What’s the Difference Between Finnish Sauna and Swedish Sauna?

man and woman in a Finnish sauna

The difference between Finnish and Swedish saunas relates to their history, how they are used, and their design & construction.  We’ve all heard of traditional Finnish and Swedish sauna. But, what’s the difference? And, which is better?  Let’s take a close look at the key differences between Finnish Sauna vs Swedish Sauna.


Key Differences Between Finnish & Swedish Sauna

1: History & Origin

• Finnish

One of the biggest differences between Swedish and Finnish sauna lies in their history and origin. Finnish sauna dates back to ancient times and has roots in spiritual and healing rituals. Finnish sauna typically uses wood burning stoves. The Finnish sauna experience is deeply rooted in their national identity.

woman wearing a sauna hat

• Swedish

On the other hand, Swedish sauna has evolved from the country’s historical bathing culture.  In Sweden, communal sauna is incredibly popular. Swedish sauna leans towards contemporary wellness and a more diverse sauna experience, reflecting a modern approach to relaxation and health. Whereas, Finnish sauna is more deeply rooted in history and tradition.

2: Temperature

• Finnish

In Finland, saunas typically maintain a higher temperature. The typical temperature for a Finnish sauna is 176° to 212°F. This is equivalent to 80° to 100°C. It is an intense and dry heat. In Finnish sauna, the focus is on creating an elevated, dry heat to induce heavy sweating, promote detoxification, and induce relaxation.

• Swedish

Swedish sauna operates at a lower and more tolerable temperature. Typically Swedish signers run at a temperature of 140° to 170°F. This works out at 60° to 75°C. Swedish sauna creates a more comfortable between heat and humidity. This makes it a popular choice for occasional sauna users and those new to the experience.

3: Family & Friends

• Finnish

In Finland, saunas are typically seen as a private space for personal and family use only. This creates an intimate and familial sauna experience. Saunas are traditionally very much a family affair. Occasionally, close friends will be invited to join. But, by and large, sauna sessions are kept within the household.

three women friends enjoying a traditional finnish sauna

• Swedish

In Sweden, Swedish sauna culture emphasizes socializing. It is a popular way for friends and communities to meet up and share a social experience together. Swedish saunas are more likely to be used for social interactions and group activities. This is one of the greatest differences between traditional Finnish and Swedish sauna.

4: Frequency

• Finnish

In Finland, Finns tend to enjoy the sauna several times per week. Many fins enjoy taking a sauna 2 to 3 times each week. Dear tend to practice sauna more frequently compared to their neighbors in Sweden.

• Swedish

While sauna is incredibly popular in Sweden, they tend to practice it less frequently than the Finns. In Sweden, sauna is a social and communal activity often used as an opportunity to meet up with friends. This means summer is practiced more occasionally and on average up to once per week.

5: Humidity

• Finnish

Finnish saunas use a mixture of intense dry heat and blasts of high-humidity steam. A Finnish sauna is initially heated to an intense heat in very dry conditions. Then, when the optimal temperature is achieved, (over 200°F), water is thrown on the hot coals or stove to generate a burst of steam that fills the chamber and envelopes all sauna bathers.

woman relaxing in a steamy sauna room

• Swedish

Swedish sauna on the other hand is typically a more moderate experience. It avoids the extremes of intense dry heat and heavy steam humidity. Lower levels of humidity are often observed at more frequent intervals, creating a more comfortable and less challenging experience.

6: Vihta (Sauna Whip)

• Finnish

A sauna vihta is a bundle of fresh birch twigs that is used in traditional Finnish. It is also known as a sauna whisk or sauna switch in other cultures. However, it has its roots in Traditional Finnish sauna. It is used to gently beat the skin while inside a sauna. The practice is central to traditional Finnish sauna and is believed to provide several potential health benefits – including improved circulation and skin exfoliation.

traditional sauna vihta whip

• Swedish

The vihta is a Finnish sauna accessory.  It is not typically associated with Swedish sauna. While it may be used occasionally, the vihta is more deeply rooted in the traditional Finnish sauna experience. Floating saunas called bastuflotte and sauna baths known as bastubad are more commonly used in traditional Swedish sauna.

