Sauna is such an essential part of Finnish culture that even the Helsinki Airport boasts one. Journalist Katja Pantzar takes a relaxing detour to find out how a pre-flight steam can boost wellness on the go.
According to a popular Finnish saying, a woman is at her most beautiful after taking a sauna.
With that in mind, I ladle some water over the heated rocks of the stove in the sauna at Finnair’s Premium Lounge at Helsinki Airport. Wrapped in a fluffy white towel, I lean back and enjoy the warm steam that relaxes me, detoxing both mind and body in the process.
As well as helping to maintain clear skin and removing toxins and impurities by sweating them out, the sauna is touted for a range of health benefits such as relieving tension, improving circulation, lowering blood pressure, and increasing resistance to illness.
In fact, the sauna is such an essential Finnish wellness staple and part of the culture that there are about 3.3 million saunas in Finland, which has a population of 5.5 million people.
Après-sauna, I step into the 400-square-metre lounge showcasing Nordic design and nature. The Premium Lounge menu highlights Nordic fare with healthy gourmet snacks and meals served on Marimekko tableware, and drinks poured into classic Iittala Ultima Thule glassware designed by Tapio Wirkkala.
While there are areas for working and options for lounging about in design classics such as the Tulip and Womb chairs by Eero Saarinen, the mood is set for relaxing, with several quiet sections. At the back of the lounge, airside, the Relaxation Zone features individual design recliners separated by opaque curtains where it’s possible to enjoy a restorative nap.
Opened in 2014, the Premium Lounge’s sauna has remained a relatively well-kept secret, as few people are aware that there’s a Finnish steam bath located next to the private shower suites and changing rooms.
I’m told that the best time to enjoy a leisurely sauna is in the daytime after 9 am following the early morning rush, and during the quieter evening hours for those departing on long-haul flights to destinations such as Singapore and Hong Kong, for example.
Though the sauna is unisex, its clientele is predominantly male, likely because women often arrive at the airport with their hair and makeup done pre-flight.
Now if I were about to take an evening flight, taking a sauna and enjoying the amenities of the lounge with a red-cheeked post-sauna glow would provide the perfect way to relax with a few moments of peace and quiet before heading out into the world.
Finnair Premium Lounge, between gates 36 and 37, is available exclusively for Finnair Plus Platinum and Gold members (+ one guest), and oneworld Emerald cardholders. Finnair’s Business Lounge is adjacent to the Premium Lounge and is available for Finnair Business Class passengers. Other travellers may purchase tickets to the Business Lounge during off-peak hours. The sauna can be used by Premium and Business Lounge visitors.
Text by Katja Pantzar
This story is published in Under the Northern Skies – 100 Stories Celebrating Flying, Finnair’s jubilee publication celebrating Finland’s 100-year anniversary.
P.S.: You can pre-order a copy from finnairshop.com before your next Finnair flight. It will be waiting in your seat when you board.