Swedish Sauna “Bastu” Culture & Etiquette: A Visitor’s Guide

Swedish Sauna Culture & Etiquette

If you’re planning a trip to Sweden, you’ll likely hear about the country’s love for saunas. Saunas have been a part of Swedish culture for centuries and are deeply ingrained in the daily lives of many Swedes. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, it’s important to understand the culture and etiquette of Swedish sauna, a.k.a Bastu.

The tradition of sauna bathing dates back to the Viking Age, and today, saunas are an important part of Swedish culture. There are many different types of saunas in Sweden, from traditional wood-fired saunas to modern electric saunas. No matter what type of sauna you visit, it’s important to follow proper sauna etiquette and practices.

History of Swedish Sauna Culture

If you’re interested in Swedish culture, you can’t miss the sauna tradition. Saunas have been a part of Swedish culture for centuries, and they continue to be an important part of the Swedish lifestyle. In this section, we’ll take a look at the long history and evolution of Swedish sauna culture, the traditional Swedish sauna, and the influence of Finnish sauna culture.

Long History and Evolution

The history of Swedish sauna culture dates back to the Viking Age, where people used hot stones for purification and relaxation. Over the centuries, the sauna continued to develop and became an important part of the Swedish lifestyle. The first saunas were hollows in the slopes of mountains, and they were used for bathing and relaxation.

Traditional Swedish Sauna

The traditional Swedish sauna is a wooden room heated by a stove, which is usually fueled by wood or electricity. The sauna is typically heated to a temperature of 70-100°C (158-212°F), and the humidity is low. The sauna experience is typically done in cycles, where you spend a few minutes in the sauna, followed by a cool shower or a dip in a nearby lake or pool. This cycle is repeated a few times, and it is believed to be good for your health and well-being.

Influence of Finnish Sauna Culture

The Finnish sauna culture has had a significant influence on the Swedish sauna culture. Till the 1800s, the Swedish sauna culture was very similar to the Finnish one. Then something changed; it became immoral, and being sweaty was considered dirty.

In the end of the 1900s, saunas became more popular again. This was because Sweden wanted to improve the overall hygiene of the country. Today, the Swedish sauna culture is a mix of traditional Swedish and Finnish sauna culture.

Types of Saunas in Sweden

When it comes to saunas, Sweden has a lot to offer. Here are some of the most popular types of saunas you can find in Sweden.

Wood-Fired Sauna

Wood-fired saunas are the most traditional type of sauna in Sweden. They are heated by burning wood in a stove, which then heats up the rocks in the sauna. This type of sauna provides a dry heat and a relaxing atmosphere.

Smoke Sauna

Smoke saunas are similar to wood-fired saunas, but they use a different type of stove. Instead of burning wood directly, the stove is heated until it produces smoke. The smoke then fills the sauna and heats up the rocks. This type of sauna provides a unique aroma and a milder heat compared to wood-fired saunas.

Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas are a modern type of sauna that use infrared heaters to heat the body directly. This type of sauna provides a gentle heat that penetrates deeper into the body, making it a popular choice for people with muscle and joint pain.

Electric Saunas

Electric saunas are similar to wood-fired saunas, but they use an electric heater instead of a stove. This type of sauna provides a consistent heat and is easy to use.

No matter which type of sauna you choose, it’s important to follow proper sauna etiquette. Make sure to shower before entering the sauna, stay hydrated, and bring a towel to sit on. Enjoy your sauna experience in Sweden!

Sauna Etiquette and Practices

When it comes to Swedish sauna culture, there are some specific etiquette and practices that you should be aware of to ensure you have an enjoyable experience. Here are some general rules to keep in mind:

Before Entering the Sauna

  • Always bring a towel with you to sit on and to dry off with after your sauna session.
  • It is important to shower before entering the sauna to ensure you are clean and do not bring any dirt or sweat into the sauna.
  • It is also important to stay hydrated before and during your sauna session to avoid dehydration.

