How to be healthy in London – Review by FT Globetrotter

Financial Times about Banya No.1

Forget the fry-ups and the beer. Here are six ways to sample the city’s more wholesome ways to eat, relax and travel around.

But the visitor to Britain is more at risk. Every hostelry, from rural B&Bs to five-star hotels, offers the full English; at the former, you will be asked the night before how many sausages you want, while at the latter, a waiter will inquire discreetly if you would like “something from the menu”, ie beyond the safety zone of the continental buffet. The “when in Rome . . . ” mentality can be ruinous, even if you are only in town for a few days — a proper fry-up won’t set you up for the day, it will do you in. Contrary to what some might say, it will never see you through until dinner.

And despite the prevailing image of the drunken British businessman careering off the pavement into the road, still clutching his pint, this kind of behaviour is now only condoned on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights (unless the Monday is a bank holiday, in which case all-day drinking on Sunday is mandatory).

There are many ways to stay healthy and relax in London, and avoid the pitfalls mentioned above. Here are a few to keep you on the straight and narrow, and enlighten you along the way.

1. Book your trip for Dry January

2. Travel above ground

3. Start your day with oats

4. Hit the park


5. Get a good thrashing

London, being a cosmopolitan melting pot and all, has a spa for every persuasion: Turkish hammams, Scandi saunas and Russian baths.

Tucked away in an unassuming backstreet in east London’s Hoxton neighbourhood, Banya No.1 has somehow remained a city secret. And perhaps with good reason, as this very Russian spa, which specialises in therapeutic flagellation, isn’t for everyone: it is resolutely not a fluffy robe, manicure and fizz kind of joint.

Once you have descended into its lugubrious subterranean entrance, you are swiftly ushered into a changing room, advised to don a strange triangular felt hat, and go directly to the steam room. This large, fragrant wooden cabin, heated to 70C, is Banya’s main attraction, where its signature treatment, parenie, takes place.

Banya No.1 Steam room

Best not to give the game away too much, but expect a good thrashing with a bundle of twigs and leaves, followed by a peremptory dunk into 8C water.

Once over, you are invited to regain composure in the bar area, where you sit in your swimmers behind waist-high saloon doors and order from a menu of crayfish, vodka and borscht.

Banya No.1 Lounge

Fellow spa-goers are likely to be a mix of young Russians playing chess, celebrities hoping not to be spotted under their felt hats, and couples smugly congratulating themselves on finding such an unusual venue for date night.

Playing chess in sauna

You will leave feeling a mix of blissfully relaxed and amazingly clear-headed, and sleep the sleep of the dead. If Banya No.1 doesn’t knock jet lag on the head, nothing will.

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