5 Sauna Facts about Finnish Culture

February 22, 2022

Sauna has been a staple of everyday life in Finland for thousands of years. Here are five facts that help show how deeply rooted sauna bathing is in Finnish culture and society!


1) Finland is the birthplace of sauna

While saunas have existed in various cultures around the world for hundreds of years, Finland is commonly referred to as the birthplace of sauna.


Traditional Finnish saunas were dug out holes in rural areas and heated with hot rocks before becoming the wood structures that they are in modern times.



2) There are over 2 million saunas in Finland

In a country of roughly 5.5 million people, there are more than 2 million saunas. This means that there are enough saunas to accommodate the country’s entire population at once!


It is estimated that between 60% and 90% of Finnish people visit the sauna at least once a week. This ancient Finnish Proverb highlights the significance of saunas in Finland perfectly – “First build the sauna, then the house.”



3) “Sauna” is one of the only Finnish words used worldwide

“Sauna” is one of the only Finnish words to make it into everyday English language.


Webster’s definition of sauna is:

  • 1: a Finnish steam bath in which the steam is provided by water thrown on hot stones (löylyä): a bathhouse or room used for such a bath


  • 2: a dry heat bath: a room or cabinet used for such a bath



4) Finnish sauna is on UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage list

Finland’s sauna culture was added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list in December 2020. It is the first Finnish element on the list!


UNESCO’s cultural heritage refers to traditions and practices from the past that remain an essential component in a country’s modern life. The traditions of sauna bathing can be found in countless Finnish stories, festivities, and songs.



5) Sauna visits are often followed by a swim in the lake

Contrast therapy, the practice of exposing the body to a variety of different temperatures, has become extremely popular across the globe. Nowhere is it more prevalent than in Finland.


Finns will often go for a swim in the lake immediately following a sauna session to cool off. During winter, many will go so far as to dig a hole into a frozen lake to swim!



In Finland, visiting the sauna is about much more than its benefits, it’s a way to relax and connect with family and friends. Maybe that’s why Finns are repeatedly ranked as the happiest people in the world!