During the Sauna Session

  • When entering the sauna, it is customary to sit on the middle or lower bench. The higher bench is reserved for those who have been using the sauna for a longer time and can handle the higher temperatures.
  • It is important to keep your eyes up and avoid staring at other people in the sauna. Public nudity is common in Swedish saunas, so it is important to be respectful of others’ privacy.
  • However, unlike Finns, Swedes usually wear swimsuits in the sauna.
  • If you are feeling too hot or uncomfortable, it is okay to leave the sauna and take a break. You can cool off by taking a cold bath or shower, or even an ice bath if available.

After the Sauna Session

  • After your sauna session, it is important to cool off slowly to avoid feeling lightheaded or dizzy. You can do this by taking a cold bath or shower, or even just sitting outside in the fresh air.
  • If birch twigs are available, you can use them to lightly beat your skin to improve circulation and exfoliate your skin.
  • Remember to stay hydrated after your sauna session to replenish the fluids lost through sweating.

By following these general rules and practices, you can fully enjoy the Swedish sauna culture and etiquette.

Sauna Vihta
Birch twigs are used in Sweden, although you see them mostly in Finnish saunas

Public Sauna Locations

If you’re interested in experiencing Swedish sauna culture, there are plenty of public sauna locations to choose from. Here are a few options to consider:

Ribersborgs Kallbadhus

Located in Malmö, Ribersborgs Kallbadhus is a popular public sauna and bathhouse. The facility offers both traditional saunas and steam rooms, as well as a cold-water plunge pool for those who dare to take the plunge. You can also enjoy a massage or a meal in the on-site restaurant.

Centralbadet in Stockholm

Centralbadet is located in the heart of Stockholm and offers a luxurious spa experience. The facility features a variety of saunas, including a traditional Finnish sauna and an aromatic steam room. You can also enjoy a range of spa treatments, including massages and facials.

More Nordic Spa Resorts

If you’re looking for a more immersive sauna experience, consider checking out one of Sweden’s many Nordic spa resorts. These resorts typically offer a range of saunas, as well as hot tubs, cold plunge pools, and other spa amenities. Some even offer accommodations, so you can make a weekend out of your sauna experience.

Read: Best Saunas & Spas In Sweden from East Coast to West Coast
Nordic Spa Resorts are popular among tourists
Nordic Spa Resorts are popular among tourists

Unique Sauna Experiences

Saunas are an integral part of Swedish culture, and there are many unique sauna experiences that you can have in Sweden. Here are some of the most popular:

Saunas with Northern Lights Views

Imagine sitting in a sauna, surrounded by snow-covered trees, while the Northern Lights dance across the sky above you. It’s an experience that you’ll never forget, and one that you can have in Sweden. Many saunas in Sweden are located in remote areas, away from light pollution, making them the perfect place to watch the Northern Lights.

Lakeside Saunas and Ice Holes

In the summertime, lakeside saunas are a popular destination for Swedes. After a relaxing sauna session, they cool off by jumping into the lake. But in the wintertime, when the lake is frozen, they cut a hole in the ice and jump in anyway! It’s a refreshing and invigorating experience, and one that you should try if you get the chance.

Mountain Ski Resort Saunas

If you’re a fan of skiing or snowboarding, then you’ll love the saunas at mountain ski resorts in Sweden. After a day on the slopes, you can relax in a sauna and enjoy the beautiful views of the snow-covered mountains. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a day of physical activity.

No matter which unique sauna experience you choose, you’re sure to have a memorable and enjoyable time. So, pack your towel and head to Sweden for an unforgettable sauna adventure!

Sauna Culture in Daily Life

When it comes to Swedish culture, saunas are a big part of daily life. Whether it’s in your own home or in an apartment building, saunas are a way to relax and unwind after a long day. They are also a great way to socialize with friends and family.

Saunas in Swedish Homes

Many Swedish homes have their own sauna, which is often located in the basement, bathroom, or a separate building on the property. It’s common for families to use the sauna together, and it’s a great way to bond and spend quality time together.

