A haunt of Bolshoi ballerinas, models and actresses alike, Banya No.1 is somewhat of a coveted establishment among those in the know.
Unassumingly located in Clerkenwell, this Russian bathhouse is much more than just a sauna. In fact, the owner, Andrei, proclaims sauna a dirty word to his ears! A true Banya No. 1 experience generally lasts up to three hours, which is spent between the steam room, your booth and various treatments.
The steam room itself is inside a wooden cabin, heated to 70 degrees Celsius and 40-70 percent humidity which allows you to sweat profusely and detoxify. You lie down to sweat it out in a little felt hat, worn to protect from overheating.
The main bathhouse is a communal space, with options available for women or men only slots as well as the normal mixed gender openings (swimsuits must be worn during these!),additionally they have their bespoke private Banya next door. The private Banya can fit up to 10 people and includes all the facilities of the main Banya, making it the perfect place for some alternative fun with friends or a more intimate or solo bathhouse trip.
After the steam room, you’re served Russian herbal tea to rehydrate between sessions. Feel free to revisit the steam room as many times as you like.
Banya No. 1 offers a number of different treatments to complement your time in the steam room, including honey and salt or coffee scrubs, mud wraps, or an aloe vera body mask.
The real Russian bathhouse experience begins with a parenie – a traditional thermal treatment using twigs to boost circulation and relieve tension. Branches of oak, birch and eucalyptus waft steam down onto the body. The treatment leaves you feeling refreshed.
Photo Credit Banya No. 1
Following this you receive a stimulating cool down – first by two buckets of cold water poured liberally over your head, and then into a plunge pool you go. The cold releases adrenalin and stress hormones which actually leave you feeling invigorated, energized and soothed all at the same time.
Traditional yet fun, Banya No.1 really ticks off all the boxes. Go once and you’ll be hooked!
New Media & Society 2013.15:167-182
Nicholas A. John
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