7: Design & Construction

• Finnish

Finnish saunas are built using a simple rustic design. They are often constructed using natural materials like logs. And, there’s a distinct emphasis on minimalism and functionality. The most popular choice of wood is birch. This timber is known for its durability and resistance to heat and moisture. It is warp-resistant and is an excellent choice for a sauna.

the best outdoor sauna with a spectacular view

• Swedish

Swedish saunas tend to have more diverse designs and build. They tend to have a more modern and contemporary style. Something the Swedish are well known for – sleek minimalism and form. This is a distinct difference between Finnish Sauna vs Swedish Sauna.  They have adopted a more innovative approach to sauna design and construction. Swedish saunas are often built using spruce and pine woods.

8: Potential Health Benefits

• Finnish

While both types of sauna are known for their potential health benefits, including relaxation, stress relief, improved circulation, and detoxification – there is a distinct difference. The higher temperatures of Finnish saunas are associated with much higher levels of sweating. This is believed by many to have a greater detoxification and skin-cleansing effect. And, it may also lead to a more pronounced boost in circulation and blood flow.

• Swedish

Swedish sauna is a less intense experience. It uses less intense heat and more tolerable levels of humidity. Swedish sauna works well for relaxation. Many people can spend prolonged periods in a Swedish sauna compared to its Finnish cousin. They’re also great post-workout and for muscle recovery. Good news for athletes and those wanting to relax after an intense gym session.

Which Is Better?

Now we’ve covered the differences of Finnish Sauna vs Swedish Sauna, let’s take a look at which is better?  It all comes down to your personal preferences, sauna experience, and goals. While both Finnish and Swedish sauna have many similarities they offer two very unique and different experiences.

lady entering a sauna

Are you looking for intense heat with lots of steam? Do you enjoy an experience that tests your limits and pushes you to the edge of your comfort zone? If yes, then Finnish sauna may be the one for you. Finnish sauna is much hotter. And, it’s famous for its high temperature, dry heat, detoxification effects, and how it can improve circulation.

However, if you want a less intense, more social, and potentially more fun experience, then Swedish sauna is the one for you. Swedish sauna runs at a lower temperature and is more accessible. Especially for those who are occasional sauna users. The moderate temperature and gentle humidity provide a milder, more comfortable sauna experience. This works best for relaxation, stress reduction, and gentle muscle recovery.

What Other Types of Sauna Are There?

Aside from traditional Finnish and Swedish saunas, what other types of sauna are out there? There are several other unique sauna types you can try and experiment with. It’s not all about Finnish and Swedish sauna. Below we list the most popular ‘other’ types of sauna around the world.

Infrared Sauna

Infrared saunas are a more modern type of sauna. They use infrared light to generate heat. Infrared energy heats the body directly without heating the air inside the sauna. They operate at much lower temperatures compared to traditional saunas and are a very popular choice as a home sauna. Infrared saunas consume less power and provide a more gentle sauna experience – with all the same potential health benefits.  For more see, Pros & Cons of Infrared Sauna.

woman and man entering an infrared sauna with carbon heaters

Steam Room

Steam rooms are one of the most popular sauna types. They are found all over the world in hotels, gyms, and spas. They use moist heat to create a warm, high-humidity environment. Steam rooms are well known for their deep relaxation and skin cleansing benefits. Steam helps open pores and flush debris and grime from the skin. They tend to run at lower temperatures compared to regular saunas.

Turkish Hammam

Turkish hammams are world-renowned. They are traditional Turkish bathhouses that incorporate a combination of steam and bathing rituals. Hammams also serve as social hubs where people gather to socialize and relax. They follow a specific bathing ritual involving hot steam, body scrubbing, and massage. Turkish hammams are famous for their architectural grandeur, intricate tile work, and domed ceilings.

Russian Sauna

A Russian sauna is a type of steam bath that combines both high heat and humidity. In Slavic, it is known as a banya. Russian sauna bathers like to be lightly beaten with leafy birch or oak twigs. The process is known as venik and is believed to improve circulation and boost detoxification. Bathers engage in cycles of heat exposure, cold water plunges, and relaxation. The practice is deeply rooted in Russian customs.


The Rules of Finnish Sauna

Sauna vs Steam Room – Which Is Better?

The Origins of Traditional Sauna

How Hot Should a Finnish Sauna Be?

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2 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between Finnish Sauna and Swedish Sauna?

  1. there was a sauna in our hostel in stockholm. it was nice but it wasn;t very hot. i think it was a traditional swedish sauna. 🙂

  2. The Vihta is great. We have one of these at home in our finnish sauna. I love how it feels when it brushes against the skin.

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