Let’s Aire It Out

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While some of us have resisted the whole “bathhouse” thing (visions of scantily-toweled, hirsute men and a whole lot of sweaty naked time with strangers dance through our heads), the recently-opened Tribeca steam-and-soak spot Aire Ancient Baths gives us cause to reconsider. Why? It's something else, entirely. And we mean “something else” in the flattering way somebody would say it to you in a social setting—like, “Boy, you are something else, alright.” For one thing, at Aire, a swimsuit is required (they provide the water shoes, a nod to hygiene we respect). For another: it’s the most luxurious experience we’ve treated ourselves to recently. The first American outpost of a successful Spanish chain, all 16,000 feet of the spa is housed in a 3-story 1883 Tribeca building, which was gutted to reveal the original brick and refashioned into a glass-bound, impossibly relaxing subterranean oasis, accessed by a candle-lit stone staircase. Decorated with Spanish terracotta urns, Moroccan lanterns, and walls of flickering votives, the baths are surrounded by glass-walled massage rooms fitted with gauzy curtains, all intended to make you feel like you’ve wandered in to the best part of the Roman empire. And you know what? It works. Pass the grapes. (And feed them to us, while you're at it.)

In a nod to ancient Greek and Roman bathing rituals, Aire admits just twenty-five people every two hours (ahem, book in advance) to plunge into a series of marble pools at different temperatures. There’s the “tepidarium,” at 97° F; the “caladarium,” which is 102°; the two “frigidarium” pools at 57 and 50°, respectively; the propeller-jet bath at 97°, and the “flotarium,” or salt water pool, which is kept at 100° and, like the Dead Sea it's meant to mimic, is prized for its ability to keep you afloat. There's also a hammam (steam room), which looks like a thick cloud caught in a glass box, if that cloud was 115°, enhanced with eucalyptus oil, and you wanted to stay in it forever. The no-talking policy and limitation on body traffic makes the experience less awkward than getting sweaty with a bunch of strangers has the potential to be—though if you go by yourself, know that there will most likely be couples there, and they will all be giving each other 'honeymooner eyes'... You can’t really blame them, though. The whole thing is so damn pleasurable you’ll probably be giving the tea table honeymooner eyes by the end of your session. Our tip: bring a friend and you two can make eyes at each other while you float.

Massage services are available in increments of 15 to 60 minutes—someone will come collect you for your appointment—and there’s a heated marble banquette stocked with complimentary mint tea and a menu of fresh juices to sip while you unwind (we favor the coconut and peach blend). For those who really want to take the Ancient Rome thing to the next level, there are two private treatment rooms reserved for one- or two-person treatments that include a soak in either olive oil, cava wine, or red wine, and subsequent four-handed massages. It's either up your alley, or it's not. No judgements.

Our recipe for a perfect Aire date? Take the full two-hour block and work your way through the pools, from body-temperature to whirlpool to the 102°, dipping in the frigid plunge before heading to the hammam. Then, steam it out before taking a leisurely float in the salt-water pool, letting it do it’s naturally exfoliating thing. Get a massage (15 minutes is $20, but it’s very hard to just do 15 minutes), and if you’re feeling lush, spring for the four-handed (!!!) option. Lie on the heated marble, get a juice, and try not to feel like you’re a Roman emperor. We dare you... And we’ll see you there post-Fashion Month.

Aire Ancient Baths, 88 Franklin Street, New York, NY, (212)-274-3777. 2 hours of access to the baths is $75; $140 with a 60 minute massage. The ritual packages (olive oil, cava, wine) run from $450-500 per person.

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  • http://dearwinnie.com Chelsea Rae

    $140for two hour access and a 60 minute massage? That's a really good deal! This place looks worthy of a "sick day" staycation

  • Louise Lam

    This sounds amazing and makes me feel like wanting to get pampered right now. The place looks so nice as well!

    http://dreamdustx.blogspot.com

  • http://twitter.com/L_Ashley Lauren Ashley

    I love a traditional bath house - I've visited them in S Korea and Budapest. We have a Korean style one here in SF, but if I were in NYC I'd give this on a try fo sho.

    • thejulia

      What's the Korean style one in SF?

    • http://twitter.com/BikePretty Melissa, BikePretty

      Yeah, what is the Korean style one in San Francisco?

  • dd

    this was a little secret gem... hope after this post we still are able to get in! :-(

    • ITGAlessandra

      I know, I know. Fingers crossed. x

  • thejulia

    Did this in Spain and thought it was amazing- they have a ton of them all over the place. I was disappointed by the massage though, it was just some light prodding. Does the massage at Aire match the rest of the experience?

  • jk

    Went here a couple of weeks ago. The Flotarium was amazing. The whole experience was transportive.

  • Lucy Apted
  • carolruga

    Amazing you've got Aire at NYC. I'm from Barcelona in Spain an the Aire baths are just 10 minutes away from my job, so I go there really often. It's an amazing place and totally relaxing, in fact it is an ancient bath discovered underground an old building an rebuilded

    Next time in NYC I'll try the experience there!!

  • Shirin

    Looks amazing. Are there any other locations or should I book my flight to NY?

    • ITGAlessandra

      There are AIRE's located in Seville, Barcelona and Almería. Tribeca, NYC is the first North American location (but frankly with the latest cold/rainy snap I'd rather head for Barcelona and make a whole thing out of it). x

  • T.T

    Noooo! You gave it away!

  • eileen

    Dear ITG,

    While I appreciate all the luxurious beauty reviews you have here, how about some cheap luxuries we can consider as well? I'm talking easy DIYs we can do at home, or certain drugstore products that deserves more attention. Everyone wants a experience like this bathhouse, but not everyone can afford it!

  • Bird

    If only I knew about this before I made Valentine's dinner reservations! Nothing could possibly be more relaxing or heavenly than this. Thank you for finding this gem, ITG!

  • the 90s addiction

    wowww

    such a nice place to relax!!

    http://the90addiction.blogspot.com.ar/

  • Sarah

    Wow thanks for sharing pricing! I'm always curious :)

  • Denise

    This sounds amazing! I just made my appointment for my trip to NYC in 2 weeks:)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=558605925 Christine Kim

    I went here a few weeks ago with my boyfriend and it was such a sensual, relaxing experience. Be sure to request a masseuse with a heavy hand if you like a firm massage (which I do). Dipping from the super hot pool into the cold pools feels freakish the first time but if you repeat it a few times it feels better and better. Highly recommend.

  • kathS

    Any other slightly less luxurious baths worth mentioning? I am visiting NYC soon and don't know if I want to shell out.

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