  1. The sauna is a Finnish invention
  2. Finland has a population of 5mil people, and 3.5 mil saunas! Yes, several people have saunas at home and do it at least 2-3 times a week
  3. The Finnish idea of a sauna isn't just sitting around in the steam room in your towel for a few minutes, showering and leaving... BUT you do a cycle: you start by sitting starkers in a community room with people of the same gender. And after a few minutes, you immediately take a dip in the seawater or a swimming pool - essentially, "shock"  the body with a sudden change of temperature. And then repeat the cycle a few more times.
    View of Helsinki whilst headed to Soumenlinna Fortress (the orange building is the Finnish sauna I'd be visiting that evening)
    In saunas that are located in the middle of a town (with no water access), people just sit on the curb for a bit before going back in.

All in all, they pretty much sold me the idea of a Finnnish sauna and I couldn't wait to try. Plus, it helps that these public saunas are open till 11pm.


So, back to the day's proceedings: on arrival in Helsinki from Sveaborg, I proceeded to visit 2 museums which I had originally thought I wouldn't visit.


The Museum of Finnish Architecture is housed in the "museum neighbourhood" of Helsinki. It's a beautiful ornate building with the ground floor being a public library. One can buy a combined ticket for this and the Design Museum for 12 Euro.

View of Helsinki whilst headed to Soumenlinna Fortress
 Both museums were average. I liked the Architecture one in that , rather than have us painfully walk through a purgartory of useless displays, this is one essential room with timelines that explain how Helsinki's infrastructure came to be. It was definitely very interesting. And then there's the Design museum. Other than reading about Marimekko's rise, there was nothing here that was on offer.

I went back to the hostel after some window shopping (still trying to find the right Marimekko crockery), rested for a bit and chatted with the new roommates. And then, finally with towel in tow, headed to the sauna. I have to say, it was amazing! it really was everything (and more) that the receptionist described. The sauna was way warmer than most saunas I've been to (not that I've been to a lot!).

View of Helsinki whilst headed to Soumenlinna Fortress
It was heated to 70C. Yes, C. Sat there for about 20 minutes, it was unbearable but also was interesting to see the demographics. You had everyone from father-son (less than 10yo), old men catching up, young blokes catching up....it's almost like a bonding or a frat club in its own way. I didn't dare try the seapool after 1 dip but swam for a bit in the temperature controlled pool (28C). I thought I'd be bored out of my wits after the first cycle was done, but it was so enjoyable I did another one, and another one....next thing I know, I'd spent 2 hours at the sauna! Never in my life have I spent this long!

As I was headed back, I passed through the market and found some fancy Carribbean food which was my dinner. I sat by the park and scarfed it down in seconds. And then returned to the hostel quite late.

View of Helsinki whilst headed to Soumenlinna Fortress
My dessert this time was a blueberry flavoured chocolate bar by one of their local heroes. I went to bed shortly after 11pm that night, another thoroughly enjoyable day. I met some pretty interesting people in this hostel. My new roommate, again an Aussie was a financial advisor who had come to work in EU for a bit. I learnt something new - those that do finance and law Down Under prefer Berlin as a great place for interning. Even Jacob's sister (previous roommate) had spent some time in Berlin.

Overall, I liked Helsinki. It's a really nice chilled out city, very well planned and ideal for one of those "European" holidays without wanting to run from pillar to post ticking off all the major attractions.

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Early morning walk past the Cathed…
Early morning walk past the Cathe…
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View of Helsinki whilst headed to…
View of Helsinki whilst headed to …
View of Helsinki whilst headed to…
View of Helsinki whilst headed to …
View of Helsinki whilst headed to…
View of Helsinki whilst headed to …
View of Helsinki whilst headed to…
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View of Helsinki whilst returning …
View of Helsinki whilst returning…
Museum of Finnish Architecture
Museum of Finnish Architecture
Museum of Design
Museum of Design
Museum of Design
Museum of Design
The Finnish sauna experience - the…
The Finnish sauna experience - th…
The Finnish sauna experience
The Finnish sauna experience
The Finnish sauna experience - sea…
The Finnish sauna experience - se…
The Finnish sauna experience
The Finnish sauna experience
The Finnish sauna experience - the…
The Finnish sauna experience - th…
Dinner that evening was Caribbean …
Dinner that evening was Caribbean…
Black beans  and fried plantain
Black beans and fried plantain
Helsinki
photo by: portia