27 Jan 2016

Some people insist they’re part of an important health ritual, a way to keep clean, or an unbeatable hangover cure. For most Estonians, however, saunas represent a way to relax, spend time with family and friends, and to warm up after a day out in the bone-chilling extremes of the Nordic winter.

Though Estonia’s northern neighbour, Finland, is the undisputed sauna capital of the world (the very word ‘sauna’ in English is actually borrowed straight from the Finnish), the practice of confining steam or heat to a confined area for bathing purposes is found in a number of world cultures. Japanese, Native Americans and Russians all have their versions of steam and sweat baths.The Estonian saun is thought to come from a rural sauna tradition that extends from the Baltic region to the Urals, so it’s no surprise that the development of sauna culture and practices here has a lot in common with that of Estonia’s neighbours. The aforementioned Finns will find few differences between their sauna designs and the ones in Estonia. Since the tradition dates back before written records were kept, there’s no way of telling how long it has been going on in the country. The fact that there’s even a ‘Sauna’ street and a medieval ‘Sauna Tower’ in Tallinn’s Old Town is, however, a good indicator of the importance of saunas in centuries past.These days, while saunas are often still used for bathing by country folk, it’s much more common to find them used for de-stressing, for warming up, and for parties. Because advances in technology mean that saunas are no longer confined to separate buildings or little huts in the woods, a lot of hotels and sports clubs have one or more saunas built in. Some inventive people even manage to squeeze two-person saunas into their tiny, Soviet-era apartments.If you’re a first-time visitor to Tallinn, or just someone who’s curious about this important part of Estonian life, you’ll definitely want to make at least one sauna stop while you’re here.


Connect via social media
Leave a comment using your email
Please enter your name*

Please share your location

Enter your message*
Mark Edwards
U.S.A.; Calif,
Thanks very much for this i visited the Sauna KALMA 10 years ago and it was Exactly what i wanted. A totally 'authentic' no-nonsense Dry Sauna (on the Mens' side) with a great sitting area for Beer and Bratwursts. Though i was obviously the only American to venture 'that far' off the tourist path all the locals were very friendly and welcoming. I look forward to returning it was great.
Take your guide with you download a pdf or order a printed issue
browse through our pdf library
City Essentials

Download our new City Essentials app

download 4.5