While the focus of my trip to Finland was on wild swimming, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to swim at the world-famous Allas Sea Pool. The complex can be found down in the harbour and consists of three pools and a number of saunas. It is run entirely on renewable energy and has splendid views back to the city’s shorefront.
Two of the pools were open during my visit – one filled with sea water that was two degrees Celsius and another measuring 27 degrees Celsius. You could see the steam rising from the water in the latter pool on the cold day in Helsinki. It provided the perfect environment to warm up after a dip in the cooler pool. Icicles had formed on the steps leading into the water from multiple wet hands touching them. Upon getting out, I found the neoprene gloves I’d worn in the cold pool had frozen to the ground.
Swimming through the beautiful cold water, I intended to do four lengths, but as I was part-way through my third length, it felt like time to get out, so I did. Listening to my body, I had the buzz and that was enough. I’m an experienced cold water swimmer, but that doesn’t mean I should stay in longer than feels comfortable. It’s not just the water temperature to take into consideration, but also the air and Helsinki in February was much colder than Portobello where I usually swim outdoors these days.
Whether you’re in the warmer pool or the cold sea pool, you can take advantage of the view. Allas really feels like it’s in the heart of Helsinki and you can see boats bobbing in the water and beautiful buildings lined up along the shoreline as you swim.
One of the great things about swimming in Finland, whether it’s in a pool, sea or lake, is that there’s nearly always a sauna or two on hand. At Allas, there is a female sauna, a male sauna and a private sauna, which is used as a mixed-gender sauna if there are no bookings. They each have a little window allowing you to look out at the Baltic Sea from inside your 80-degree paradise. The saunas are included in the price of your ticket and there are cubby holes to stash towels in next to the showers before you go in. Swimsuits are optional, but as Brits, we kept ours on!
The wristband you’re given when you pay your entry fee (€14 for an adult at time of writing) gives you access to all the amenities associated with your visit. It lets you through the turnstiles to get to the pools, changing areas, saunas and cafe terrace, as well as enabling you to use the lockers. Simply press the chip on the wristband down on the protruding button on the locker once you’ve closed the door and your band will be linked to that locker, allowing you to unlock it again after your swim.
At the end of your visit, you cut the band off with scissors provided at the little stands dotted around the exit and post it into the box.