Saunas and Winter Swimming in Sweden

My first taste of saunas was in a private sauna in our Airbnb in Helsinki. It wasn’t an instant love. The heat was overwhelming and it burnt my nose when I breathed in. When I moved to Lund though, my friend suggested that we go to a sauna on the end of a jetty. The whole thing was a really big experience for me but after, I was hooked.

The sauna is called Bjerreds Saltsjöbad and is on the end of a long jetty with a fancy restaurant. Whilst in Sweden I went to a few different saunas but this one is my favourite by far because you can look out over the ocean and the facilities are really nice. The first time I went it was November, sunny and nine degrees.

In case you aren’t aware of sauna protocol in Sweden, this is how it goes (at most saunas anyway): you take a shower beforehand and leave your clothes in the change rooms, then, with just your towel you head to the sauna. Most saunas are split into male and female. After sitting in the sauna and relaxing for around ten minutes, you head out and take a dip in the ocean and then head back to the sauna to warm up again. You can repeat this process as many times as you like.

There were a few revelations for me whilst living in Sweden. The biggest one surrounds nudity. If you’re reading this and you’re like me before I moved to Sweden, I know exactly how you feel and maybe you’ll even skip this paragraph. If you’re reading this and you have no idea why people are uncomfortable with nudity, I also now kind of understand you. In the sauna, bathers are forbidden so besides your towel you’re naked and when you go for a dip in the ocean, unless you want to put your bathers on in the freezing cold, you’re completely naked. At first this terrified me. Nudity in public places isn’t common in Australia, there is normally many enclosed stalls to get changed in when at the gym or the pool. Whilst in Sweden, I worked as a swimming teacher at the public pool and also went to the gym a lot. In both of these, the showers are all open and communal and 95% of people shower naked. For the first few months I tried to hide with my towel or even just kept my bathers on when I showered but eventually I asked myself why I was hiding my body. What was it that I was hiding? I realised that I didn’t actually have anything to hide, I was just so used to feeling like I had to hide so that’s what I did. The sauna was kind of the turning point because I went together with a few girl friends and we all went swimming in the ocean. When you get in four degree water (and later I experienced two degree water), you can’t help but smile because your body is in such a shock and the water takes your breath away and you can’t help but laugh a little. Before I went to Sweden, I had read a lot about people doing cold swims and I didn’t really understand the hype but after experiencing it myself, I also highly recommend it. You get such a buzz and feel so awake and calm after it.

For those of you that want to experience this for yourself, it’s super easy from Lund. First check the opening hours of both the sauna and the restaurant on the website. It is easier to go to the sauna when the restaurant is open because you can pay at the restaurant and it is a tiny bit cheaper. If the restaurant is closed you can pay either with Swish, by text if you have a Swedish SIM card or with an app called Coincode (more info on the website). Once you’ve found a time to go, catch the bus to Bjärred and get off at Bjärred Medborgarhuset. Follow google maps to Bjerreds Saltsjöbad. Pay, shower, sauna and swim! I highly recommend this sauna and it is one of the things I miss most being back in Australia.

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