A bit niche? Well, maybe if you don’t live in Finland, but if you do live (or work) in Finland then you will recognise that sauna culture is a central part of everyday life and has undeniably had a lasting positive impact on the wellbeing of almost every Finn. Huge thanks to our client contacts in Finland who helped us compile this unique Top 10 list. Be sure to bookmark in case you’re ever in the area - and don’t forget your towel.
The 10 Best Saunas in Helsinki
Helsinki Saunasaari (or Sauna Island) was the most popular choice from our local experts. Nestled on its own island within a stone’s throw of the city, Saunasaari’s natural atmosphere and warm hospitality make it the perfect place for either a solo trip or business events, with a beautiful view of the Helsinki skyline.
For a very down to earth sauna experience, head to Sompasauna. A ramshackle hut right on the waterfront that is run by volunteers and is entirely self service. Bring your own towel, swim in the sea – and don’t forget your own sausages for the open fire grill. It’s open 24 hours all year round (even when you have to cut through the sea ice for a swim) and free to use, so you’ve really no excuse.
At the other end of the spectrum - and the city - from down to earth Sompasauna, Löyly perches on the waterfront as a masterpiece of sleek wooden architecture for a stylish and upmarket sauna experience. With an excellent restaurant and bar, it’s the ideal place to spend a post-sauna evening sipping cocktails on the terrace and watching the boats go by.
4. Lonna Sauna
Once a base for storing and clearing mines, the small island of Lonna is now a refuge where visitors can leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind them. Reached by a 10 minute ferry journey from Market Square, the island has a restaurant and a public sauna. It’s a stunning location and the wood-burning sauna is right on the water, with spectacular sea and city views.
5. Sauna Hermanni
“Raising steam since the 50s!”, Sauna Hermanni is one of the three remaining public saunas in Helsinki. Located in the basement of an apartment block in the neighbourhood of the same name, the sauna has maintained its 50’s style with retro wood-panelled sauna walls and a locker room decorated with old posters.
6. Sauna Arla
1950s? Pah! Founded in 1929, Sauna Arla in the Kallio district represents authentic urban culture in Helsinki. With an unfussy industrial style, Arla’s relaxed atmosphere brings a modern update to the public sauna experience. Bring your own food and drinks, or they can be bought on site.
7. Kotiharju Sauna
1929? Pah! Founded in in 1928, Kotiharju Sauna is the only public sauna in Helsinki that is heated by wood. With separate saunas for men and women this is a very traditional experience and the locals will be happy to help you understand the etiquette, as well as how to manage the heat and coals. Don’t be shy to cool off on the street outside, still wrapped in your towel, with a beer afterwards.
8. Sauna boat
Join an organised saunacruise, or better still rent a sauna boat and head off through the calm and glittering archipelago to find a spot that suits your mood. There are 180,000 islands and islets to explore at your leisure around Finland, but perhaps not one to attempt in the frozen depths of the Baltic winter.
9. The Skywheel
It’s a sauna in the sky! We suspect that no Finn would ever be caught boarding this crazy cross between the London Eye and a health spa, but it’s apparently a real money spinner for the operator so somebody must be using it. Climb into your heated cabin with a couple of beers and sweat away your troubles while you rotate high above the spectacular views of Helsinki harbour.
10. The sauna at the cottage
Of course every Finn’s absolute favourite sauna is their own. And ideally the one at their lake or seaside cottage where they’ll take every chance to escape from the city, especially during the long, beautiful midsummer evenings. Finland is quite a big country but has a population of only 5.5 million. For that population, there are around 3 million saunas around Finland. Three million! That is remarkable and can only speak of how important the sauna is for the Finns. Now, who’s turn is it to top up the wood?