Ice Swimming in Helsinki – An Odd Form of Relaxation

Ice Swimming in Helsinki

What do you do after a long day exploring Helsinki? I should try one of the national pastimes of Finland…ICE SWIMMING! That sounds totally relaxing and definitely rejuvenating, right? When you pair it with a trip to the sauna it doesn’t sound all that bad.

What is ice swimming?

Well, it’s for those who are bonkers. Sorry, Fins and other friends from the north, but this is just crazy. “Let’s go cut a hole on a frozen lake and take a dip.” Who thought of this? And what were their motives? My first thought is instant regret, then hypothermia.

Ice swimming is usually paired with a trip to the sauna. Ice swimming has a ton of benefits; it helps your immune system, gives you an endorphin high, increases circulation, and helps you relax.

Do as the Fins Do

I am a fan of doing things others might not try, I definitely think ice swimming is on that list. I also enjoy immersing myself in different cultures and of course trying new things.

Allas Sea Pool

The Allas Sea Pool is where I am going to take the plunge. It is located next to the port of Helsinki, the water in the ice pool is connected to the sea. Also, since it is located along the port you are right next to Market Square which is a main traffic area for walkers, bicyclists, and cars. From Market Square you can watch people in the sea pool.

Allas Sea Pool has three outdoor pools, three saunas, and several change rooms and showers. There is even a bar attached! In case you don’t warm up enough from the sauna you can warm up with a drink on your way out.

Allas Sea Pool - Market Square

One pool was closed for the evening, so only two were open; the “warm” pool and the “Cold AF” ice pool. A few questions came to my head when preparing to go ice swimming…do I swim first then book it to the sauna? Do I swim in the “warmer” pool, jump in the ice pool, then head to the sauna? How many times should I do this? Guys, I cannot answer a single one of these, so, I just made up my own little way to ice swim. I don’t know if this is the “correct” way to do it but here is what I did…

After changing into my swimsuit, I head directly to the “warm” pool. There are about a dozen people swimming; from treading water to full on Michael Phelps swimming. It’s November and the average nightly temp is just below freezing. Now, when you think of a warm pool what do you think of? In my head I thought it would be um…warm. I scootch my frozen butt into the pool and think…”nope, not warm, not warm”.

*If you follow me on Snapchat (KittytoCity), you will definitely remember this scene as I filmed it live.

The Cold “Warm” Pool

After a few moments I get used to the cold “warm” pool and get the nerves to brave the trip through the freezing cold to take a dip in the ice pool. So, I trot my icicle tits down the walkway to the ice pool and take a deep breath before shimmying down the ladder. This should be a piece of cake, right? On the other side of the pool a not-so-young woman is taking full strides in the pool, how cold could it be?

The answer: so cold it is hot! I am hanging off the ladder and only have my legs in up to my knees and the pain is something else. It tingles, but not like my legs are asleep more like 10,000 little needles are being stuck into every part of my body that is covered by frigid water.

Allas Sea Pool - Ice Pool
And this is the cold sea pool.

The Cold AF Ice Sea Pool

At this moment, I know I do not need to put my entire body in the pool what I need to do is get the hell out and go the the damn warm pool. I climb out as quickly as I can and run to the warm pool. On the run back, I could not feel my legs the tingling from being in the cold water now made the muscles in my feet and calves convulse. I really wanted to do a cannonball into the warm pool, but then had better judgement and used the ladder. Oh my gosh the warm pool…it felt amazing. The tingling slowly stopped and felt like my legs were getting a massage.

Okay, I want to do this again! In about five minutes I repeat my journey. Cursing myself as I run from the warm pool to the ice pool, then getting in to only about my knees again and running back to the warm pool.

My Last Plunge

On my last jaunt to the ice pool I take a brave plunge and go in up to my neck. Mistake. Regret. Doom. That one did not feel so pleasant. Honestly, more power to the Fins for ice swimming. I could not last more than two seconds with most of my body submerged. I run back to the warm pool to catch my breath, and then head to the sauna.

So, here it is folks…I’ve done this for you. No need to go out and freeze your butt off for a fun little game of “If The Fins Do It I Should Do It Too”. Would I do it again? Hmmm…maybe. When I went to Helsinki in November the ice pool was not covered in ice. I would like to get that experience.

