Helsinki’s public saunas refused to throw in the towel to developers and are flourishing. Paul Hirons visits trendy spas and tiny shacks, and makes a dash to Lapland
In the locker room of Sauna Hermanni, one of the few remaining public saunas in Helsinki, I bumped into Paul, an octogenarian who was cooling down after his weekly steam clean, reading his newspaper dressed only in a saggy white vest. I asked him why he came here every week, and after a moment’s contemplation, he said with a shrug: “I couldn’t imagine life without it.”
For Finns, life without sauna is unthinkable, but for it to survive against competing leisure activities and an ever-quickening pace of life, it has had to adapt and diversify.