Winter in New York can be a real drag, with temperatures dipping into the single digits, frigid subway platforms, and horrid wind tunnels created by our beloved skyscrapers. Fortunately New York is an international city, and with that comes a whole array of sauna options to not only warm up, but pamper yourself in all sorts of ways. And having a schvitz isn’t just a guy thing—it’s for us too, and I can’t recommend it enough as a cure for winter malaise.
Here are a few suggestions, depending on your personal style:
The Russian & Turkish Baths in the East Village is my top choice for adventurous women and those on a budget. This institution has been around since 1892, and with that venerable age comes a thin layer of grime and dinginess. There are no frills and the staff doesn’t have time for pleasantries. The best part about this place is the variety: a hellishly hot Russian sauna, after which you’ll feel like you returned from the dead; a much drier but also very hot and satisfying redwood sauna; an intense aromatherapy steam room filled with eucalyptus and other oils; a lighter steam room; and an ice-cold pool to slow your heart down and give you that addictive rush of rejuvenation. Check the schedule for women-only and co-ed hours. Entry is $35.
The Russian Bath of NY out in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn is great for a group of ladies. It’s got the Eastern European vibe of the Russian & Turkish Baths, but cleaner with much more room to spread out. The location makes it more of a local’s hangout, but they’re friendly and their restaurant serves delicious vareniki. There’s a raging 210-degree sauna and a nice thick steam room, in addition to the largest regular pool of any option listed here. There isn’t a cold pool, but rather cold showers and buckets of icy water to shock your system. Entry is $40.
Great Jones Spa in NoHo is where I go to treat myself, and it’s my pick for women who’re on the fence about saunas to begin with. The spa’s “water lounge” is gorgeous with natural light filtering down and a three-story waterfall. It’s quite clean and well-kept, with little goodies like lemon water, tea, and cashews. There’s only one sauna, but it’s awfully toasty at 194 degrees, and when you need a break, there’s a petite cold pool, a hot tub, a steam room, and a rest area with comfy lounge chairs and stylish magazines. Great Jones Spa offers a platza ($100) that’s great for first-timers, which entails getting beaten with oak branches soaked in olive oil soap while your guide whips up the heat, then takes you to the cold pool and guides you through the come-down process. You’ll do that several times, or as much as you can withstand, and then you’ll get a killer massage. Entry is $55 or free if you’re getting $100 worth of treatments.
Spa Castle in College Point, Queens is what I recommend for more modest ladies, because you must wear their shirt-and-shorts uniform over your bathing suit. This Asian-style facility is enormous, the main difference being that these are dry saunas rather than humid, and instead of dunking yourself in a cold pool, you just retreat into a frosty 25-degree room. There are individual saunas featuring real gold, jade, Himalayan salt, and more, plus a low-intensity but relaxing color therapy sauna. Like Great Jones Spa, the treatment offerings at Spa Castle are comprehensive, so you could easily spend an entire day having a facial, body scrub, and massage, and eating at their buffet. Entry is $40 on weekdays, $50 on weekends.
What’s your favorite sauna in NYC?