Lonely Planet Writer

Helsinki’s saunas will be free for one day in March

Finland is famous for its sauna culture, and locals frequently attend one of the country’s almost two million saunas to unwind and feel rejuvenated. Visitors to Helsinki can join in the experience next March 10, as the capital city is celebrating “Sauna Day.”

Sauna-goers dip in the Baltic sea at the Loyly sauna in Helsinki. Image: Sam Kingsley/AFP/Getty Images

On the day, people are invited to visit one of the city’s eight arctic saunas for free, and locals are invited to join in the fun by opening up the saunas in their home, apartment building or company to visitors. This event is being organised by Helsinki Urban Art together with Visit Helsinki and Löyly, who say that going to the sauna is a Finnish way of life and an activity that attracts thousands of tourists to Finland every year.

The sauna has traditionally been a social gathering place among Finns, and inviting someone to your sauna is a mark of respect. It is claimed that many pivotal decisions in Finnish political and business life have been made in the sauna. Finns prefer to take saunas completely naked, but women and men usually take saunas separately, except for families. Saunas that are open to the public usually have separate times for women and men, and if you’re in a mixed sauna together with strangers, you may be asked to wear a swimsuit or towel, or you may choose to do so simply for the sake of propriety.

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Previous “Sauna Days” have attracted large numbers of locals and visitors who were keen to try out different saunas. “Helsinki Sauna Day has attracted a lot of attention outside Finland, so we expect many sauna fans to visit Helsinki especially for this event,” says organiser Jaakko Blomberg. “Sauna marathons are also popular during Helsinki Sauna Day, when you can hop from one sauna to the next from morning ’til night.”

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As well as the sauna experience itself, there are many social events organised around the Sauna Day. Quirky sauna experiences include embarking on a sauna bus that comes fully equipped with a karaoke machine or hopping aboard a moving gondola sauna.

For further information on Helsinki Sauna Day, see here.