A Swedish sauna is an authentic experience, a true immersion in Swedish daily life. But it's also a real plunge into Scandinavian culture. It can be confusing if you're not prepared for it. So how is it going? What are the rules and practices to follow? What are the good addresses and the advice to fully live this moment? We make you discover the tradition of the sauna and the Swedish bath.
Opening photo © Maria Vojtovicova / Unsplash
The Swedish sauna is a very old practice, which comes from the first Vikings. This typically Scandinavian tradition is widespread in all the countries of northern Europe. In Swedish, it is called the "Bastu", in reference to "Badstuga", which designates the chalet or the sweat lodge.
Contrary to what one might imagine, this is not an exceptional practice, linked to certain periods or activities. This ritual of health and well-being is truly anchored in the daily life of the Swedes. They go to the sauna very regularly and throughout the year. But the sauna is much more than a body treatment, it is also a place of exchange and intimacy, between friends. We meet there to discuss and share a pleasant moment.
The sauna is an essential experience to make your stay in Stockholm unforgettable. If you can go there in any season, your feeling will be much more intense, if you discover it in winter. Especially since during this period, the days are very short and the sun sometimes sets as early as 3 p.m. Doing a Swedish sauna in winter and at night, what an extraordinary adventure!
Going to the sauna is also a good way to better understand Scandinavian lifestyle and customs. Swedish etiquette rules are not the same as in France. So it is better to know the good uses. First, know that the sauna is practiced naked! The Swedes are uninhibited vis-à-vis nudity and do not have the same notion of modesty. You will quickly notice that you are a tourist, if you arrive with your bathing suit or keep it inside… Secondly, the sauna can be mixed, on certain days or only at certain times. This is a notion that can be disturbing, especially when you consider the first rule of the sauna!
Looking for other authentic things to do while in Stockholm? Read our article on unusual Swedish experiences!
Photo © Denny Muller/Unsplash
Beforehand, remember to find out about the equipment made available, loaned, rented or that you need to bring. This will avoid disappointments. Upon arrival, read the safety and hygiene instructions. It all starts in the locker room...
Once you have left all your clothes in a locker, you are ready to enter the sauna. This is the time to parboil in an overheated room, around 70°. The heat is such that it is best not to stay there for more than 15 minutes. This is the perfect time to soak up Swedish culture. You will see how comfortable they are with nudity and you will eventually relax. Enjoy the moment, it's short!
Photo © Cottonbro / Unsplash
Then it's time to go take an ice bath. If it's winter, here's an opportunity to test your courage to face the freezing cold, and take a dip in a frozen lake! Don't dive, even if you're not sure you can. Thermal shock could be dangerous. You use the ladder at your disposal, you go down without dragging, feet first and there is no doubt that you will come back up quickly!
After a hot shower, you can start again: sauna, bath and so on, until total relaxation. It is a regenerating body treatment that brings deep well-being.
Photo © Eberhard Grossgasteiger / Pexels
In the heart of Stockholm, go to “Tanto Bastun”, near Tantolunden Park, on the island of Sodermalm. The hut is placed on a wooden pontoon, on the Baltic Sea. This Bastu allows you to realize how much Stockholm is a green city, where nature is omnipresent. It is a truly disorienting place.
Read our article on Tantolunden Park and its allotment gardens.
At the exit of the city, the most famous is the Bastu de Hellasgarden. For the Swedes, it is the “campaign” of Stockholm. You will live this truly authentic experience, surrounded by nature, near Lake Kalltorpssjön. During the winter, a hole in the ice is formed in the frozen lake. It is an extraordinary environment that offers you a magical moment.
Photo © Pexels Mariakray / Pexels
Here are some tips to prepare for your trip to Bastu:
We hope we have made you want to try this emblematic activity in Sweden and we wish you a good fight!
Photos © Oleg Prachuk & © Pavel Danilyuk Pexels