The tradition of relaxing in a luxurious bathhouse goes back millennia. In Roman times, it was common practice for the more affluent to indulge in this activity. Today, bathhouses and spas represent a vibrant business. A bathhouse is meant to cleanse, relax, unwind, recharge, and heal a number of infirmities. The excruciating hot steam cleanses the pores, the icy water taking your breath away, leaving you refreshed and alive. To this day, the use of bathhouses is commonplace. Some of these are thousands of years old, others ultra-modern with state of the art facilities.
Cagaloglu Hamami, Istanbul, Turkey
Without a doubt, the Cagaloglu Hamami bathhouse is the most beautiful of the city’s hamams, built in 1741 by order of Sultan Mahmut I during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. It offers separate facilities for men and women with a range of wash, scrub, and massage facilities. The 18th century architecture is a sight to behold.
Porchester Spa, London, England
The Porchester Spa was built in 1929 in the center of London. It has stunning art deco Turkish baths, complete with arches and tiles. It is an oasis of calm with its traditional décor of green and white tiles, high ceilings and all original features intact. The staff is friendly and helpful. Individuals, couples, and groups are catered for all at affordable prices.
There are two relaxation Russian steam rooms, three Turkish hot rooms and a Finnish sauna cabin. Finish off the steam room experience with a dip in the ice-cold plunge pool. Also available are body exfoliation treatments and body wraps, something to suit everyone.
Sandunovskiye Banya, Moscow, Russia
Sandunovskiye is Moscow’s oldest and most famous bathhouse. Moscow history essayist Vladimir Gilyarovsky wrote that the Sandunovskiye Banya used to be the hangout of Moscow’s artistic elite. Sandunovskiye has preserved this status as a top venue and is visited by politicians, show-biz personalities, businesspersons, and bohemians.
The banya (or bathhouse) is unrivalled in terms of quality and variety and includes five sections offering different categories of service, private compartments, hairdressing and beauty salons, laundry and even a garment repair shop. Sandunovskiye also features a luxurious and antique interior.
Located in the center of the city, the Sandunovskiye Baths is the most of its kind in Moscow. The 19th-century baths make the perfect mixture of sauna and social scene, and visitors and locals alike have been delighting in them for years. Expose your body to extreme hot in the steam room, then extreme cold in the dunking pools to help clear your pores and rejuvenate the soul.
Gellért Baths and Spa, Budapest, Hungary
This bathhouse in Budapest, Hungary, was built between before and during World War I, from 1912 to 1918 in the Art Nouveau style. It was rebuilt to its former glory after sustaining substantial damage in World War II. The complex includes thermal baths (which are small pools containing water from Gellért hill’s mineral hot springs), eight thermal baths with temperatures ranging between 78 and 100 oF, saunas and plunge pools.
Yrjönkadun Swimming Hall, Helsinki, Finland
The art deco architecture was inspired by ancient Roman designs. The batch house was built in 1928 and was for decades Finland’s only indoor public pool. Whilst the temperature drops to 0oF outside, temperatures inside this bathhouse is kept at 85oF. The wearing of clothes is strictly optional. There is a rhythmic clatter of ladle on steel bucket, interspersed with the sounds of cold water rushing into vapor on wood-fired hot stones.
From Roman times to present-day business opportunities, bathhouses around the world offer revitalising experiences.