Situated in an old bank opposite Buckingham Palace, The Bath House brings authentic Russian Banya to the heart of London. Based on the centuries old traditional bathing culture, Banya involves a series of sauna experiences deeply rooted in history. Central to most villages in the past, the banya was a pace of cleansing and community and (whilst it never went away) is enjoying a revival in Russia and many of the former Soviet countries that line the Baltic. There are a couple of Russian banya’s in London and The Bath House, just a stone’s throw from Victoria station brings a touch of luxury while retaining a real sense of authenticity.
A warm welcome greeted me as I walked through the door from busy Grosvenor Gardens. Given a locker band, I headed downstairs to change. On single sex days you can dispense with swimwear. I draped the cotton towel around me and began my visit with a pot of warming thyme tea. The secret to the sauna bathing is to do this in stages. 5-10 minutes at a time (sauna, cool then tea) and repeat this around three times.
The treatment – The Bath House Parenie Ritual
Once warmed and cooled (with cool showers and the ice-cold bucket showers, it’s time for the renowned Parenie treatment. Many people describe this as being beaten with sticks. Far from it. You lay on a raised bed in a sauna-like room and have wet, cool eucalyptus leaves positioned around your head (to keep you cool). Then the banshik (banya expert) uses branches of birch and oak leaves to gather warm air and circulate this across the body. There’s some light tapping and the whole ritual is calming and soothing. A word of warning – you will get VERY HOT. Do let your banshik know and he can adjust this with his technique. It works on the front and back, then you sit up for more tapping and then it’s time for the cold plunge pool. This really balances the body temperature and gives you a jolt. After a few minutes submerged I hop out and feel like a new man. I sit back and relax in the tea room and feel a wave of euphoria sweep over me – it’s total bliss. Sipping thyme tea, I relax for half an hour, serenely and calmly. You can grab a bite to eat with some Russian specialities on the menu – I chose meatball dumplings. Delicious.
The treatment menu at The Bath House is concise and no-fuss. Just how I like it. So, I opted for a soap massage. It’s basically a cleanse, soap and scrub ritual – it works into tight muscles and is a great way to conclude the visit.
I have always loved the Russian Banya experience. You can feel the sense of history and culture in the air. There’s community (it’s great fun in a group) and I think that The Bath House has got the right mix of authentic experience with luxury – without being blingy or ostentatious. I loved it and highly recommend it for an alternate way to take time out. Book it now.
Parenie Ritual – from £45
The Bath House Banya Sessions and Opening Times
Ladies – Monday’s & Thursday’s, 10am – 11pm
Men – Tuesday’s & Friday’s, 10am – 11pm
Mixed – Wednesdays & Saturday’s, 10am – 11pm and Sunday’s, 10am – 10pm
The Bath House, 1 Grosvenor Gardens, Belgravia, London, SW1W 0BD
READ The Spa Man’s review of other Banyan locations in London HERE