New York City, for all its worldliness, has never had a world-class bathhouse. Lots of spas, yes. But no hammams or baths for a communal soak in the ancient Roman tradition. (Sorry Spa Castle, you’re too crowded and chaotic to count. As for the city’s Russian bathhouses, we’ve been to them all and none measure up to what you’d find in Moscow.)
Enter Aire Ancient Baths, a sexy import from Southern Spain where you can bathe like a reigning Caesar when it opens later this spring.
Every bit of the sumptuous setting—the marble, the stone sinks, even the hundreds of candles that illuminate the subterranean space—was carted over from Spain, where the owners have three other baths. New York City is their first foreign outpost, and we’re grateful. (As is our blood pressure.)
The Tribeca oasis is a veritable Baths of Caracalla. One pool has salt water, another hundreds of jets, others still have varying temperatures of hot water and hidden alcoves. Hydrotherapy buffs (and the bold) can plunge in the two cold pools of 61 degrees and 46 degrees. And in the middle of all this sits a steamy glass-domed hammam.
How are modern bathers meant to indulge in this ancient ritual? Access comes in 2-hour sessions (and starts at $75). You warm your body slowly using the steam and increasingly hot pools, then take dunks in the cold plunge in order to boost circulation and bring blood to your capillaries—a centuries-old heath-giving practice.
Although the baths span 16,000 square feet of sybaritic real estate, they’ll cap the number of bathers at 30 at a time.
During our recent tour, Aire Ancient Baths looked nearly finished. But with a project of this scale and ambition, it’s hard to tell exactly when the water will be ready. We can’t wait to dive in. —Alexia Brue
Aire Ancient Baths (opens later this spring), 88 Franklin St. (btwn Church and Broadway), Tribeca, 212-274-3777, www.ancientbathsny.com