I did find it to be thrilling and relaxing at the same time. What is something you’ve done out of your comfort zone? Did you do it while traveling? I’d love to hear from you! 


Ice Swimming in Helsinki

38 thoughts on “Ice Swimming in Helsinki – An Odd Form of Relaxation”

  1. Wow! I’ve seen a lot of photos of travelers in these ice pools, and I always thought there’s no way I could endure that. Cheers to you jumping in, in the first place 😛 Though, I have to say, for the sake of experience, I’d probably jump in, too (for a full minute or so).

    1. That is what travel is all about – the experience. I lasted mere seconds in the ice pool, not sure I could pull off a minute. 🙂

  2. Ok – the words ‘ice swimming’ and ‘relaxation’ don’t seem to belong in the same sentence to this girl from south Texas where the summers are usually include triple digit heat. Even then, I’m the one that avoids the water because it is ‘too cold’. I know believe firmly that ‘too cold’ is OBVIOUSLY relative. LOL!

  3. hahahaha, I LOVE your writing style!
    I did a nordic bath in Gatineau, Québec, and it was a similar experience. I went in February, probably the coldest month of the year, and most of the pools were outdoors. -30 outside, so even the “warm” pool felt like heaven. There was also an effing FREEZING waterfall in addition to a cold pool, and purely because of peer pressure I ran under it. Suffice to say, very happy for the experience, but like you, not sure I would do it again!

  4. I had heard of warm pools but never of an ice cold pool. I would perhaps not prefer it even its way too hot. Can the body really relax in so cold water?

    1. I know what you mean, how is it possible to relax in the freezing cold. For me, the relaxing part was when I jumped into the warm pool. 🙂

  5. Wow! I’ve never heard of it! And to be honest, I really thought of swimming on an ice haha! Now it’s on my pending list to do when travelling to Helsinki. Thanks for this useful info! 😉

  6. Ice swimming? I’ve never heard of this till now. Is it something that the Fins enjoy a lot?
    I totally agree with you as far as immersing oneself in different cultures and trying new things. That’s the only way perspectives are changed.
    Maybe I would try that one day. Though, I still struggle with taking a shower if the water is not boiling hot.
    Kuddos to you! and Happy travels 🙂

    1. I think it really is something they like to do, there were so many people going back and forth between the pools and the sauna. Haha. 🙂

  7. I’m not sure I would go ice-swimming but, like you said, do as the Fins do! I think the best way would be to go in the warm pool first then venture into the cold AF pool but I might be wrong!

  8. I had read about ice-swimming before, but your account is more vivid. I would not dare to get my feet into the ice pool in the freezing cold. But you worked out quite a neat system to experience the ice pool. Loved reading about it.

  9. Living in a hot-humid climate all my life, I honestly don’t know if I will be able to try something like this, especially when even anything below 20 degrees gives me the chills. But this looks so thrilling!

  10. I know this is generally good for your health but I don’t know if I end up in Helsinki and going to dip in the freezing water! I admire your bravery! If I do this some day, I will let you know! Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  11. So after reading your post, I wonder, would I take a dip on an ice pool. On obe had there us the experience. On the other hand there is the pain. Although I have swam in the scottish sea in winter. Hmmm

  12. Wow,I never heard about Ice swimming before although I am not a swimmer at any stage of my life.Thank You for bringing this up.I learned something new today in life!!!

  13. We definitely had the same thought when I first read this. It seems like something that will make you regret after. LOL. However, unique experiences like this are great and should be tried out at least once in a lifetime. Two (2) if you enjoyed it! 😉 It did sound pretty interesting. I think I would love to give it a try too! 🙂

  14. So I’m a Finn and can tell you the right way to do it… there is no right or wrong way! 🙂 Usually the way you do it is sauna first and then swimming… the repeat few times. I prefer the actual hole made in the ice of the lake or the ocean, instead of a pool. And it’s always good to keep a hat on, and maybe socks so your skin wont freeze. Ice swimming will keep you getting colds and keeps your blood circulating well. So in that sense, it is relaxing! 🙂

  15. Us Indians are HOT!
    I mean, the lowest temperature that we ever get here in Delhi is 4 degrees. Can you imagine, Four degrees and then we think , my God, how cold is it.
    The freakiest thing I ever did was to bathe in cold water in Shimla in the month of January.
    Well, Shimla is one of the highest cities in India, altitudewise, so you can imagine my adventure.

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