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Going naked in a bastu, the Swedish sauna

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Although we mainly associate saunas with Finland, the Swedes also love their bastu. Yes, that’s what the Swedes call their sauna. Apart from the name, are there any other differences? Do you go naked in a Swedish bastu or do you keep your bathing suit on? This article zooms in on the etiquette in a Swedish sauna.

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Almost the whole world uses the Finnish word, sauna. The Swedes stick to bastu. That comes from badstuga (or bathhouse).

Don’t feel like sitting in a mixed gender bastu? Or just looking for a place where you can take a seat with your company of the opposite sex? Whether the bastu is mixed or not is always clearly indicated. You will often find both options at larger wellness centers. For example, Ribersborgs Kallbadhus near Malmö has several separate saunas and one mixed sauna.

The birch twigs with which you tap your body gently or harder to activate the blood flows are typically Finnish.

Zweedse bastu

Naked in the bastu

Yes, you go naked in the bastu. You only bring a towel to sit on. It would be more hygienic to go to the sauna without a bathing suit, they once told me in Finland.

For most Swedes, ‘naked’ is not strange or abnormal. Whatever shape or sizes you have, in Sweden everyone is equal. So you should certainly not be afraid or feel watched if you go for the real Swedish experience and go naked in the sauna.

In certain cases you take bathing clothes or a towel in the bastu. Certainly in hotels that have international guests, there may be regulations in which they ask for bathing clothes or covering up with a towel. That way their guests who are not familiar with saunas or nudity in saunas feel at ease.

Not sure what to do? Wrap your towel around you and enter. You’ll see what most people do and can easily adapt. And if you don’t feel comfortable, you can keep your towel. But keep in mind that with your towel around you might get more attention than if you just sit naked 😉

rollen in de sneeuw in Granö Beckasin

Ice dipping and snow rolling

There’s no such thing as jumping into the cold water between your bastu sessions or even rolling in the snow. Your skin will tingle all evening. Really, give it a try because it is a thrill you will never forget.

If you want to dip in the lake (even if it is frozen, an ice hole opens opportunities) or ‘jump’ the sea to cool off, make sure you never do this alone! It is also better not to literally jump into the water, but get in slowly.

My personal tip: make sure you have something on your feet, especially in winter, between the bastu and the place where you want to jump in the water or roll in the snow!

Sauna bij Granö Beckasin

What to expect if you have a sauna for the first time?

If you planned a few hours of sauna, make sure you drink a little more water in advance so that you are well hydrated.

Always start your sauna session with a shower. Wrap your towel around you and enter the sauna. Sit on your towel and enjoy!

Are you not used to taking a sauna or are you not very comfortable with the heat? Then sit on the lower seats. The higher, the warmer. Do you still think it is too hot? Then get out of the sauna on time and give your body the time to cool down.

The more water you pour on the stones, the warmer the bastu will feel. Finns like to have their sauna hot. That’s why they want the humidity to be higher than the average Swede.

In general, you spend about 15 minutes in the bastu at a time. Then you let your body cool down. This can be done by going outside for a moment, taking a dip in cold water, taking a splash in the lake or rolling through the snow. In between, give your body some rest and drink water. Then you can step into the sauna for the next session. You can repeat this a few times. A golden rule: take your time and don’t rush, but enjoy!

What to bring?

  1. 2 or 3 towels: a towel to sit / lie on, possibly a towel to wrap around you and a towel to dry yourself off after showering.
  2. Some public saunas have lockers where you can store your belongings. A small padlock can then be useful.
  3. Most people bring something to drink. A plastic water bottle is more convenient than a metal one as this one can get very hot) but I also saw beers in the bastu.
  4. Some also bring a book (if you go to the sauna alone, in a silent sauna, …)
  5. Shower gel / shampoo for afterwards.
Downtown Camper - The Nest

Tested for you

I also like to enjoy a Swedish bastu when on holiday in Sweden. Sometimes I visit the sauna complexes, other times I use the hotel’s sauna. Below you will find a list of saunas that I have already tested and approved:

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Swedish (pop) music

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You sometimes hear that Stockholm is like Hollywood for music. Music is one of the most important export products in Sweden. Of course we immediately think of ABBA as world famous Swedish pop music. But also Roxette, Europe, Neneh Cherry, Emilia, The Cardigans, Ace of Base, Alcazar, Robyn and Avici … all come from Sweden. More recently we can add Zara Larsson, Lykke Li, First Aid Kit and Mohombi. Moreover, there are some top producers in Sweden such as Max Martin who are also responsible for the sound of many international stars. And Spotify was a startup in Stockholm.