Sauna Use in Apartment Buildings

If you live in an apartment building in Sweden, there’s a good chance that there is a communal sauna available for residents to use. These saunas are often located in the basement or on the top floor of the building. They can be reserved for private use or used on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sauna Gatherings and Social Events

Saunas are also a popular gathering spot for social events in Sweden. Whether it’s a birthday party, a family gathering, or a work event, saunas are a great way to bring people together. It’s common for young people to have sauna parties with friends, and it’s a great way to socialize and relax at the same time.

Overall, saunas are an important part of Swedish culture and daily life. They are a great way to relax and unwind, socialize with friends and family, and bond with loved ones. Whether you have your own sauna or use a communal one, it’s a tradition that is deeply ingrained in Swedish culture.

Practical Tips for Visitors

Visiting a Swedish sauna can be an enjoyable experience, but it’s important to know the cultural norms and etiquette before you go. Here are some practical tips to help you make the most of your visit.

What to Bring

When visiting a Swedish sauna, it’s important to bring a few essential items. First and foremost, you’ll need a towel to sit on and another to dry off with after your sauna session. It’s also a good idea to bring a bathing suit, as some saunas may require them. Additionally, you may want to bring a water bottle to stay hydrated during your session.

Understanding Mixed-Sex Saunas

In Sweden, it’s common for saunas to be mixed-sex, meaning both men and women use the same sauna. If you’re not comfortable with this, look for saunas that are gender-segregated. However, if you do decide to visit a mixed-sex sauna, it’s important to be respectful of others and keep your eyes up.

Entrance Fees and Reservations

Most saunas in Sweden require an entrance fee, which can vary depending on the location and time of day. It’s a good idea to check the sauna’s website or call ahead to find out the fee and if reservations are required. Some saunas may also offer discounts for students or groups.

When you arrive, you’ll typically be given a locker to store your belongings. It’s important to keep your valuables locked up and only bring what you need into the sauna.

Overall, visiting a Swedish sauna can be a great way to relax and experience the local culture. Just remember to be respectful of others and follow the cultural norms and etiquette.

FAQ: Swedish Sauna Culture & Etiquette

Swedish Sauna

What should I wear when visiting a Swedish sauna?

When visiting a Swedish sauna, it’s customary to go naked. However, if you’re not comfortable with nudity, you can wear a swimsuit or a towel. Just keep in mind that wearing clothing may make it harder for your body to regulate its temperature, which can make the sauna experience less enjoyable.

Swedish Sauna

How do you properly behave in a Swedish sauna?

When in a Swedish sauna, it’s important to be respectful of others and maintain a peaceful atmosphere. Keep conversations quiet and avoid using your phone or other electronic devices. If you’re using a public sauna, be sure to clean up after yourself and follow any posted rules or guidelines.

Swedish Sauna

What are the temperature norms for saunas in Sweden?

In Sweden, saunas typically range in temperature from 70 to 100 degrees Celsius (158 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit). However, temperature preferences can vary widely among individuals, so it’s important to listen to your body and adjust accordingly.

Swedish Sauna

Are there any specific health benefits associated with Swedish saunas?

Swedish saunas are known for their many health benefits, including improved circulation, relaxation, and stress relief. They can also help to alleviate symptoms of certain health conditions, such as arthritis and respiratory problems.

Swedish Sauna

What is the difference between a Swedish sauna and a Finnish sauna?

While both Swedish and Finnish saunas involve sitting in a heated room to promote relaxation and detoxification, there are some key differences between the two. Finnish saunas tend to be hotter and drier, with temperatures ranging from 80 to 110 degrees Celsius (176 to 230 degrees Fahrenheit). Swedish saunas, on the other hand, are typically cooler and more humid, with temperatures ranging from 70 to 100 degrees Celsius (158 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit).

Swedish Sauna

Can you recommend some popular sauna spots in Stockholm?

There are many great sauna spots to choose from in Stockholm, including Centralbadet, Yasuragi, and Hellasgården. Each of these saunas offers a unique experience, so be sure to do your research and choose the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

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