Not for the fainthearted, swimming in cold water is an exhilarating way to boost health and toughen resilience. This is well-known by the Finns, who have a word for the frosty tradition: avanto swimming, or “ice hole swimming”.
If you’re eager to try this frigid Finnish pastime, read on for some essential tips and great locations.
1. Löyly Sauna
Located on the southern tip of Helsinki, Löyly is a traditional Finnish sauna and a stunning triumph of modern architecture. In the winter, visitors can walk into the icy waters of the Baltic sea for a refreshing swim before warming up with hot food by an open fire at Löyly’s restaurant.
Opening hours vary from day-to-day, and two-hour sessions costing €19.00 must be booked in advance.
2. Kulttuurisauna = "Culture Sauna"
For a rustic Finnish experience, there’s Kulttuurisauna. Based in the modern coastal neighbourhood of Merihaka, the ecological wood-heated sauna overlooks the sea and makes a tranquil setting for an icy swim.
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 4 pm to 9 pm, adults pay €15 on arrival and can rent towels on site. However, swimsuits aren’t allowed in the ice hole. It is a traditional Finnish experience, after all.
3. Allas Sea Pool
Mix tradition with comfort at Allas Sea Pool. Based in the heart of Helsinki, the sea pool is powered almost entirely by renewable energy and is the perfect place for beginners to try avanto swimming.
You can plunge through an ice hole and immerse yourself in pure, clean sea water. When it’s time to warm up, you have three steamy saunas to choose from.
An adult ticket, which gives access to the pool and sauna for ten hours, is available on the website for €14.
4. St. George Care Spa ice dip
Why not add a splash of luxury to your avanto experience? Here at Hotel St. George, you can de-stress in our traditional sauna before dipping in a modern take on the age-old Finnish ice hole.
Filled with mineral rich Finnish water, the ice dip rejuvenates the mind and body in true Nordic style. We also offer a range of tailor-made treatments and exercises, so you can relax and focus solely on well-being and tranquility.
How to do ice swimming?
So, if you’re ready to take the plunge into avanto swimming, remember these handy tips:
Wait a few minutes before ice swimming after a sauna, as going from very hot to very cold can be a big shock for your body.
When entering an ice hole, sit back, relax and let the water reach the top of your neck, just like you would in a bath.
Remember to dress for winter. Wear footwear that stays on in the ice hole and a hat to keep your head and ears toasty.
With so many ice holes available in Helsinki, finding the perfect place for a frosty swim is easy. And if you’re feeling inspired by Finnish well-being, check out the Hotel St. George Care spa for more unique Nordic experiences.