All You Need to Know About the Scandinavian Sauna Culture


Scandinavian saunas can be likened to religion; the entire experience is revered and of supreme importance. Sauna roots, although difficult to trace, date back to 7000BC. Finnish forefather, Nestor the Chronicler, in 1112, spoke of “hot wooden saunas in which naked bathers beat themselves with branches and finally pour cold water over themselves”. Sauna traditions are steeped in ritual and superstition. Read further to find out all you need to know about the Scandinavian sauna culture.

Did you know there is a sauna elf?
Way back in time, saunas were usually dark, smoke-filled cabins with an earthen floor and narrow window slits. Did you know that there was a sauna elf called Saunatonttu? The elf is easily upset, particularly by profanities or other inappropriate behavior. The elf will drive out any badly behaved users who do not abide by the rules.

All You Need to Know About the Scandinavian Sauna Culture
Did you know that there was a sauna elf called Saunatonttu? Photo: Hukka Elf family/Finnmark Sauna

Related: Spa Well-Being – the Swedish Way 

Thankfully today, beating is not essential. But if you seek an incredibly authentic sauna, then the viht or vihad is what you need. These ‘beating-brushes’ are made from birch branches, and when used, the air fills with their natural aroma and raises your temperature after a short and vigorous ‘beating’ workout. If you want to make your own ‘viht’, you can also add various herbs such as St. John’s wort, chamomile, mint, and if you are fearless, nettles.

All You Need to Know About the Scandinavian Sauna Culture
Sauna Vihad. Photo:

Regular saunas positively impact health and wellbeing
Not only does taking a regular sauna have a positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing, but it’s also well known that as soon as you step into a sauna, your circulation will increase due to the rise in temperature. Improved circulation can help relieve muscle stiffness, improve joint mobility and help alleviate any arthritic pain. Science shows that an increased heart rate can also help with weight loss. It is thought that spending 20 minutes in a sauna can burn up to 500 calories, which is excellent news for those that want to keep those extra pounds at bay.

Related: World’s Largest Sauna – In Norway 

Sweating is good for you, but many of you just won’t sweat enough. Many of our jobs are sedentary, which means that we are not moving around enough to break into a sweat. Everywhere we turn, our bodies are absorbing harmful elements, so it’s vital to flush them out. The American Journal of Medicine has published numerous scientific papers that attest to the sauna having a multitude of health benefits.

Traditional cabins to those on wheels
BZB Cabins has a vast collection of outdoor saunas ranging from the traditional styles that are so popular in Scandinavian countries to more contemporary styles. They even have a carefully curated collection on wheels so that you can [almost] take your sauna with you wherever you go.

All You Need to Know About the Scandinavian Sauna Culture
A BZB garden log cabin. Photo: BZB

Enjoy your natural state of bliss
Being able to cut yourself off from the outside world gives you the chance to relax fully. That necessitates no computers, phones, or outside noise. Your increased heart rate means that you are releasing endorphins; these are the ‘feel-good’ natural chemicals that make you feel happy.

Related: Ice-Cold Tradition is on Fashion Again in Sweden 

Healing heath
The Scandinavians traditionally used the incredibly versatile sauna as a sterile place for treating the sick, giving birth, bloodletting, preparing smoked food, concocting malts, drying clothes, and grooming the dead. Cupping, massage, and body balancing are still practiced today in the healing heat of the sauna.

All You Need to Know About the Scandinavian Sauna CultureAll You Need to Know About the Scandinavian Sauna Culture written exclusively for Daily Scandinavian by the team of BZB Cabins & Outdoors, an established distributor of high-quality, eco-friendly outdoor saunas and log cabins manufactured in Europe.

Feature image (on top): Soria Moria sauna, Dalen, Telemark, Norway. Photo: Dag Jenssen / Visit Norway

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Journalist, PR and marketing consultant Tor Kjolberg has several degrees in marketing management. He started out as a marketing manager in Scandinavian companies and his last engagement before going solo was as director in one of Norway’s largest corporations. Tor realized early on that writing engaging stories was more efficient and far cheaper than paying for ads. He wrote hundreds of articles on products and services offered by the companies he worked for. Thus, he was attuned to the fact that storytelling was his passion.