The best Russian banyas in London
The hottest place to spa in London right now? A steamy Russian banya, of course…
Temperatures are starting to feel practically Siberian, so it's the perfect time to hunker down and hibernate in a hot and humid steam room – Russian style. Here's why…
Ethan Pollock, professor of Russian and Soviet history at Brown University, has written Without the Banya, We Would Perish, an entire book celebrating the ritual and all that goes with it. The title might be slightly dramatic, but the author is onto something.
For centuries Russians from every economic class, political persuasion and social background have treated bathing as a communal activity integrating hygiene and health with ritual, relaxation and conversation. Pollock says, 'Communal steam baths have survived the Mongols, Peter the Great, and Soviet communism and remain a central and unifying national custom.'
The long-standing go-to holistic treatment that is a relative of the Turkish hammam and Finnish sauna – although not quite as dry and hot as the latter, has a whole host of wellness positives that you may benefit from now.
There are a few options: you can either hire private banya cabins or for larger groups communal spaces perfect gatherings.
As for traditional treatments, there's the main offering of a 'parenie' – the whipping of the skin with ‘venik’ - twigs made from birch, oak and eucalyptus branches in a heated room, with other add-ons such as a mud mask, scrubs, wraps and really good rub-downs
This is said to aid detoxification, support the immune system, flush out the respiratory organs and boost metabolism. You’re finished off with a Baltic ice bucket challenge (a liberal dousing with freezing water), the shock is followed by a certain kind of euphoria too.
When you think of a some spa experiences, there can be lots of shuffling around in oversized robes, under a hushed, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ kind of silence; clutching at best, a kale smoothie.
A ‘banya’ is far from that. You finish the treatment with vodka straight from the freezer, homemade dumplings, caviar and lively conversation.
Gosh - those Russians really know how to spa.
Here are the best banyas in London to try now.
Where: 1 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0BD
Price: From £55 for a Parenie
If you fancy being transported to Moscow without the flight or visa arrangements, you should visit The Bath House in Belgravia.
Located in a former bank behind Buckingham Palace, it blends the authentic Russian banya experience (complete with burly men) with a contemporary spa space.
There's the sweat room that hovers around 93-degrees, plunge pools and the tipping buckets you can stand underneath (if you dare).
The banshiks (two brawny male therapists) perform the 'parenie', stroking, whipping and slapping your sweaty skin with birch leaves, while keeping the heat at the optimum level, so your muscles wilt into submission. The heat can be a shock to the system for newbies, but just as you're about to falter, there's instant refreshment in the form of a plunge pool or ice bucket.
Along with treatments like a Russian massage that irons out the knots faster than you can say Привет (hello), there's skin-softening organic scrubs, soap treatments and body wraps.
Post-treatment, the relaxation area is monitored by Slavic staff, offering delicious Siberian specialities like pelmeni dumplings – all home-made, with soups like bortsch and schi, salads, and caviar accompanied of course, with juices, beer and vodka.
You will leave feeling a mix of titillatingly tortured with a renewed sense of purpose, clear nasal passages, super-soft skin and supple muscles – resulting in the best dream-inducing sleep.
The Bath House Russian banya – book here
Where: 38-42 Harrington Road, London SW7 3ND
Price: From £50 for The Russian Dance with Leaves Parenie
Find Siberia in South Kensington with this stylish members' club offering a luxurious Russian banya treatment in London.
For anyone who leads that Gwyneth/Goop lifestyle, they will know the benefits of plunging into ice-cold water or snow for immune-boosting and anti-depression purposes. You can now practise without the likes of Wim Hof on the bank of a frozen lake.
The Georgian townhouse makes for a lovely backdrop. You can mix up the repertoire by booking for a Parenie while utilising the spacious skylit gym, weights room and daily classes, including Reformer and mat Pilates, HIIT, yoga, barre and boxing. Finish off with a Bellini and eggs in The Harrington Kitchen.
The South Kensington Club – book here
Where: 17 Micawber Street, London N1 7TB &
404-406 Chiswick High Road, London, W4 5TF
Price: From £45 to use the spa space, treatments extra
Apparently, Kate Moss, Liv Tyler and Renée Zellweger have all been for a session here.
There are plenty of traditional treatments to try while enjoying the Slavic -style hot room. The plunge pool is a chilling 7-10°C, or you can take on the ice bucket challenge, with oak pails mounted on the wall – just waiting for you to pull the cord.
They also serve Russian Standard Vodka, should you need it. Extreme refreshment – but what else would you expect from a Russian spa space?
Banya No.1 – book here
Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo, £55
A pea-sized amount of this rich cleanser encourages a glossy, conditioned mane.
Diptyque Eucalyptus Scented Candle, £47
This is also infused with aromatic camphor so will help clear the head and create a spa-like backdrop in your bathroom.
Beluga Gold Line Vodka, £200
This vodka is filtered five times and is super smooth and easy to drink.
Kusmi Tea Blue Detox, £18
Green tea and detoxifying nettle are sweetened up by the inclusion of pineapple and mint.
Natura Siberica Northern Soap – Detox, £12
This black soap smells sweet like almonds and when layered over the face, throat and décolletage feels like a traditional spa treatment that you can perform when in the bath tub, plus it comes with it’s very own cleansing cloth so you don’t blacken your Egyptian cotton.
Frédéric Malle Russian Nights Room Spray, £120
A powerful spritz of sandalwood, iris and cinnamon that instantly turns your home into a Russian residence.
Birch Leaves, from £6
Authentic birch leaves to amp up your bathing ritual.
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