Eurovision Song Contest

Sweden has already won the Eurovision Song Contest 6 times. The first time with ABBA in 1974, the (for the time being) last time with Måns Zelmerlöw in 2015. Even when they didn’t win, they have consistently been in the top 10 in recent years.

The national preselections, Melodifestivalen, are even more popular in Sweden than the Eurovision itself. Popular participants were, for example, Eric Saade, Sanna Nielsen, Lena Philipsson, etc.

Why is it that Swedish pop music is so popular?

In the 1940s people were encouraged to attend music education by facilitating this for free. In the first instance this was intended as a counter-movement against all “modern music”. Stimulating music remained important for the Swedish government.

I also believe that the long, cold and dark winters have something to do with it. Playing music is an excellent remedy to prevent boredom or to make it cozy. In the summer there is midsummer where singing and music are indispensable. Also the fact that the Swedes speak English very well and soon started singing in English, made them successful worldwide.

What do you think? Why is it that Swedish pop music is so popular? Who is your favorite Swedish artist?

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Swedish pop music

Wild camping in Sweden

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It is deafeningly silent when I wake up. My tent is in the middle of nowhere. No water, no electricity. Back to basics. I left with my backpack and tent to go wild camping in Sweden. Go as I want and every night picking a nice place to spend the night. You can’t get much closer to nature (and yourself).

In Sweden, wild camping is allowed thanks to allemansrätten, provided that you follow some rules. You have to respect nature and the environment to the maximum and you have to stay away from fenced grounds and stay out of sight of houses.

Wild camping in Sweden: what’s allowed?

  • You can place your tent for 24 hours in a place that is on a non-enclosed site, out of sight of houses and where there is no prohibition sign for wild camping. In certain national parks it is not allowed. This is indicated by a sign at the entrance.
  • Respect nature: you must not destroy, disturb or leave waste behind.
  • Picking berries and mushrooms is permitted. Make sure you know which fruits are edible!

Tips for wild camping

Wild camping for the first time?

Build up slowly. Start with 1 or 2 nights of wild camping and combine with a stay at a campsite or even a few nights at a hotel or in an airbnb. And if the weather suddenly changes completely, you can still continue your holiday with more comfortable hotel stays. Die hards will of course continue to wild camp. Sweden is a good place to go if you’re wild camping for the first time!

Pick the right spot

Look on the map where you can find a nice place. This can be near a lake, along the water, … It is advisable to install your tent when it is still light. In Sweden during the summer months this is not a problem as it does not really gets dark.

Wild camping next to a waterfall may seem idyllic but the water keeps flowing at night too so good ear plugs will be a must. A place close to the water also seems like a dream, but in the summer season that will mean more mosquitoes, especially if you go a little later in the summer season. It’s better to place your tent a few hundred meters away from the water.

Electricity and water

Wild camping is really back to basics. Make sure you are provided with everything. A good backup for essential things is not a bad idea. Do not only rely on Google Maps or a GPS for navigation, but bring a compass and a detailed map. You wouldn’t be the first to suddenly fall out of battery or have no range. Of course it is best to also take an extra external battery with you!

If you go wild camping in Sweden, you normally don’t have running water. The toilet can be found behind a tree. You can wash in a lake. Biodegradable, ecological soap is a must if you don’t want to do without soap for a few days. You will find special products in the specialized store that you can use both as a shampoo and for washing dishes. Do not use more than necessary. It is even better not to use any soap at all since even ecological soap still has an impact on the environment!

Take enough water with you. The lakes in Sweden are generally pure enough to drink from. With a water filter like the life straw you’re safe.

Light your fire

Do you want to light a fire to warm up, cook food, …? Make sure you know whether there is a ‘eldningsförbud’ or prohibition of open fires or not. Don’t make a fire on bare rocks anyway, they could burst. Choose a substrate of sand or gravel. Make sure the place is refractory and extinguish the fire completely before you move on.

Bears and other animals

The chances are rather small to see and meet bears or wolverines but it is possible. In general, making a lot of noise is sufficient to keep them at a distance. Also make sure that you always put away the food properly. You can also come across snakes in Sweden.

Wild camping by car?

Keep in mind that the distances in Sweden to help, a gas station, supermarkets, … can be greater than expected. Make sure you always fill up well on time, stock up on a sufficiently large supply of food and drinks, …

It is less easy to reach unique places by car. It may be more comfortable to be able to take your things with you in the car, but vehicles may not just go everywhere or park anywhere. Allemansrätten doesn’t apply to cars, campers and caravans.

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wild camping in Sweden