Article by Lydia Weintraub. Lydia Weintraub is a writer from New York City. She's an editor at the creative nonfiction magazine Moxy.
New York City—the legendary land of the teeny tiny tub. I’ve lived in New York my entire life and have encountered many bathroom set-ups: shower stalls so small I could barely lift my arms, tubs only big enough to bathe a pomeranian. Maintaining a bathing ritual sometimes requires a little more effort than turning on the faucet and lighting a candle.
Yet, cramped city dwellers have found ways to create communal bath spaces to socialize, relax, exercise, and get clean. Taking that extra step to carve out time at a bathhouse offers precious rest and recovery. And although New York apartments are often small, there are plenty of bathhouses to maintain your bathing ritual.
New York is constantly innovating, so although many of the city’s oldest bathhouses are no longer operating, a variety of new options exist. Nearly all are co-ed, and offer various styles of baths, saunas, and treatments. Whether you’re looking for a quiet, luxurious afternoon of pampering, or prefer to schvitz next to your eccentric 70-year old neighbor, we’ve compiled a list of GOODLAND-approved places to float, sweat, and relax.
Old school / Russian & Turkish Baths + Wall St. Bath & Spa 88
For an experience more similar to something your grandfather could have experienced, go to the Russian & Turkish Baths in the East Village. Operating as baths since 1892, the baths’ most recent owners had an epic and mysterious feud many years ago. As a result, the months are split into “David” and “Boris” weeks, with specific passes for each owner. The biggest difference between the weeks? City lore has it that on Boris weeks the hots are hotter and the colds colder.
Reserve the platza oak leaf treatment, during which a platza expert “beats” you with an olive oil soaked broom. Reservations for entrance are not required, but be sure to check whether it’s a “David” or “Boris” week. Most days are co-ed and require bathing suits, but there are still a few hours per week reserved for men only.
For a slightly upgraded, but still old world-feeling option, go to Wall St. Bath & Spa 88 down in the Financial District. In addition to various saunas, steam rooms, and plunge pools, they have a swimming pool and treatment options. Reservations not required.
Luxurious / AIRE Ancient Baths
AIRE Ancient Baths is an elegant and romantic option in Tribeca, with six thermal baths spread throughout a palatial, candlelit room. Transport yourself away from the city’s frenetic energy with an afternoon devoted to soaking and sauna-ing. Elevated treatment options include exfoliation, massage, wine soaks, and salt rituals. Reservations and swimsuits required, and advance booking recommended for weekends.
Image Source: AIRE
Recovery-Focused / Bathhouse
In a converted WIlliamsburg factory, Bathhouse offers recovery focused treatments, three saunas (dry, tropical, and steam), and three thermal pools (cold, hot, thermoneutral). Their onsite restaurant serves Eastern European-inspired dishes that taste especially good post-tub. Reservations and swimsuits required, and advance booking recommended for weekends.
Image Source: Bathhouse, Photographer Adrian Gaut
Spa Complex / Sojo Spa Club
While not technically in New York City, Sojo Spa Club is a worthwhile field trip into New Jersey. Located across the Hudson River in Edgewater, this multi-level complex features countless indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, steam rooms, treatments, and a food hall with a Korean-inspired menu.