London’s best spas inspired by overseas wellness traditions by National Geographic

Over the course of human history, many civilisations have drawn on the power of steam and bathing to relax, relieve pain and remove bodily toxins. This science was incorporated into sacred ceremonial practices involving hot springs and sweat lodges, others — including those influenced by the Roman and Ottoman empires — made communal bathing a cornerstone of public life. Today, the practice of attending a hammam bath complex is still commonplace throughout North Africa and the Middle East, while saunas are a mainstay of Scandinavian and Eastern European communities — to name just a few places that have championed and finessed their own bathing and wellbeing rituals.

It’s fortunate, then, that the capital offers a range of specialised spas inspired by these traditions. From a luxurious update of the Roman thermae (thermal baths) tradition and an authentic Russian banya (steam baths) to the city’s best hammam-style spas, here’s where to book treatments in London.

4. Banya No.1 — Hoxton

Best for: rejuvenation and de-stressing 

A decade on from opening its doors near Old Street station, Banya No.1’s high-end steam and scrub rituals command a loyal following — and not just with those homesick for an authentic Eastern European cleanse. Scores of signed photos of famous patrons, from Renée Zellweger to Kate Moss, hang in the reception, and Justin Bieber was so impressed during a visit he ‘borrowed’ one of the spa’s massage therapists for the length of his European concert tour. The musician’s now a regular, whenever he’s in town.

Reinvigorating an appetite in London for Russian-style bathing that dates to the vapour baths of the early-20th century, the intimate subterranean spa offers a personalised experience. From waitresses ready with culinary recommendations in the cosy lounge (try fireweed tea, pickled appetisers and moreish cured fish) to the jolly banshiks in the timber sauna who conduct the skilled parenie, the staff are on-hand to usher guests through rounds of steam, treatments, massages, rinses, cold plunges and down time. The immune-boosting and sleep-enhancing benefits of a trip to a banya are well documented, and now, with a second Banya No.1 location in Chiswick since 2021, sweating it out in the capital has never looked so enticing.

Suggested treatment: Banya No.1’s Silver Package offers a three-hour banya session, including parenie, honey and salt or coffee scrub, mud mask and herbal tea. £115 off-peak, £130 peak times. Book now –>>

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