By Anisa Arsenault
Here’s a way to stay warm this cold winter.
Get out of the cold and get pampered at a New York Russian bathhouse, but be warned, this is not your standard spa treatment. There will be no Enya new-age soundtrack and no cucumbers for your eyes. But the multi-step process and drastic temperature changes that comprise a Russian banya result in a cleansing experience that will shock all of your senses.
The exact spa regimen varies depending on location, but essentially the experience goes like this: sweat it all out in a sauna, get scrubbed down with oak leaves, and dunk in ice cold water. In varying orders. Then repeat. And cap it all off with some great authentic Russian food.
Here are three top locations in New York.
Russian & Turkish Baths– 268 East 10th Street, East Village
This banya features a laid-back environment in which customers have lots of choice, independence, and can move at their own paces. A reservation is not even necessary. The focal point is the Russian Sauna room, filled with 20,000 pounds of rock heated each night. When the heat becomes unbearable, douse yourself with the nearby buckets of ice-cold water. For those looking for a less extreme experience, there is Redwood Sauna described as “pleasantly warm.” Brace yourself for the intense, cold jets of the Swedish Shower to get squeaky clean. For an extra charge, get scrubbed down with a platza oak leaf bundle, dead sea salt, seaweed, or black mud. Bathers can also check out the Ice Cold Dunk Pool, Aromatherapy Room, Steam Room, and Sun Deck.
Mermaid Spa– 3703 Mermaid Avenue, Brooklyn
This luxurious location caters more to young people. Partially because beer is consumed all day. The men’s and women’s locker rooms open to one of the largest Jacuzzis in New York. In addition to the saunas, ice pools, and Russian steam rooms, Mermaid Spa offers various massages. Clients can try a traditional Russian massage with soap or the leafy venik, or stick to the more well-known Swedish or deep tissue massages. Additionally, a 3,500 square foot backyard with trees and beach chairs creates an outdoor oasis.
Wall Street Bath and Spa– 88 Fulton Street, New York
This ultramodern FiDi hotspot includes separate facilities: the bathhouse, the spa, and tanning. The pampering options in the bathhouse seem endless, ranging from a Russian Sauna to a swimming pool to a cigar lounge. A $100/hour private VIP lounge can hold up to twenty people, and offers the group its own TV, Jacuzzi, pool table, etc. (Putting my idea of a karaoke birthday party to shame.)
The entire process may not be a comfortable experience (whether you are hesitant to swelter and freeze or reluctant to walk around semi-nude). But at right around $35 for admission, an adventure into a Russian Bathhouse may be an alternative NYC pampering activity worth trying.
And here is a video in case you wanted to actually watch the whole process and see how it works.