In most parts of the world, taking a bath has always been a communal act. In ancient Asia, the practice of communal bathing was a religious ritual in which people believed to have medical benefits such as the purification of the body and soul. In ancient Greece, the practice of communal bathing was associated with the song, dance, self-expression, and sport, while in Rome, it served as community centers, places to eat, read, exercise, and debate politics.
However, in the modern world, communal bathing is considered rare. Although there are several places where it remains a part of social life such as in Japan, Russia, Sweden, and Turkey, the majority of people in New York, London, and Sydney have become used to bathing alone at home, showering at their convenience, to clean their own private body in the most efficient way possible.
If you are looking for a way to destress for this winter, maybe you should consider visiting the Russian bathhouse called banya. If you have never been there before, the first visit may be a little bit overwhelming for you and it is not just because you are wearing a skimpy bathing suit in front of strangers. It is because there are a whole ritual and culture that surrounds sauna which is unfamiliar to most of us. That is why it is easy to feel out of depth and therefore, uncomfortable.
Russian bath includes massage, sauna, and relaxation therapies, more or less equal to modern day spas. It remains one of the most popular weekly activities for Russian people because it is deeply rooted in their culture.
For the Russian people, it is a place not only to destress but also to hang out with friends and to purify the soul and heal the body of any disease. But, what if you reside in London which Russian bath is not so common? Do you want to feel a Russian bath in London? Here are some recommendations for you.
- Banya No. 1
First of all, almost everyone in Banya No. 1 is Russian, including the guests. Second, this Central London bathhouse is not only an authentic place made of exposed brick and real wood, but it is also a wonderful place where you can afford vodka and pancakes with red caviar.
After a round of the famous banya sauna, you will be given a surprisingly reinvigorating plunge in the ice-cold pool and a well-needed rehydration break with Russian herbal tea and sparkling beetroot juice. The worker will then escort you to the next step which is the parenie.
Parenie is where you will be prepared for the pressure of hot twigs on your bare skin while lying on a structure that looks like a stone table. There is this constant stream of splashes of fluids and hot brush strokes of which the sound is able to intensify your boosted blood circulation and the release of stress and tension.
After that, you will be told to stay put underneath a large bucket of freezing cold water and get it poured all over your body. Then, the worker will beckon you to plop into the plunge pool and put your heads underwater before sitting on a stone step for a few minutes while wrapped in a towel to relax.
- New Docklands
In London, there is an oasis of calm, relaxation, and cordiality called New Docklands where you can enjoy all the great benefits of a traditional Turkish bath with a little bit of Russian thrown in.
You can sweat out your week’s filth in the steam rooms, relax your aching joints and muscles in the sauna or chill out in the freezing plunge. You can also have your skin pummeled or horsewhipped within an inch of its life in the schmeissing room, then gently massaged on the massage slab or you can find out what invigoration truly is by being whipped with bundles of leafy twigs in the Russian room.
When you are already feeling rejuvenated and a lot better than you felt the moment you came in, you can go upstairs, grab a bite to eat or any beverage to drink in the café, watch some TV shows, check out the Wi-Fi, or sleep on the comfortable lounge chairs.
- South Kensington Club
For those who are a sucker for luxury, you must opt to go to the hottest place in London to recharge, relax, or reverse the effects of a sleepless night at the new Russian banya in the South Kensington Club.
This banya is a luxurious version of Russian traditional, dacha-style bathhouse. It is a stunning, wood-paneled bathhouse that consists of two saunas, an ice-plunge pool, two parenie treatment rooms, the oligarch jet set, and two banya suites with special entrances for A-list customers.
At the first glimpse, you will be able to spot bunches of birch, eucalyptus leaves, and oak that hang perfectly from hooks on the walls. The banya is steamier than a conventional sauna due to the herbal infusions that are steadily poured onto the hot stones of the oven and heated to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
The luxurious experience ends with a dip in the ice-cold plunge to tone the skin and close the pores, and the option of a refreshing coffee body scrub with either sour cream or honey sourced from a monastery in Latvia. Either way, both would pair perfectly with a stiff shot of vodka.
- The Porchester Spa
The place is very spacious. The first floor is full of lounge chairs all around, a good spot to hang out. Food and drinks are ordered at the front desk and then delivered to your table. There are two steam rooms, one dry sauna, and one large room called tropical country downstairs.
All in all, it is a nice place to temporarily escape from the real world and surrender to relaxation. You can go for a swim, sweat out your demons, and enjoy a nice massage. If you do not want the full treatment, you can simply enjoy the pools.
Do you want to feel a Russian bath in London? If yes, then pick one place to go this weekend out of the recommendations above.