Bath House Banya London
Bath House Banya London brings the popular Russian-style sauna-based spa experience to central London, with burly banshiki promising to gently whip you into shape, turn up the heat and get your circulation coursing. One of several London banyas, Bath House Banya-London is owned by an Anglo-Ukrainian pair and offers a perfect parenie, just up the road from Buckingham Palace and within easy walking distance of Knightsbridge and Mayfair.
A close relative of the Finnish sauna and Turkish hammam, the banya is based on the basic wellness premise that subjecting your body to contrasting temperatures helps to boost circulation, detoxify the body, prevent premature skin ageing, and generally promote improved health. It’s also a great place to socialise if you’re looking to spa with friends.
Spavellous for: fun with friends, fans of an authentic thermal spa experience, city treatment seekers, spa goers on a budget, detoxers and anyone looking for a banya experience in the heart of London.
The main, communal spa area is made up of a large sauna or ‘parilka’, the steamy parenie treatment room where the venik branch massages take place, cold water tipping buckets, an icy plunge pool, showers, and several treatment rooms.
Central to the banya is the large, super-heated parilka sauna with stepped solid wood benches and an ornate ceramic mega-stove. Detailed mosaics depicting traditional bath house scenes help to give the spa an authentic feel, and transport you from Belgravia to Eastern Europe. As do the most fetching hats you’ll see this side of Ascot (not actually a fashion statement but to protect your head and hair from the heat). The whole place is functional and clean and has a slightly retro feel.
Bath House Banya-London is open seven days a week from 10am ‘til late. Thursdays are for women-only, Tuesdays are reserved for men, and the remaining days of the week are mixed. Swimwear is optional on single sex days when you’re free to spa starkers. You’re given a sheet when you check in to protect your modesty, plus a towel and a pair of flip flops.
The ground floor also houses a self-contained private banya which you can book for exclusive use for up to eight people. This boujee banya space offers a large treatment room with two marble massage tables, dressing room, sauna, plunge pool and living room, and has the feel of an upmarket apartment. Plus, you can order drinks and food to be delivered to your room.
The most popular treatment at the Bath House is the signature parenie, an intense steam and gentle foliage-lashing. Trained banshiki, who are usually male, perform this circulation-boosting ‘venik’ massage with oak and birch branches.
How does the parenie work? I hear you ask.
Well, firstly let me reassure you that the parenie isn’t painful as the branches are softened in steam and the venik is more of a gentle rhythmic massage and sweeping than a thrashing.
You start by lying face-down on a wooden bench in a wood-clad steam room, in your suit of choice, swimsuit or birthday. The room is super-hot, just the right side of bearable, and softened cool branches are placed on your face so you don’t overheat and to cool the air that you breathe in. And don’t worry, you won’t come out with leaves in your hair as you wear one of the aforementioned fetching felt hats throughout the treatment.
The treatment mainly consists of the therapist or banshik, who can be male or female, rhythmically sweeping, brushing, and swirling softened twig bundles up and down your body to get your circulation moving. There are a few manual presses and stretches, such as having your lower legs bent upwards to treat the soles of your feet, but it’s generally just a case of lying still and enjoying/enduring the experience as the heat literally rises. Then, just as you feel like your head might be getting on the hot side of comfortable, the banshik replaces your face foliage with freshly cooled twigs.
You then turn on to your front and the process is repeated. And, before you know it, the banshik checks you’re feeling OK then leads you from the tropical heat of the parenie to the icy cool waters of the plunge pool. Wow. Not what most people would describe as a relaxing experience, but it’s properly invigorating, and leaves you feeling amazing.
There are two wooden treatment benches in the steamy room, and I chose to have the treatment with a colleague. If it’s your first parenie experience, or you feel a little nervous, I recommend having a parenie pal with you.
My banya buddy was borderline euphoric after her treatment. I also felt amazing, with my legs feeling like they’d particularly benefited from the parenie effect, almost like they’d be massaged with tiger balm.
When you book a parenie at the Bath House Banya London you get a 3-hour session, with the first hour to enjoy the sauna and cold facilities, the second to have treatments and the third relax at your allocated table in the birch-clad restaurant. You won’t be given a specific treatment time, one of the friendly staff members will come and find you when it’s your turn.
Bath House – Banya London also offers a range of treatments that are perfect to add on to your parenie. Wraps, soap massage and classic massage are even more effective following a pore-opening, muscle-relaxing steam.
wining & dining
There’s an informal restaurant with a retro vibe, birch tree partitions and vintage-style Russian posters on the walls. Everyone who’s booked into the spa is allocated a table which acts as a base for the duration of your visit, and you can leave your phone etc. here, or put it in one of the lockers in the changing room.
Choose from Slavic menu favourites including borsch, chicken and noodle soup, pelmeni dumplings and caviar. The drinks menu includes teas, beers and Ukrainian vodka, and chess boards are provided for anyone wanting to indulge in a quick game while they’re cooling down.
why so spavellous?
Bath House – Banya London offers a refreshing, fun and affordable spa experience that combines the benefits of the traditional banya with the convenience of a central London location.
Facilities at the Bath House are clean and well-maintained, and it offers a range of good value treatments in addition to the thermal experiences. You won’t find any hi-tec celebrity-favourite facials or five-star spa trappings here. But, if you’re after proper traditional treatments of the kind that your no-nonsense, wild-swimming grandma might recommend, you won’t find much better.
Drink lots of water – you will get a sweat on.
Consider going in the morning when it’s less popular – you might even get the place to yourselves like we did for the first hour when we went for a women-only spa session on a Thursday.
You can enjoy the parenie with a friend as there are two tables in the room.
Factor in time to spend in the café for the full authentic experience.
If it’s your first time at the banya, pick up one of the helpful booklets in reception that talks you through the experience step by step.
‘Not your typical British spa experience – and that’s what I loved about it – it’s different!’
‘I loved my mud treatment and parenie and it made me feel lighter.’
‘I was surprised by how gentle the branches felt and I love-hated the plunge pool afterwards, but it did make me feel invincible.’
‘I didn’t really know what to expect but this was really fun – will definitely come back with my boyfriend’.