Russian/Turkish Bath Experience

Originally posted on June 01, 2022 3:00 pm
Updated on June 01, 2022 12:09 am

As New York City slowly shifts to spring weather, there’s still the occasional lingering winter chill that might have you wanting warmer environments. And what’s hotter and more comfortable than a day at the sauna? While NYC is home to many spa and sauna experiences, it’s also home to an abundance of spas and saunas to spend a day off at. 

Finnish vs Russian vs Turkish-Style Saunas

What are the differences between a Finnish sauna versus a Russian sauna versus a Turkish sauna? A Finnish sauna is the most common type of sauna you can find in rec centers and even gyms. It’s a bath that produces both dry and damp air at the same time. The high heat and low humidity create an environment where the body is allowed to sweat out naturally. The humidity can be regulated by throwing water onto hot rocks.

A Russian sauna, traditionally known as a Banya is very similar to the Finnish sauna, but there is a higher level of humidity. The increased humidity can make a Banya feel more natural, with less aggressive heat. Traditional Banyas usually have what is called a venik massage. A venik is a fragrant bundle of moistened leafy birch, oak, eucalyptus, or juniper twigs and it’s used to warm up the body. The massage is light-hitting that is supposed to improve blood circulation, help with muscle and joint pain, and improve lung ventilation. The leaves usually can contain essential oils and with the surrounding heat of the Banya, it is a way of natural healing.

Finally, a Turkish bath, traditionally known as a Hammam, is essentially a steam bath. The temperatures are much lower than in a sauna or Banya, but the humidity levels are way higher. Because of the high humidity, the flooring is usually tiled rather than wooden to prevent rot. It’s often associated with the similarities of an ancient Roman bath. A Hammam bath can help with detoxification, circulation, and muscle tension. It’s an environment to relax and socialize with new and old friends.

Here are a few spas and saunas in NYC where you can get the chance to experience a Banya or Hammam, or both!

1. Russian and Turkish Baths | East Village

This 130-year old bathhouse is the oldest sauna/bathhouse in the city, having opened its doors in 1892. You can find old regulars, the curious passerby, and even celebrities at this spot. Until a few years ago, this place was informally a men’s club, but a 2016 NYT article has shown that the bathhouse also attracts younger crowds now. The bathhouse is still owned by separate owners and whichever pass you buy, can only be used during that owner’s shift. The bathhouse features five saunas and steam rooms, a cold plunge pool, a roof deck, and a restaurant. They also have services like massages and treatments.

2. Brooklyn Banya | Brooklyn

Featured as a Premier Russian Bathhouse, the Brooklyn Banya describes its bathhouse as a “People’s Banya.” The space is 10,000 sq feet with a relaxation area, cold pool, dry and wet sauna, jacuzzi, and steam room. They offer a venik massage and you can even buy your own venik for $20. According to their site, the point of visiting a Banya is to move your body from one temperature to another, and according to old Russian theories, this helps your body’s immune system and gives it a cleanse from inside out. Check out their site to see their services and facility.

3. Mermaid Spa | Brooklyn

Located in South Brooklyn, this bathhouse has been featured in many publications. “We wanted to create an environment that was similar to an authentic Russian bathhouse or ‘banya’.” Their pass includes three Russian steam rooms, a Turkish bath, a dry sauna, Ice Cave, and cold pools. They have services that include a venik massage or a soap massage. The Mermaid Spa has a restaurant that has pretty good reviews. You can check out their admission fees and services here

4. Wall Street Bath & Spa 88 | Financial District

This bathhouse is unique because they offer a unique combination of a modern facility and the atmosphere of an Old World bathhouse. With the day admission, you have a pass to the spa and unlimited use of their facilities. They also provide towels and personal slippers for comfort. Their facilities include a stone heated sauna, old American shvitz, eucalyptus steam room, infrared sauna, cold plunge pool, swimming pool, cold room, and jacuzzi. They also have a juice bar, where you can get a refreshing cold drink after sweating out. If you want to plan an event, they have a Private VIP Suite with its own jacuzzi and other private amenities. Check out their prices and services here.

 Whether you’re wanting a self-care day or are curious about Russian and Turkish baths, the city has plenty to choose from for your needs and the kind of experience you are looking for. 

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