- guide to traditional Russian baths and Banya reviews

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Russian bath - what to expect and how to bath like a pro
Russian venik and venik massage (platza) techniques

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Russian bath for centuries was an essential part of living in Russia. People from Tsars to peasants not only washed there, but used it for religious ceremonies, to heal when they get sick, women gave birth and young couples found seclusion in there. more on history...

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Banya (Russian bath)
- a bathhouse with a steam room where heat comes from heated stones and humidity is added by throwing water on the stones.
A vital part of banya is venik - a leafy bundle of birch or oak twigs used body massage (platza).

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Spend a day at one of Russian baths and you will sweat in bath and freeze in icy pool, enjoy birch leaves (venik ) massage and struggle with the heat. But after all, walking out of the banya, feeling ten years younger with skin soft and smooth like babies, you will promise yourself to come back.

So what makes the Russian Bath special?

Baths differ greatly in temperature and humidity. The hottest contemporary Finnish saunas have only about 5-10% humidity, which allow boiling temperatures (100C/212F) to be tolerated and even enjoyed for short periods of time. Other types of baths, such as the Turkish bath Hammam have almost 100% humidity, but the temperatures there are no more than 40C/100F. Russians believe that hot and dry sauna will only dry your throat and skin. And high humidity baths with heavy drops of water in the steam are also not healthy.

Russian bath has the same levels of humidity as the air we breathe every day: about 60%. And the temperatures usually do not exceed 80C/180F. Russians pay special attention to the quality of steam: by throwing water on stones heated to extreme temperatures behind metal doors, they create steam droplets of exceptionally small size; this makes breathing easy and enjoyable. more on health... And of cause there's a famous Russian venik - leafy, fragrant bundle of birch twigs used to gently beat and massage fellow bathers.


Here's what a platza looks like. You can find out more on Venik/Platza page

Quick picks for New Yorkers

If you have a car, go to BRC Sauna and Spa - it is in New Jersey half an hour from New York but is worth it.

If you have to stay in Manhattan, go to Wall Street Bath & Spa (Spa 88) on Fulton Street for a regular banya or for a big pool.

In Brooklyn Mermaid Spa (Seagate) is an old favorite. Royal Palace is the most lavish banya and visit there is a must.

In Queens Forest Hills Spa is your only choice.

There are no russian banyas on Staten Island.