It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Finns are a fit bunch. With all the lush surrounding forests and the bracing waters of the Baltic on their doorstep, why wouldn’t they be? Naturally, saunas are right up there on the list of active pastimes in Helsinki.
If you fantasise about turning a few laps in the sightline of a presidential palace or in the shadow of a cruise ship, then head to Allas Sea Pool. This contemporary outdoor construction floats in the harbour directly in front of Kauppatori. Visitors can choose between three pools: sea water (using filtered water pumped in from beyond the harbour); children’s; and a main lap pool, which is heated year-round. Even when air temperatures plunge below zero and the sea is caked in ice you’ll find Helsinkians plying up and down in the steam. The daily entrance fee includes access to the sauna and other facilities.2A Katajanokanlaituri, 00160
+358 (0)40 565 6582
Most saunas in Helsinki used to be traditional and insistent on nudity, which has its cultural charm but can be slightly intimidating for a first-time visitor. Löyly changed all that. Swimming costumes here are a must and the atmosphere is far more relaxed. The exquisite pine structure by Avanto Architects is part sauna and part terrace party. After a spell in the heat, pop out onto the terrace for a drink, a bite at the café and possibly a dip in the sea – yes, even in winter. On summer evenings, locals relax on the stepped roof with a drink in hand and Löyly effectively becomes the, ahem, hottest bar in town. Be sure to book in advance.4 Hernesaarenranta, 00150
+358 (0)9 6128 6550
Helsinki’s waters might not be quite as crystal clear as the Med (and its climate doesn’t quite compare either) but the city does boast a wealth of swimming spots and Helsinkians will take any opportunity for a splash about. Of the 30-odd public beaches maintained by the city, Hietaniemi is perhaps the best – and most popular. A stone’s throw from the centre, Hietsu, as it’s known, can be swarming with people on sunny days. But the sand is gently shelving and patrolled by lifeguards in summer, making this a good spot for a dip.11 Hiekkarannantie, 00100