In Finland, the sauna is an essential part of everyday life, with around 99% of the population visiting once a week. It’s a ritual that dates back thousands of years, but one that continues to inspire architects and designers around the world.
With the colder months closing in, we’ve found six of the best hotspots for enjoying a good steam and some scenic views.
Soria Moria, Dalen, Norway
This canal-side spa sits surrounded by trees and mountains in Norway’s Dalen. It’s open to guests of the nearby hotel as well as hikers that stumble onto the spot and offers uninterrupted views of the water from its blonde timber benches.
The sauna is named for a fairy tale palace made of gold and really comes into its own at sunset when light reflects of flecks of gold in the building’s exterior.
Gothenburg Public Sauna, Gothenburg, Sweden
Don’t let the metallic exterior of this building fool you – inside are warm planks of timber and soft drifts of steam. German architects Raumlabor designed the corrugated steel building to reference the city’s disappearing industrial past, raising it above the surrounding water of Gothenburg port.
Once over the wooden bridge and inside, guests can enjoy views of the sunset its larch benches and watch ships sailing into harbour.
Vala, Soomaa National Park, Estonia
This floating cabin is located in a secluded section of Estonia’s largest national park, set close to a campground and hiking trail. Visitors can jump into the river straight from Vala’s sauna room, and cool off in the rainwater shower if the heat gets too much. It’s free to use – provided you can find it in the wilderness first.
Stilleben sauna, Åmot, Sweden
Guests to Sweden’s Stilleben hotel can immerse themselves in peaceful forest surroundings from its tiny floating spa, which blends into the trees thanks to its charred timber exterior. Designed by Milan practice Small Architecture Workshop, the eight-person sauna has a glazed end that makes the most of the surrounding lakeside scenery.
The Bands, Lofoten, Norway
This larch-clad building stretches across the rocky shore of former fishing village Kleivan on the Lofoten Islands. As well as a sauna, there’s a picnic terrace, bbq spot, sunken hot tub, and direct access to the water – essential for a post-steam dip. The surrounding mountain range and scattering of nearby buildings can be admired from full height windows inside the sauna.
Kleivan Quay, Vestvågøy, Lofoten
Löyly, Helsinki, Finland
It’s all about the city sights at this Helsinki spa, designed by Finnish practice Avanto Architects. There’s both traditional smoke and wood-burning public saunas to choose from, with room for 20 people, as well as smaller private saunas for those that prefer their own space.
Löyly wellness hub has a huge front terrace, where visitors can enjoy the city landscape as well as views across the sea.