In ancient times, luxuriating in elaborate thermal baths was part of the Roman lifestyle. While many overscheduled and stressed-out New Yorkers consider it next to impossible to find a hideaway in the city where they can escape for some guaranteed tranquility, Aire Ancient Baths in Tribeca provides such an oasis 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.
With three popular spas in Spain, Aire has developed a winning formula for serenity and is a true retreat in every sense of the word. The vast space, on the site of a former textile factory built in 1883, has a wonderful European feeling and is beautifully designed with original exposed brick and a soothing vibe from the moment you arrive. On a recent weekday morning, I reserved a 90-minute session in the thermal baths, followed by a 15-minute massage. After changing into my bathing suit and leaving my belongings in a locker in the dressing room, I was given a bathrobe and slip-proof slippers and was escorted to the subterranean candlelit level of the baths.
The variety of inviting pools offers something for every taste and temperature preference. The Flotarium — a salt-water pool — allows for the ultimate in R&R as you float effortlessly on your back while gazing up at the soaring, wood-beamed ceiling overhead. For a more stimulating change of pace, a 97°F pool with propeller jets outdoes any American-style Jacuzzi I’ve ever seen. Nearby, a Calidarium (a 102°F hot-water pool) provides a mellower alternative. A large Tepidarium (97°F warm-water pool) with lots of built-in seating capacity occupies most of the back end of the spa. For the bravest souls, there are two small cold-water plunge pools — one 50°F And the other 57°F.
A glass-enclosed aromatherapy steam room (Hammam) has two sinks with cool water and bowls for dunking to keep bathers from overheating. Outside the steam room, you can rest on heated marble stone benches in the relaxation area and enjoy citrus-infused cold water or order a fruit drink.
By the time my masseur, John, came to escort me to my massage, I had lost all sense of time and was almost in a dream-like state of calm. Since my treatment would be short, he asked if there was a particular area he should focus on, and I chose my neck and shoulders. While you can book just the thermal baths, a menu of massages is available to enhance your experience, including 45- or 60-minute four-handed massages, as well as other super-indulgent treatments such as the Red Wine Ritual.
The women’s dressing room is well stocked, so all you need to bring from home is your bathing suit. The showers have l’Occitane shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, and there is a comfortable area to sit and blow-dry your hair. While I was getting dressed, Sharlene, who kept the dressing room immaculate and dry, put my bikini through a machine that quickly rung out the water and delivered it back to me in a Zip-lock bag.
I highly commend Aire for enforcing etiquette guidelines that ensure all guests will have a peaceful experience. Cell phones and cameras are not allowed in the bath area. Guests and staff must keep their voices low so that others are not disturbed. The number of guests per session is limited to 25, so you don’t feel crowded. For parts of my session, I was alone in a pool and there were never more than a few other people sharing a pool with me at any time. If you are looking for a gorgeous haven in NYC where you can unwind, put Aire Ancient Baths at the top of your list.
For more information, visit http://www.ancientbaths.com
Aire Ancient Baths
77 Franklin Street
NYC, NY 10013