Steaming Things Up: Experiencing a Traditional Finnish Sauna (Löyly Sauna in Helsinki)
Sauna is a foundational part of the culture in Finland. Because there’s nothing like naked sweating with a bunch of strangers… (I kid, I love taking sauna and even have one at home!)
So I wanted to make sure it was part of our Finland itinerary, and researched the best saunas in Helsinki. And that’s what brought us to Löyly Sauna on our first night in the city!
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Loyly is a traditional wood-fire sauna perched right on the Baltic Sea (the term löyly refers to the steam rising off the hot stones). This means it offers fantastic views during the day, and provides immediate access to the freezing water for a shocking plunge between sauna sessions.
There are many sauna options in Helsinki, and in fact most hotels will offer one as well. But this one came up regularly in various recommendations from both tourists and locals. The one thing I was sad about was that we couldn’t visit during the day due to our itinerary, so couldn’t truly take advantage of the beautiful views.
(And NO, you don’t have to get naked!!)
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What it was like visiting a Finnish sauna
We landed around 5:00pm in Helsinki and got checked into our hotel (the absolutely lovely Hotel Katajanokka, highly recommend!). Then we quickly changed, grabbed some dinner, and trekked over to Löyly Sauna.
I thought I had booked online ahead of time but somehow they didn’t have a record of it (so make sure you get a confirmation email!). But they were kindly able to fit us into the one last spot available by the two of us sharing a locker.
We headed into the women’s changing rooms to put our swimsuits out and lock up our belongings. You should wear a swimsuit at Loyly (it’s on my Finland packing list!), though many Finnish saunas are nude. If you don’t have a suit, they will rent you one. Changing rooms are separated by gender, but all public areas and saunas are mixed.
Then we quickly rinsed off and headed toward the sauna room. Every public sauna visitor is expected to take a quick shower before entering the sauna, which helps keep the facilities clean as well as opens up your pores.
One thing you’ll notice that I don’t have a ton of pics from the experience in this post, as it would have felt weird taking photos in what is a strange combination of intimate and public. Plus the heat and steam isn’t great for phones. (This pic is not of the showers in the locker rooms, but just the ones out in the main area for rinsing off.)
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Loyly had three sauna rooms open (including the private sauna, since it wasn’t rented out). They have both wood-fired and smoke saunas. I’ll be honest…it was a bit unclear of what the exact etiquette was for whether you should wear flip flops, bring towels in sauna, sit on the sitting clothes, etc.
What I saw was very mixed, so I guess go with what you feel most comfortable with. I didn’t bring my flip flops or towel into the sauna (you only get one towel and it would get wet, rendering it useless for drying off), but did bring the sitting cloth. We spent time in two of the three saunas while we were there, enjoying the heat and steam.
You can bring drinks into the sauna with you, so we opened a tab and enjoyed a Finnish Long Drink while sweating our faces off.
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Then it was time for the most crazy part…traditionally, Finns intersperse shorter sauna sessions with a dip in a lake or the sea, or even rolling in the snow!!
So my cousin and I girded our loins and (briskly) trotted outside toward the churning, freezing Baltic Sea. This photo truly doesn’t do it justice, so hopefully you enjoy the video as well 🙂 We actually did this TWICE during our visit to Löyly.
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In addition to the sauna rooms, Löyly has plenty of open areas and seating for lounging between sauna sessions, including this cute little fireplace area. There’s also a water station set up to make sure you can stay hydrated with all that sweating.
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They also have a restaurant that’s supposed to be great, serving Finnish classics like meatballs and creamy salmon soup as well as cocktails. You should also get a reservation for the restaurant (separately)…we weren’t able to try it out but wish we could have!
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I think we were there about an hour and a half total (your session is technically up to 2 hours). This includes taking a real shower at the end (there are naked showers in the changing rooms) and wrestling myself back into my clothes while still damp and sweaty. We were super tired from travel so didn’t linger for another drink.
This was such a cool experience, and I definitely agree that Löyly should be on the short list for best sauna in Helsinki!
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What you need to know about visiting Loyly Sauna Helsinki:
- Make sure you book ahead, it usually fills up and walk-in availability is rare. You can book on their website…and make sure you get a confirmation email!
- You’ll want to bring a swimsuit for this sauna (or I believe you can rent one if needed). You can bring flip flops as well if you’d like.
- You’ll be provided a towel and sitting cloth, as well as a key to a locker where you can store your clothes and stuff. Most people also took off their coats and boots and left those in the entrance hall.
- Pro tip: Make sure to bring face and body moisturizers for after you shower (after sauna)…the dry climate makes them a must! Here are my faves for travel.
- This post has some great background and tips on Finnish sauna etiquette, if you’re interested in learning more.
- You can purchase drinks to bring into the sauna, but cannot bring your own beverages.
- I definitely recommend braving the plunge into the (literally) freezing Baltic Sea…it’s a cool experience! Occasionally due to weather conditions the sea access is closed for safety.
- Their restaurant is supposed to be great, so check it out! And make sure you get a reservation for that as well if you’re hoping to try it.
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