Public saunas are the coolest places to hang out in Finland
IS STRIPPING down and getting sweaty with strangers your kind of thing?
In Finland, despite two million private saunas, the hottest trend is public saunas.
They are Helsinki's coolest spots this summer, drawing Finns and tourists of all ages to unwind on wooden benches in waterfront locales where the mercury hits at least 80 deg C.
A boutique sauna called Loyly opened on the capital's shoreline in May and was such a hit that an online booking is required on sunny days.
On a recent visit, a group of men and women who went to university together celebrated Linnea Remes' 27th birthday by having a sauna - a normal thing for friends in Finland where saunas are an integral part of daily life and all major celebrations year-round.
While Finns strip down to their birthday suits in their private saunas, the public ones offer different rooms for men and women or require swimsuits in unisex saunas.
The sauna can be a moment to destress or a complement to a good workout.
A couple of rounds is typical, with a cool shower and maybe a drink in between, or a dip into a lake or the sea.
In winter, a roll in the snow is even better.
Nowadays, most houses and new apartments in Finland come with a private sauna.
At the same time, one in five Finns lives alone.
"Many people live alone nowadays but yearn for that sense of community and common experience. A sauna is the best for that, an intimate place where you can exchange ideas with whoever happens to sit next to you," said Raoul Grunstein, head of Allas Sea Pool, another public sauna and spa set to open this month.