Coming for a visit to the Sauna Capital of the World? You will surely have questions about saunas. We teamed up with Alex Lembke to answer some of them. Working as a sauna guide and a heater at the oldest public bath in Finland, Alex takes a steam every single day, and knows the sauna ropes.
Why is Tampere the Sauna Capital?
— I don’t know any other place in Finland that has such a rich sauna and winter swimming culture. We’ve got over 50 saunas in Tampere and its surroundings. You can literally go to a new sauna for 50 days in a row and have new experiences.
How hot can a sauna get?
— The temperature doesn’t say so much about how hot the sauna feels. It depends on the construction of the sauna and many other details. You can go to a sauna that is 120°C hot, and it will feel ok. But sometimes it can feel a bit too hot in a sauna that is only 80°C. Normally, saunas are between 80 and 100°C. Don’t you worry about the numbers though—just listen to your body. Stay in the sauna as long as it feels comfortable.
What do you take with you to the sauna in Tampere?
— If you are going to a sauna, there are a few things you might want to bring along:
- Flip flops. Sometimes it gets so hot inside that you simply can’t walk without something on your feet. Flip flops are also good to have in the winter if you decide to dip into an ice hole – the ground can be too cold to step on it barefoot.
- Swimming suit. You might need it in mixed saunas, like Rauhaniemi or Kaupinoja. And in most of the winter swimming places.
- Towel. Rent one if you don’t have your own.
- Sauna hat. A nice thing to have, especially if you are sensitive to heat or the cold during the winter. It can also be a nice souvenir.
- Something to drink. You’ll need at least one liter of water or juice to stay hydrated. You can also have a beer after the sauna.
- Sausages. Many saunas have barbeque grills that are free to use. Just make sure you bring your own sausages. Sometimes it’s also possible to buy sausages at the sauna counter.
How do you do winter swimming properly?
— If you are coming to Tampere in the winter, avanto (hole in the ice) swimming will add to your sauna experience. Swimming in the ice hole is the most rewarding thing you can do. Everyone loves avanto. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t.
Whether it’s your first time or you’ve done it before, it won’t hurt to repeat a few basic rules:
- Never do it alone if you are a newbie. Always have someone by your side.
- Take it easy and slow—no need to rush.
- Don’t drink any alcohol before dipping into the water.
- The more you doubt, the more difficult it will be to get into the water. Just go ahead—easy and slow, never jump into the hole.