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Saunas, also known as bastu, are a key part of Swedish culture. You’ll find them all over the country, whether that’s in a yoga studio or a high-end spa. This practice of sitting in a steaming hot room is prized in Sweden for its relaxing and detoxifying health benefits. If you’re planning on visiting a traditional sauna on your Stockholm cruise, there are a couple of things you should know about beforehand to get the most out of your experience.
In this guide, we’ll be answering your most common questions when it comes to enjoying a Swedish sauna.
In Sweden, saunas are typically taken nude. For British people, this might feel a little unnatural – but in Sweden it is so commonplace that it’s unlikely anyone will bat an eyelid if you disrobe completely. The main reason is that you can be completely comfortable in the sauna without sweat sticking your clothes to your skin. You might find that in mixed gender saunas, or more international saunas at spas and ski resorts, that people wear bikinis or swimming trunks or cover up a little with a towel. If you’re unsure, ask at reception or check the rules in the changing rooms.
Make sure you bring a towel for drying off, but also an extra one to take into the sauna with you in case you feel like covering up. You might also choose to sit on your towel, because the hard wood might feel a little uncomfortable if you’re staying in for a long period of time.
It’s common practice in most Swedish saunas for guests to take a shower before they enter (even if you’ve been swimming). This helps to keep the saunas odour-free and as clean as possible. It’s also recommended that you drink plenty of water before going into the sauna, as due to the amount you sweat, you might find yourself feeling dehydrated.
It really depends on how comfortable you find it to sit in hot temperatures. As hot air rises, the higher up you sit, the hotter you’ll feel. If you’re not hot enough, you can pour extra water over the hot stones to create steam (just make sure to check with the others in the sauna first!). Most people like to sit inside the sauna for 15 minutes at a time, taking some fresh air before returning.
All that hot air opens up and empties the pores, so usually after a sauna Swedish people have a cold shower to close them again. This will also cool you down and wake up the system, as it’s common to feel quite sleepy after being in the sauna. Make sure to drink plenty of water, and to replenish your skin with moisturiser.
Centralbadet – This historic sauna dates back to 1904. You’ll find it in a striking Art Nouveau building right in the centre of Stockholm. It’s one of the city’s largest, covering 3,000 square metres. While here, you can also enjoy pampering spa treatments, a swimming pool and a rooftop terrace.
Njuta Spa – Take a boat for 15 minutes from Slussen metro station to reach the peaceful Njuta Spa, which perches on a cliff overlooking the ocean on Nacka Island. You’ll feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of Sweden’s capital, and can enjoy gorgeous views of the archipelago as you sizzle in the sauna.
The Grand Hotel – Treat yourself at this elegant hotel, which has welcomed royalty and celebrities since 1874. Embrace the true Nordic bathing experience here by heating up in the sauna before jumping into a pool of cold water.
Discover the Swedish way of life by checking out the saunas on your next Stockholm or northern Europe cruise.
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Fancy sweating in a traditional Swedish sauna? Not sure how or where to start? Our guide to Stockholm's saunas is the perfect starting point.
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