BillRavenLondon / TripAdvisor
A real proper Russian banya, believe me! (I’m Russian by birth, so I should know.) The right amount of steam (in the middle between the Finnish sauna and Turkish bath). excellent and highly professional staff (especially “banschiki”, meaning guys treating you with birch or oak branches called “veniki”), proper accoutrements (a large cold water tub to take a dip in and/or two suspended smaller tubs, also with cold water, to douse you with immediately after coming out of the hot room (do it!). “Banschiki” (who speak English, by the way) can also give you a thorough scrub either with a mix of coffee and salt or honey and salt (I personally like the latter) and/or give you a foam bath (not unlike the one you’d get in a Turkish bath) and also even wash your hair. Massage is available and it is simply excellent — you can have 30 mins of it or an hour.
Then there is the resting area — nicely appointed with leather couches and booths and chill music. Russian/East European food is very reasonably priced and really good — herring, lightrly salted salmon (they make it themselves), boiled potatoes, pickled cabbage and cucumbers, borsch (beetroot soup) with sour cream, pelmeni (Russian dumlings stuffed with minced meat), sateed cabbage, etc. Drink “kvas” (a non-alcoholic drink make of fermented dough — there are two varieties, factory-made and made in-house; perhaps surprisingly I prefer the former) and also have a shot or three of “samogon” (moonshine) which I personally rate higher than vodka (which is also on the menu). Beer’s also good to drink after banya. Importantly, do not eat or drink alcohol during the banya process, stick to some nice herbal tea with honey and lemon, nothing else but once you’ve finished your treatments — go for it (although I wouldn’t recommend drinking more than 150g of samogon or vodka each)!
Among the clients of Banya #1 are such real afficionados as Justin Bieber, Renee Zellweger, Doyle Bramhall II, Kate Moss, Tracey Ulman and others — you’ll witness their testimonials in a special book.
Booking is essential. Banya #1’s very popular. It’s not cheap but it’s not crazily expensive (and you can monitor the cost as each treatment is charged separately) but it’s worth it and you should definitely try it at least once. But beware — you may well be hooked!
Another advice — I’d recommend avoiding unisex days and stick to your own gender; i.e. visit on either men’s or women’s days. Then you won’t have to wear swimming costumes. Russian banya’s best enjoyed naked — and you wrap a towel and/or a sheet around yslf when you come out into the rest area. Finally, DO NOT BE AFRAID of letting the “banschiki” beat you with branches — tell them it’s your first time and they’ll do it gently and I promise you’ll greatly enjoy it. And absolutely douse yslf with cold water and/or jump in the tub immediately afterward. Yes, it’ll be a new experience but the one you should have, trust me!